How to Detect Mileage Rollback?

While attempts have long been made to reduce the risk of mileage rollback (or odometer tampering), this type of fraud still happens. Although, over the last two decades, the odometers themselves have evolved into digital displays, the tendency for some individuals and dealerships to attempt to inflate the value of vehicles for sale has persisted. In fact, contrary to hopes that digital odometers would put an end to fraudulent practices, they have actually made it even easier and quicker for perpetrators to carry out odometer rollbacks.

So, it is imperative to know how to detect instances of odometer fraud and report them appropriately. Continue reading and find out how to protect yourself from car sellers who may try to deceive you into purchasing a vehicle with mileage rollback.

Key Takeaways

  • The mileage on a car can be fraudulently reduced by rolling it back.
  • The purpose of rolling back the mileage is to trick buyers of used cars.
  • Before buying a used car, it’s essential to check if it has been reported for odometer fraud.
  • Vehicle History Report is essential for making an informed decision when purchasing a used car.

What is mileage rollback?

The mileage displayed on a vehicle’s odometer can be reduced by rolling it back, just like any other part of the vehicle can be modified. This is a problem for prospective buyers because the odometer reading is an important piece of information.

Odometer rollbacks have been a common scam for many years. In the past, this was done by manually adjusting the numbers on a mechanical odometer. However, digital odometers are now more common and can be rolled back by manipulating the car’s electronic system, either by removing the circuit board or using specialized equipment.

What are the risks associated with mileage rollback?

The intention behind a mileage rollback is to deceive buyers of used cars. It is not uncommon for scammers to focus on manipulating the odometer reading because a car with 25,000 miles on it can cost twice as much as one with 75,000 miles. This highlights the importance of ensuring that the mileage is legitimate if you are paying more for a lower-mileage vehicle.

Nowadays, car manufacturers do not prioritize producing durable cars. Instead, they tend to generate the most profits from selling spare parts rather than vehicles themselves. As a result, new cars tend to become costly liabilities within a few years. If you opt to pay more for a car with lower mileage, it is advisable to ascertain the accuracy of the mileage reading.

To understand the significance of the actual mileage of a car, consider how different parts wear out as the mileage increases. For instance:

  • The oil filter typically needs replacement at 5,000-7,500 miles, while the air filter, brake pads, and tires usually need to be replaced at 30,000 miles.
  • As the mileage goes up to 60,000-65,000 miles, shock absorbers, water pumps, and timing belts may require replacement.
  • Additionally, at around 90,000-95,000 miles, parts such as the clutch, spark plugs, alternator, fuel pump, and fuel injectors may start to wear out.
  • Other parts may need replacement after the car has been driven for 125,000 miles or more.

This explains why sellers of used cars often try to show mileage below 125,000 miles as it is considered a crucial threshold for car parts wearing out. However, these numbers are not the same for all cars. Manufacturers focus on different aspects such as reliability, performance, comfort, or luxury features. Also, the way people maintain their cars is crucial for their longevity. Regular oil changes and prompt replacement of damaged parts are essential, but unfortunately, many drivers neglect them.

So, a vehicle’s value is influenced by various important factors, including its maintenance and previous damage records, which are considered when assessing its value. Since determining a vehicle’s complete history can be challenging, the mileage on the odometer serves as a crucial indicator of its condition. Generally, the higher the mileage, the lower the value of the car. Cars with lower-than-average odometer readings are considered more valuable than those with high mileage.

‍How to Detect Odometer Rollback?

It should be kept in mind that identifying fraudulent odometer readings might be a real challenge, particularly with digital odometers that lack visible moving parts. This makes it even more difficult to determine if they have been tampered with compared to mechanical odometers.

When considering purchasing a used vehicle, it is crucial to first investigate whether it has been reported for odometer fraud. Let’s examine how to thoroughly inspect a used car for signs of odometer tampering.

Vehicle History Report

To gain information about the condition of a used car, it is recommended to review a Vehicle History Report. This report offers a comprehensive overview of the vehicle’s past, including its damage history, lien status, registration history, and odometer readings. By comparing the numbers from the report to the current odometer readings, you can verify the pattern of mileage driven over time and identify any inconsistencies. Obtaining a Vehicle History Report is essential for making an informed decision when purchasing a used car, and if the seller does not have one available, you can obtain it online using the VIN.

Vehicle maintenance and inspection records

Verify the heading and compare the distance measurements documented in the car’s maintenance and inspection records with the distance displayed on the vehicle’s odometer. The vehicle’s maintenance and inspection records can provide valuable information. These reports should contain the odometer readings, which makes it relatively simple to detect any indications of odometer tampering or fraud.

Mileage comparison with appearance of a car

When inspecting a vehicle, it is important to compare the odometer reading with the car’s overall appearance to determine whether the mileage is accurate. Sometimes, odometers can be tampered with to deceive potential buyers. However, certain factors can reveal the true condition of the vehicle. The gas, brake, and clutch pedals can provide insight into how much wear and tear the car has experienced. Examining the tires can also be helpful, because the car still should have its original set of tires, if the odometer displays 20,000 miles or less.

ECU records of a car

If you have a digital odometer and suspect that the mileage has been tampered with, you can seek help from a car servicing center. Using impulses from a magnetic or optical sensor, the car’s ECU may produce correct readings. With the necessary tools they can determine the true mileage of the vehicle.


In conclusion, it is essential to know how to detect any tampering with a car’s odometer. Although there are various methods, they all ultimately reveal the truth. It is important to remain vigilant and proactive to avoid being deceived. So, if you are thinking of buying a used car, you can always simply do a VIN check choosing from our recommended VIN Check Websites list.


How can I tell if a digital odometer has been rolled back?

While it can be more difficult to detect odometer fraud with digital odometers, there are still some signs that might indicate a rollback. One red flag is if the car’s exterior or interior appears to have more wear and tear than the odometer suggests. Additionally, you can check the vehicle history report for any discrepancies between reported mileage and the current reading.

Can I still buy a used car with a mileage discrepancy?

Ultimately, the decision of whether to buy a car with a mileage discrepancy is up to you. However, it’s important to know that in some cases, knowingly selling a car with a rolled-back odometer can be illegal. Additionally, if you buy a car with a mileage discrepancy, you may not be able to trust the reported mileage when it comes to maintenance or reselling the car in the future.

Is there a way to prevent odometer fraud from happening in the first place?

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to prevent odometer fraud from happening entirely. However, one way to protect yourself is to be cautious when buying used cars, and to do your due diligence by getting a vehicle history report and verifying the car’s maintenance and inspection records. Additionally, be wary of deals that seem too good to be true, as these may be attempts to cover up odometer fraud.

How common is odometer fraud?

It’s difficult to know exactly how common odometer fraud is, as many cases likely go undetected or unreported. However, some estimates suggest that as many as 200,000 cars are sold each year in the US with odometer rollbacks.

What should I do if I suspect odometer fraud?

If you suspect that a seller is committing odometer fraud, you should report it to the appropriate authorities. In the US, you can report odometer fraud to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or to your state’s consumer protection agency. Additionally, you may want to consider seeking legal advice, particularly if you have already purchased the car and feel that you were deceived.

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