What is odometer fraud?
Odometer fraud starts when the odometer on a vehicle is rolled back in order to make it look like that specific vehicle has less mileage on it than it actually does. This is because cars with less mileage on them will retain more value and usually sell for more money.
For clarification purposes, merely rolling back the odometer is not an offence in itself. But by adjusting the odometer to cut 30,000 to 40,000 kilometres off the actual mileage, unscrupulous sellers can inflate the price of the car by $2,500 to $4,000 higher. Therefore, odometer fraud will occur when the seller of a vehicle deceives the buyer about the true mileage of the vehicle.
Two types of odometers currently exist: the mechanical and the digital types. Historically, the mechanical odometers have been the easiest ones for criminals to tamper with. They find a way to disconnect the odometer from the car’s dashboard and then dial back the readings manually.
The digital odometers were rolled out later and were expected to make it a lot more difficult for criminals to manipulate. However, a lot of devious car sellers have still found methods to hack into these devices and roll back the digits.
Another noteworthy item to consider is that odometer fraud happens more often with relatively new vehicles that have accumulated a large amount of miles in a short period of time. These vehicles typically consist of cars belonging to a company fleet, as well as other rental or leased vehicles. As a matter of fact, it has been discovered that a large number of wholesale car dealers who buy and sell fleets of used vehicles commit odometer fraud.
Why is odometer fraud a problem?
According to reports gathered from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and insurers, consumers lose millions of dollars annually due to odometer fraud committed nationwide. What makes it worse is that most buyers of used cars belong to the lower income demographic, therefore most of the victims of this crime are those who cannot afford the losses. Additionally, a large number of victims aren’t even aware they are being scammed until too late.
Aside from deceiving a car buyer by making him believe the vehicle is worth more than what it actually is, odometer fraud also tricks the buyer into believing that the vehicle still has a lot of use in it. Can you imagine buying a car for your family and thinking it will still be useful for at least three to five years, only to find yourself spending a lot of money on repairs after only six months of driving it?
That’s what odometer fraud does to unwitting consumers. They get tricked into buying a car for thousands of dollars more than what it’s actually worth, and they end up spending even more money on surprising repairs. Tampering with the odometer and misleading buyers with the tampered readings is considered an offence under the Federal Weights and Measures Act as well as the Criminal Code of Canada.
Even until now, the databases between Canadian provinces do not really communicate well between each other, and the regulations regarding odometer fraud vary from one province to another. There are regulations that require the bill of sale of a vehicle to include the current odometer reading, of course, but this information is not recorded on any database. Moreover, current regulations don’t even require the seller of the vehicle to be the owner itself.
How do I protect myself from odometer fraud?
Here are several signs that can serve as indicators of odometer tampering:
You should also get the used vehicle thoroughly inspected by a trusted and independent mechanic. Never rely solely on the words of the sales staff or any mechanics that are affiliated or work for the used car dealership.
For further protection, make sure a stipulation is written on the bill of sale that if it is discovered at any point in time that the odometer has been tampered with, you will get a full refund. Be extremely wary of car dealers who put into the contract that they cannot guarantee the accuracy of the odometer reading on the vehicle they are selling you.
Get A Vehicle History Report
Get a vehicle history report to compare the recorded mileage and the displayed mileage. Check the mileage on the car’s registration records and the odometer, and then do the math: the average car owner will drive his or her car from 15,000 to 25,000 km per year. This will help point out any discrepancies.