Many will remember the scene towards the end of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off where the vintage car crashes through a garage wall and lands on the ground below. This was after the kids who took dad’s prized car for a joyride tried to rollback the odometer. The characters were unable to change the mileage, but there are fraudsters in real life who can and do change the mileage readings on cars.
It is hard to detect these mileage changes, but not impossible. Below are tips from the National Highway Safety Administration that used car buyers can use to avoid being taken advantage of:
- Look at the title: Examine the title and make sure that the listed number is not altered in any way.
- Look at the paperwork: Examine the inspection and maintenance records to track how much the car was driven. Buyers can even look for the oil change stickers on the door or windshield as well.
- Examine the odometer: Make sure that it works when you test drive it and the numbers rotate properly if it has the old-school cylinders. Walk away if the numbers are crooked, have gaps or rattle when the dash is struck with a fist.
- Check the tires: Low mileage cars (less than 20,000) usually should have original tires.
- Note the condition of the car: This includes cosmetics like seat wear and carpet wear as well as the wear on the gas, brake and clutch pedals. Mechanics can help with the engine itself.
- Vehicle history report: Request one from the owner and check the odometer numbers. Buyers can also order vehicle history reports online using the car’s vin number.
Consumers who suspect fraud may want to speak with an attorney who has experience with vehicle-related consumer fraud charges. Depending on the circumstances, it may be advisable to do this before confronting the unscrupulous seller.