How To Avoid Purchasing a Used Car With an Odometer Rollback

Purchasing a used vehicle is an excellent way to save money. A used car, on the other hand, may contain hidden dangers. Most people believe that a vehicle’s odometer will show every kilometre it has ever travelled; however, this isn’t always the case.

When purchasing a used car, one of the most important value factors to consider is the odometer reading. As a general rule, a car with fewer kilometres has a potentially longer lifespan than a car with more kilometres. Australians now drive an average of 19200 kilometres per year. So, a used car with “average mileage” that is about five years old has been driven approximately 96000 km.

We have been in the automotive industry since 1984, ranging from apprentice to master technician, workshop foreman, controller, service advisor and service manager, in numerous premium vehicle businesses. We have built a level of loyalty that in the 21st Century is vital. After all, customer service and care is a point of difference.

We hope we are able to help you out with your needs. Our business is also known as Prepurchase Check.


Advantages of low-mileage used cars

In theory, the lower the odometer reading, the longer the engine and most vehicle components should last. When the car’s odometer reaches six figures, oil leaks may begin to appear, as well as the eventual wear out of some critical and expensive parts, such as the timing belt.

Low km cars are generally more appealing to buyers because there is perceived value in an older car with lower than average km’s, implying an easier resell with more interested buyers.

While scheduled maintenance can be costly, general ongoing repairs and maintenance costs can be lower in vehicles that have less wear and tear due to extensive use. This is probably the most significant advantage of purchasing a low-kilometre used car. Nothing is worse than having a car that requires expensive repair after expensive repair due to heavy use over its lifetime.

How can I tell if the odometer on a vehicle has been wound back?

A physical inspection alone can make it difficult to determine whether a vehicle’s odometer has been tampered with. There are, however, some checks you can perform:

– Check to see if the vehicle has its original parts, such as tyres and brakes, if it has very low mileage.
– Examine the overall condition of the vehicle, including wear and tear on the accelerator and brake pedals.
– Compare the vehicle’s odometer reading to any inspection or maintenance records available to the current owner.
– Check the original export/deregistration certificate or obtain a copy from a third party if you’re buying an imported vehicle from Japan.
– Look for crooked, widely spaced, or misaligned numbers on the odometer.
– Check that all of the screws are the same size and that the dashboard has not been removed or replaced.
– Carry out a CARHISTORY or at least Google search on the registration/VIN and see it shows up with varying km or prior sales/auction history with greater km recorded.

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The image above indicates that the car’s odometer show 181758km in March 2018

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But in 3,5 years later, in October 2021, the odometer show 160861km.


After you’ve completed a physical appraisal of the vehicle of interest, have it inspected by a licensed motor vehicle mechanic.

Examine the distance travelled

A car typically travels 15,000 kilometres per year over the course of its life. Many people sell their car when it is six years old because buyers are often put off by purchasing a vehicle that has travelled more than 100,000 kilometres since new.

So, if the car is seven years old but the odometer shows less than 50000 kilometres, that should raise red flags. That’s about 7000km per year, which is on the low end of the likely range. You should ask the buyer why the odometer reading is so low after all that time. For a variety of reasons, the buyer’s explanation could be perfectly reasonable. Perhaps the car has only ever been driven to the next suburb for shopping, school, or work.

Examine the vehicle’s logbook

Examine the dates and odometer readings for each service. The logbook could have been tampered with. Look for dates that appear to have been overwritten or kilometres with digits that appear to have been erased. Check to make sure
the VIN in the service book looks legitimate and matches the car. Work your way through the list of scheduled services, calculating whether they’re about a year apart on average, and checking the odometer reading on each occasion. If the car only travels 7000km or some other low number between services, it is most likely a genuine low-kilometre vehicle. Check to make sure there are no pages missing.


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The images above indicate that there were 2 pages missing, pages 19 and 20.

Typically, service technicians will place a reminder sticker on the top of the windshield to remind the driver when the next service is due. It’s also worth double-checking that this corresponds to the logbook.

Examine the wear and tear

If the vehicle is older but hasn’t travelled far, unusual wear and tear could be a sign that the odometer has been rolled back. Because you’re inspecting other vehicles of the same type, you’ll quickly get a sense of what’s normal wear and tear – the seating, for example, seat belts, carpets, the steering wheel, and frequently used buttons.

The condition of a used car

A used car with 20000 km that has been driven on rough roads will be very different from a used car with 20000 km that has been driven on good city roads. A car’s geographical location can also have an impact on its condition. Potential used car buyers should look for the following features:

– Steering and braking
– Engine and transmission
– Rust indications
– Emissions
– Suspension
– Leaks of oil and other substances
– Acceleration power and pick-up
– Air filters, valves, and so on.

Obtain a vehicle history report as well as an inspection

If the car you want to buy appears to have had a rough life, and the owner doesn’t have a credible explanation for the unusually low odometer reading. Having a mechanic inspect the vehicle through a company will also likely reveal any flaws.

Having a certified mechanic inspect the vehicle will help to reduce the risk of purchasing a car with an odometer that has been rollback. You can also help to ensure that your future vehicle does not have any hidden issues by researching its reported history.

If you are looking for the best pre-purchase car inspector in Melbourne, do not hesitate to contact German Precision or Prepurchase Check today!

Source:, and

Odometer Fraud: Beware Of These Odometer Tampering Signs

Buying a used vehicle is a smart way to save money. However, a second-hand car can come with hidden dangers. Most people assume a vehicle’s odometer will display every kilometre it has ever travelled, unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

Scammers are everywhere online. If you’re in the used car market, you may fall prey to odometer fraud; where a seller purposely winds back a car’s odometer to make it appear newer than it really is. This means they can sell the car for a higher than the normal price. So how do you know if the odometer of that used car you have your eye on has not been tampered with? Is the car really as good of a deal as it sounds? Read this article and beware of these odometer tampering signs.

Honest and Professional Pre-purchase Car Inspection in Melbourne, VIC

We have been in the automotive industry since 1984, ranging from apprentice to master technician, workshop foreman, controller, service advisor and service manager, in numerous premium vehicle businesses. We have built a level of loyalty that in the 21st Century is vital. After all, customer service and care is a point of difference.
We hope we are able to help you out with your needs. Our business is also known as Prepurchase Check.

Most people assume an odometer is a true account of kilometres travelled—unfortunately, scammers can tamper and change digital and analogue odometers. The practice is most common in South Australia and Tasmania. Second-hand Japanese imports are also popular targets for odometer fraud.

How Does An Odometer Work?

Most odometers work by counting the rotation of the wheel on a car. A sensor transmits this data to a computer that calculates the distance travelled based on the specified tyre circumference for that vehicle.

Given these specifications, if you were to change the wheel and tyre on a vehicle the odometer reading will be affected, so the sizing should remain the same.

What Is Odometer Fraud?

Odometer fraud is when a person illegally rewinds or tampers with a vehicle’s odometer to deceive potential buyers, making it look like the car has travelled fewer kilometres. This enables them to sell the car for a higher price. Odometers can be illegally disconnected and replaced, and the numbers can be digitally or mechanically altered.

How Scammers Tamper The Odometers

In the old days, it was called ‘winding back’ the odometer. Fraudsters would physically pull the odometer out of the vehicle and manually wind the display backwards.

Nowadays, they can still physically alter, change or reset the numbers but some will also disconnect the odometer, continue to drive the vehicle and then hook the odometer back up when it comes time to sell.

Alternatively, they can replace the original odometer using an odometer from another vehicle.

Odometers can be legally removed or replaced, but the action has to be registered and approved by government authorities.

How To Spot Odometer Fraud

If this is your first car purchase, do some research to figure out the value of a particular make and model of a vehicle from a certain year. And if you’re not sure where to start with that, check out our guide for determining how much your car is worth. So when you’re shopping for used cars, make sure that the price, condition and mileage seem at least reasonable.

#1: Check Its History

First of all, take a look at the vehicle’s service book and manual. These books should contain vehicle information, such as the make and model, VIN, engine number, and colour. Check in the engine bay to make sure that the VIN and engine numbers match the service books and manual.

When you know that the number match up, check out the service history and—in particular—the odometer readings at each service. These readings should be sequential with realistic readings given the time interval between services.

#2: Check The Vehicle’s Overall Condition

An obvious method to look for odometer rollback is to evaluate the general condition of a vehicle. A car that’s only travelled 80,000kms is unlikely to have cracked leather seats, a faded dash, and holes in the floor carpet. You can pick up some indications through a walk-around.

However, keep in mind that a vehicle with a genuinely low odometer reading could still be in poor condition if it has been subjected to hard use.

You can also search for an oil change and maintenance stickers on windows or door frames, in the glove box or under the hood.

#3: Are There Any Wear And Tear That Is Inconsistent With The Odometer Reading?

Places that often show wear are the pedals (accelerator, brake, and clutch if a manual), seat belts, and sometimes the door rubbers. The seller can use paint to cover up cracks and make the dashes look ‘new’; however, the pedals and seat belts are harder to change. Every time someone drives the car, they use these items. So they usually reflect the true age of a vehicle.

Check that the numbers on the odometer gauge are aligned correctly. If they’re crooked, contain gaps or jiggle when you bang on the dash with your hand, walk away from the purchase.

#4: Check Out The Odometer Itself

Take a torch with you when inspecting a vehicle and use it to closely examine the cluster where the odometer is housed. Sometimes odometer rollback simply means replacing the entire cluster rather than tampering with the reading. You can often identify a replaced cluster with scratch marks on or around the cluster, and particularly on the screws that hold the cluster in place. Also, have a look for fingerprints or dust on the inside of the cluster.

Where Does That Leave You?

Buying a car with an odometer rollback can cause you a headache in the long run. It devalues the vehicle and can make it hard for you to on-sell.

If the odometer has been wound back you could end up with mechanical issues much sooner than you anticipated. Because you don’t know exactly how many kilometres the vehicle has travelled, the transmission and engine could be much older than you think. You might have to replace big-ticket items sooner than expected. It can leave you out of pocket in the long run—whether or not you got a bargain when purchasing the vehicle initially.

The only real way to figure out if an odometer has been tampered with is by having it appraised by a third-party assessor or independent mechanic. If your seller insists such measures aren’t necessary, this may tip you off right away!

Hire A Professional Car Technician In Melbourne

If you are looking to buy a used car in Melbourne that has low kilometres for its age, have a professional carry out a pre-purchase inspection. Especially if something doesn’t seem right, ask for their opinion on the odometer reading.

We have engaged with many clients for independent, personal car purchase advice. Whilst we are not a CAR BROKER, we have assisted clients with discussions on MAKE/MODEL/YEAR/VERSION of vehicle best suited to their needs, and with low ‘grief’ factors. In some cases, clients, especially repeat clients (and we have many), have asked us to either source a car for them, or assist in the negotiations.

As much as some of us think we’re backyard mechanics, you can’t go past actually getting a used car checked out by a professional to determine whether it is mechanically sound. There’s nothing worse than driving away with your new purchase, only to find that it has an issue that is going to cost you dearly.

And if you want to buy a secondhand car, have a professional inspector like German Precision to do a thorough pre-purchase car inspection in Melbourne to ensure that your dream car is operating properly and not a scam.

If you are looking for the best pre-purchase car inspector in Melbourne, do not hesitate to contact German Precision or Prepurchase Check today!