Beat the 'clockers' or how to spot a car with falsified mileage

By DPA | 28 May 2020

BERLIN: A second-hand car with low mileage is automatically worth more and there is the rub.

As many as a third of second-hand cars on sale have had the mileage manipulated or "clocked" by an unscrupulous seller in order to push up the asking price, warns Germany's huge ADAC motoring club.

The dismayed buyer of a manipulated car may find out later that the vehicle is worth only a fraction of the price paid. In brazen cases an illegally-clocked car may be valued at next to nothing.

Germany's Handelsblatt newspaper quoted police who uncovered the case of a Mercedes-Benz E-Class saloon which was offered for sale with only 88,000km on the odometer.

It turned out that tamperers had reduced the mileage from a genuine 687,000km, meaning that although the car carried a price ticket of €17,000 (RM82,000) it was actually worth little more than scrap value.

Odometer tampering goes on all over the world and older car models are more prone to manipulation than modern, electronic-packed vehicles which sometimes have anti-tamper safeguards.

READ MORE: Bosch developing technology to end mileage manipulation

In most countries it is not actually illegal to alter the mileage setting of a second-hand car, but the seller is breaking the law if he does not tell the buyer that the mileage displayed is inaccurate.

To beat the "clockers" a buyer should examine a car carefully for signs of heavy wear and tear. A saggy or worn driver’s seat indicates high miles, along with worn pedals, switches and steering wheels. Lots of stone chips on the bonnet point to much motorway driving.

A car that has been clocked might have a sloppy gearbox, worn-out brakes and clutch and tired suspension. During a test drive, listen carefully for clonks from the engine, springs and other components. They will give away the truth about a car's mileage.

If a service book is supplied with the vehicle, check that the entries are correct and that there are no big gaps during which the mileage suspiciously does not go up.

If you are unsure about the dealer's stamps you could contact the workshop to see if the work was carried out as claimed. Genuine bills will always show the date on which the work was completed.

Finally, a glance under the bonnet will reveal tags from recent and maybe older oil changes. Simply walk away if the mileage figure on these does not tally with what the seller is claiming for the car. This will certainly save heartache and expense further down the line.