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How to Avoid Odometer Tampering When Buying a Used Vehicle

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Recently in Australia, there have been reports of consumers buying used cars with odometers that have been tampered with. If you are in the market for a used vehicle, there are several things you can do to help ensure your odometer has the right reading. These ideas range from inspections to asking the right questions.

1. Consider buying locally.

According to some reports, the incidences of odometer fraud are more prevalent among used cars bought from foreign countries than cars purchased domestically. One expert estimates that 70 to 80 percent of all vehicles from Japan have had their odometers tampered with.

In 2018, a new law will take effect, and at that point, cars purchased from Japan will have to meet two conditions. They must be less than 12 months old, and they must have less than 500 km on the odometer. Only time will tell whether this rule helps or hinders the issue of odometer tampering.

2. Visually look for signs of odometer tampering.

Even without taking the car in for an official rego inspection, you can look for visual signs that a car's odometer has been tampered with. For example, if the odometer reads just 400 km or another very low number but the tyres have extensive wear on their treads, that indicates that the odometer is not correct. Look for disconnections like this when assessing a used vehicle.

3. Ask questions.

If you can't see any visible signs, ask the seller questions about the car. If their answers seem to indicate that the car was used more than what is indicated on the odometer, that is another sign of potential tampering.

To explain, imagine you ask the seller what they did with the car, and the seller relies that they used the car while working as a travelling salesperson for a year. However, the odometer reads only 800 km. That isn't even enough mileage for a round-trip drive from Sydney to Melbourne, and in cases like this, you'll want to ask some follow-up questions to figure out what's happening with the discrepancy between the story and the reading on the gauge.

4. Schedule an inspection.

In many parts of Australia, the seller has to have the car inspected before they can sell it. However, the laws vary based on where you are and the age of the vehicle, as well as other factors. Even if a rego inspection is not required, schedule one anyway, or ask the seller to get one done. The inspector can look at the safety and efficiency features of the car, but you can also request that they check the odometer for issues.