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Has the odometer been changed

image A few tips to consider before purchasing a used car.

A low-kilometre car is a good find, but how can you tell if the odometer has been tampered with?

  • Look closely to make sure the numbers line up, if it has an old-style analog odometer.
  • Check the service history thoroughly for previous kilometre recordings, and make sure they match the history of the car?
  • Look for wear and tear or suspiciously new parts. For instance, worn rubber pedals are easily replaced so it’s worth questioning why such items have been replaced.
  • A worn driver’s seat is more expensive to replace and may be a warning sign of more use than the odometer suggests.
  • Excessive stone chips on the bonnet could also indicate a car has done more distance than advertised.
  • If the odometer reading looks to good to be true, it's probably false.


Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 23 comments

  • No checks are foolproof

    Mike Posted on 05 February 2014 5:28pm
  • I have just bought a Kia cerato 2012 from one of the most reputable dealers there are. I have just checked the log book and the Kim of last service was a lot more than on my speedo now. I bought it as a low Kim car. How would you guys handle this?

    Christine Barker of Tanah Merah Posted on 02 February 2014 3:07pm
  • Not always simple. I have an ‘84 Mazda 626 with 250K on the clock. When I acquired it less than 12 months ago it had 213K on the clock and perfect paintwork. Nine months of flood, fire and rural driving has resulted in the front incurring more stone trips than most cars receive in their lifetime. That said, when changing the gearbox oil I noticed just how easy it would be with a power drill to wind back the odometer. The plug falls out leaving an exposed cable!

    John Adams of Toowoomba Posted on 11 September 2013 1:19am
  • is it normal to advertise a car at a certain kilometer amount
    then within four days and purchasing the car the odometer reading is 5000 more ks and the dealer says ? thats quite normal wtf

    brian moss of magic nissan perth Posted on 19 April 2013 9:10pm
  • This is the best way to find out if changed or touched, from zero kms up to 20 kms the indicator start shaking,goes up and down,then after 20 become steady, if not from zero is steady.

    Ali Jalalabadi of N.S.W Sydney Posted on 08 April 2013 9:47pm
  • Cars from auctions are notorious for clocking, make sure it has log books, check with previous owners if possible( if they arnt the ones who got it wound back) Beware any car with just under or around 100,000 if its 4-5 years old

    Gav of Gold Coast Posted on 17 January 2013 12:44am
  • i would like to see the nz model adopted in aus.

    lindsay of Australia Posted on 17 November 2012 5:53pm
  • This is hard to tell with LCD odometer. The cars main computer stores the reading, not in the instruments themselves. This can be easily changed for a low km one from the wreckers for a couple of hundred dollars.

    Biker of Adelaide Posted on 09 November 2012 6:14pm
  • in NZ you can go to a website wher after typing in the rego number shows the full history. The odometer is recorded at every annual safety inspection. We should adopt the same here, and get the bombs off the road.

    Don Coleman of Brisbane, Qld Posted on 02 November 2012 4:10pm
  • Agree with other comments about lack of relevance re odometer aligning to modern cars with digital odometers. Also, some genuinely low mileage cars (such as my mother’s classic BMW) have odometers that have simply stopped working yet have a genuinely low mileage! I think other comments such as checking for worn/new seats, service records etc are more pertinent. I would go one further step: I would ring the dealer/mechanic where the car was serviced to confirm the log book entries. Beware where service records/log books are not available.

    Steve Posted on 10 October 2012 12:44pm
  • The numbers on my digital odo are all lined up.

    BillK of Sydney Posted on 22 September 2012 9:01am
  • Numbers that don’t line up is no indication of km travelled. Ther are many cars that have not had speedos wound back that dont line up!

    Robert of QLD Posted on 01 September 2012 12:39pm
  • this is a regurgitated article relating to used cars sold from the 70/80s era with fading relevance as we progress past this period.
    The more modern the vehicle the less it applies. And, unless the car in question is a valuable classic, the cars involved will be cheap anyway

    DrSteve of Australia Posted on 04 July 2012 9:27am
  • I knew a guy who wound the odometer on his company car forward so that he would get an upgrade sooner!

    Greg of Boronia Posted on 12 May 2012 9:32pm
  • Problem is worse these days with inspections only carried out after the 5th year, maybe they should have their speedo’s read by an AIS every year and put on register with the RMS, that way it would stop a lot of it

    Neil Atkins of Revesby NSW Posted on 17 April 2012 7:08pm
  • My advice would be to speak to the previous owner. He should have a fair idea of how many kilometres his car had done. A few years ago we had a person that rang me after I had traded a VB commodore that only had about 80000km on the clock .I confirmed that it was right, I had a second car and did not use the VB much because it was thirsty. Hope this helps someone.

    Stefano from Albury of albury Posted on 27 February 2012 5:43pm
  • I know of a couple of models where the numbers do not reliably line up on odos which have not been tampered with so checking that they line up is not 100% reliable and might put you off buying a genuine car. I would be inclined to look at condition of seats and pedal rubbers and general wear areas. If the doors flop around on their hinges on an apparently 60,000km old car and the seat fabric is saggy and covered in creases then it is probably not genuine.

    Paul of Kilmore Posted on 17 February 2012 12:48pm
  • Is there any Motoring body that you can check if the ODO is genuine??  How about checking with RTA ???(Like checking REVS),
    I know in New Zealand you can check with AA club to verify if the ODO is not being wind back.

    John Lim of Sydney Posted on 10 October 2011 9:48am
  • As an employee of a company that regularly has to repair and change odometer readings, i can assure you just about every odometer on the market can be changed, (digital generally require finding the software or lying to someone who does and reprogramming it) other key signs of it being changed are the screws on the speedo face plate being damaged (bits of paint missing/ purple from texta), and also another key sign for a car under 50,000K, if it has any significant buildup of dust where the trip meter reset button passes through the dash’s front, be suspect, as it usually takes over 55,000K for enough dust to get through to be noticeable

    Ryan of Sydney Posted on 19 August 2011 7:07pm
  • I always check out the buttons and switches that get used a lot (like the A/C and cruise controls) too. If they look more worn than the mileage suggests, I wouldn’t go near it.

    Tom of Melbourne Posted on 16 July 2011 11:28am
  • ALL odometers can be changed. Analog or electronic, on ANY car. And just cause the numbers line up perfectly does not mean it hasn’t been wound back.

    Sam of melbourne Posted on 12 December 2010 5:08pm
  • What about electronic odometer? can this be changed?

    Jo of footscray Posted on 31 October 2010 9:48pm
  • I never would have thought to look at the seat for mileage.

    Deborah Gilchrist of Melbourne Posted on 06 September 2010 11:33am
Read all 23 comments

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