How to Avoid Mileage Adjustment Fraud When Buying a Used Car
Compiled with the help of police, car buying professionals, and even ex-car criminals, GAUK Motors used car buyer’s guide is probably the most comprehensive guide to buying a secondhand motor ever written
Motoring Used Car Guide: V.U.it-check-list
One of the most common car crimes these days is that of winding back the odometer on a high mileage car – ‘clocking’ in the trade. GAUK Motors have researched thoroughly the art of mileage adjustment by talking to those in the know.
We have learned how they avoid buying a ‘wrong car’ as they are called from those who sell them. These last 3 sections are designed to give you a step-by-step system that most traders use when buying a used motor. It is proven to work because if it didn’t they would all be out of business!
High mileage cars can be bought for many hundreds, sometimes thousands of pounds cheaper than the equivalent car with an average mileage and service history.
It is often a very simple task to adjust the mileage and can be done in a matter of minutes. Don’t be fooled by digital readouts either, a machine is on the market that can do the job in seconds.
Once clocked the car is then re-advertised and sold putting a profit into the pocket of the seller. It is because the profits are so large that the practice of clocking is commonplace.
OK so you go for a motor with all the MOT’s and a full main dealer service history. The vehicle is showing 56 000 miles has every service stamp and the car has had one owner from new.
Perfect, you pay full retail price for a motor that has done many more miles than is shown.
All the owner did was to disconnect the speedo cable between services. You’ve been had and soon you are digging into your hard earned money buying a very expensive part or worse.
A good trader will be able to tell the mileage of a car to within 5 – 10 000 miles in just a few minutes.
This ability is not a God given gift or something that comes from 20 years in the business. It is arrived at because they know what they are looking for.
Like any detective he follows a set of hard and fast rules. There are many clues and when assessed and evaluated give him a very good idea of the cars true history and mileage.
These systems, if used in conjunction with your phone investigations will route out virtually every con know to man.
You see the problem most car clockers face is that to fully disguise a motor’s extra wear and tear will take profit out of it. By the time he’s finished hiding all the clues he might as well go and buy a straight car – so to doesn’t bother, he relies on the fact that 99% of you don’t know what you’re looking for.
So what are you looking for?
Anyone can evaluate the authenticity of a car if they follow the rules.
Most traders have a more or less similar routine.
Let’s start with: What is the car telling us?
- What is the mileage on the odometer?
If it is showing average miles for the year we start our detective work. We want evidence to back up what the car is saying. As soon as we have looked at the mileage we look at the odometer itself.
- Are the digits all lined up correctly?
- Are any of the numbers, especially the 10 000 numbers, scratched or marked in any way?
- Make sure the zero reset button resets as this can often be damaged when the mileage is altered.
- Do all of dash lights work when the ignition is switched on?
- When you drive the car make sure the speedo needle does not flicker excessively.
- Make sure the console fits properly and all the plastic trims are in place.
Some people are clumsy when putting a dash back together. Often clocking is a rush job because the clocker does not want to be spotted taking a dashboard apart.
- Check that the heater controls work and all the switches are Ok.
- Look for scratch marks on the dash where someone has slipped with a screwdriver.
- Next take a look at the little black screws that hold the dash together. When these screws are tampered with the screwdriver will often knock off the paint revealing the silver. If these screws are damaged ask yourself why?If the screws are Ok it doesn’t mean the mileage is correct, we need to keep looking.
The very nature of driving a car will put wear and tear on certain parts, every time you touch something you wear it a little so it stands to reason the more it is used the more worn it becomes.
It is physically impossible to drive a car without steering it and an excellent indication of a motors authenticity is the steering wheel. Most wheels are made of plastic and have some sort of molded grip.
Look at the wheel carefully especially the top section; this is where the most wear occurs.Start at zero wear on a new car and by 100 000 miles the average wheel is almost smooth. Anywhere in-between 0 and 100 000 miles the amount of wear should be compatible with the mileage shown. This wear is not difficult to disguise so keep on looking.
- Look at the gear knob and gaiter use the same rule of thumb. By 100 000 miles we are normally looking at a smooth gearshift, although this does not apply to autos. Look at the gaiter, these crack and perish with use. Now compare the gear knob with the wheel is the wear about the same?
Can you see how we are starting to build a picture, putting together a jigsaw and how everything should have it’s place. If certain parts do not fit you have to ask yourself why?
- Next look at the pedals and floor mat. Here we get heel and toe wear, if a car is showing 30 000 miles how has the owner managed to dig a hole in the mat and wear through the accelerator rubber.
- Now look at the drivers seat, remember the more miles a driver does the more he is in the seat. If there are seat covers on the seats why is that?They can hide a multitude of sins. Look under them and check the fabric. A rough guide is that the material is usually holed after 100 000 miles.
- Check the armrests another place often overlooked but they do get used.
Ex-taxis are a clockers favorite. They are usually newer cars with lots of miles, well over the 100 000 and can be bought at auction for peanuts. Luckily they are easy to spot when you know what to look for.
The dash normally has screw holes where the radio and meter were housed and will be scratched where the driver used to put his microphone.
- Check the rear bumper for 2 small screw holes where the carrige licence plate was mounted,. The back seats will be worn more than average, a normal car gets very little use of its back seats. Look at the roof for scratches where the taxi sign was attached or suction cup imprints.
The same can be said of ex police cars, if you suspect the car was either a taxi or police car make sure it’s very cheap.
Ex-driving school cars are another favourite and can be very difficult to spot because they are well looked after. Because there are so many different drivers things aren’t worn in the same places.
There is one clue however. Look for a very worn seat on the driver’s side. If the passenger’s side is equally well worn we have found our giveaway. The teacher spends as much time in the passenger’s seat as the pupil spends driving.
Car traders love smokers!
A smoker can only get through so many cigarettes in a day so it stands to reason the more time they spend in a car the more fags will be smoked.
- On newer cars look for excess nicotine stains and over use of ashtrays. Look for cigarette burns. When a car has been driven by an average smoker after around 50 000 miles the smell starts to become quite strong (worse if they are cigars).
If you are a smoker yourself you may have trouble with this one but keep an eye out for the burns and a well-worn push-in lighter.
- Now before you get out of the car look through the windscreen – how many stone chips do you see? The more miles covered the more chips!
That more or less concludes our look through the interior but don’t be fooled if everything looks and feels right, all the things we have talked about can be disguised. We must look at the car as a whole. The more a clocker veils mileage the more money he has to spend so invariably he will draw the line somewhere.
- Now take a look at the exterior.
Start at the front. Look for excessive stone chips on the bonnet and headlights.
How many did you see on the windscreen before you got out?
- What is the general condition of the paintwork?
As a car is driven it faces the great harsh weather and if it’s not cared for the paint will fade. Look for a dullness, this dull sheen will be very noticeable in a car over 50 000 miles if it has not been cared for. The dullness will polish out so keep hunting for clues.
Take a walk around the car. Keep a keen eye out for over spray, this can be found normally on window rubbers and black trim. Look closely at the paintwork, we are looking for the telltale ‘orange peel’ effect that is often seen on newly painted cars, it is where the paint is not flat. It looks ripply like the skin of an orange as it catches the light.
As with the accident test compare each panel with the one next to it.