A Common question we get asked from people looking to buy a used car is often about mileage. and how to determine how genuine it is.
How do you check if mileage on a used car is genuine?
Using a combination of Free online tools, manual investigation work and gut instinct, we have developed a ‘Red Flag’ Method,
Let’s talk more about this.
You may have unearthed an absolute gem of a deal, however, it’s sad to believe but there are many unscrupulous characters out there who will try and sell you a bag of nails with a pretty bow tied over it and charge you way over the odds.
Read on to see how best you can prepare for almost every situation and be confident in what you are purchasing.
First off we just want to mention, this process is more of an art then a science, there is no sure-fire 100% way to determine if the mileage is completely genuine, no matter what a seller says.
However, we can look to tackle the issue by using the ‘Red Flag’ method.
Although it’s becoming increasingly difficult on newer more modern cars the problem is more prevalent in older model cars as people with the correct equipment charge as little as £25 to turn back the mileage on the odometer or ‘clocking’ as its known in the industry.
Why Would Someone Want to ‘Clock’ a Car?
Well, it’s simple …Money! a car with lower mileage is worth more then exactly the same car with more miles, the difference can be several thousands of pounds depending on the car itself.
The process can also look to cover up serious mechanical issues or costly impending maintenance work that needs to be addressed immediately.
For example, a cars timing belt could be due to being changed on the car at 100K Miles, however, with the mileage now being ‘clocked’ back to 75K this gives the new buyer the false impression they still have another 25k mile to go before the change is required.
This, of course, can lead to catastrophic failure in the engine and possibly a total loss or worse still injury to the driver and passengers.
How Does Someone ‘Clock’ a Car?
There are several ways however the most common way is to connect a small computerised device into the diagnostic port of the car and alter the mileage, bizarrely enough altering the mileage on a car is in itself not illegal, however knowingly selling a ‘clocked’ car is.
Five men from the same family were recently jailed for a total of 18 years and three months for conspiring to clock more than four million miles off cars, lowering odometers by as much as 125,000 miles.
What’s the Average Mileage of a Car?
Google suggests that the ‘average’ miles a person drives a car is 12,000 miles per year, this depends on the type of car it is.
We would say a more expensive sports car with a bigger engine should be looked at as being closer to 8,000 miles per year.
Each car will be different for example an OAP may only drive 2,000 per year whereas a company executive may drive the same car 30,000 miles per year, in your research, you will need to look into the background of the seller and how they have been using the car.
If we were to look at a 2010 Ford Focus for example, at the time of writing this article this car would be approximately 8 years old.
12,000 (average miles) x 8 (age of car) = 96,000.
So the average miles for this car would be 96,000, anything lower then this would begin to fall in the ‘low mileage’ range and anything above this would fall into the ‘high mileage’ range.
How to Check if the Mileage Being Displayed is ‘Genuine’?
There are a few things we can do to help us get an idea if the mileage of the car appears to be correct, the first thing is to check the MOT database, every time an MOT is carried out (usually yearly) the mileage of the car is noted down.
Log onto the online MOT system by going to https://www.check-mot.service.gov.uk/
Now enter the full Registration of the car, this will bring up details of all previous MOT’s
Every MOT the car has had in the UK will now be displayed.
(please note if the car has been imported from outside the UK then not all information will be displayed)
The thing we are checking for here is all the past mileages to see if they all tally up.
- Starting from the bottom working up, does the mileage go up without any unusual spikes or dips? Remember that it should be increasing around 12,000 per year, if not this may be a Red Flag. This is not to say a car cannot be driven more or less then this per year, however, if you notice one year the car was driven 12,000 miles and the next year there was only a change of 2,000 miles this needs to be addressed with the seller to see if there is a genuine explanation for this. There might be so don’t accuse them of clocking their car straight away!
- A very obvious sign would be a massive change in mileages between MOT dates, for example, if the car was showing 86,000 miles on its MOT in 2008 and then the following year the mileage is now showing as 45,000 then this should be a Red Flag (Please note MOT garages can make data entry errors with mileages so this would need to be investigated further with the seller).
- Very small changes in yearly mileage can also be a Red Flag without explanation from the seller, for example, if a car was at 90,000 in 2009 and then the seller drives it to say 25,000 that year, they could go an get the car clocked back to 92,000 miles and get it MOT’d again in effect hiding the additional 23,000 they have just driven, this is the most difficult type of ‘clocking’ in our opinion to detect however the additional methods below combined with this should help you make an informed decision.
In short, if you think the mileage changes don’t appear to be as they should ask the seller a whole bunch of questions to determine why.
It’s important to examine the service history books/invoices to determine if the yearly mileages tally up with the mileage displayed on the MOT database.
Most reputable garages note down the mileage when the work was carried out and stamp the book with their phone numbers. Don’t be afraid to call the number of the garage to get them to confirm they did, in fact, work on this car and confirm the date and mileage of the car at the time.
If they tell you they have never worked on this car then this is a big Red Flag as stamps and invoices can be easily faked. Remember you are potentially going to invest a lot of money into this car, you should be checking it thoroughly
Unusual Wear & Tear
A car with 150,000 miles will have more signs of wear and tear then say a car with 25,000 miles. If a car is showing low mileage for its age be sure to check common wear and tear signs to see if the car appears to be driven more then the clock suggests.
Common things to look for
- Unusual wear and tear on the driver seat especially the bolster area
- Signs of unusual wear on the steering wheel, does it look more faded then it should?
- Signs of unusual wear on the gear stick
- Signs on unusual wear on the pedals. Do they look like they had had more use than 25,000 miles?
- Unusual squeaks and rattle from the suspension with the car perhaps having driven much more than suggested?
- How does the clutch feel when depressed, does it feel like its slipping?
Does the seller appear ‘Genuine’ to you, are they able to answer all your questions reasonably about any strange looking mileage gaps or lack of paperwork?
Are they in a rush to flog it to you?
Can they answer for any unusual wear and tear on the car?
If the answer to the majority of these questions is no, then this is another Red Flag and you are perhaps better walking away from the deal.
From reading this we hope you can see there no one simple way to determine an answer, you will have you use a combination of all these methods, some good old detective work and also go with your gut instinct.
We hope you can see why we have described it as more of an ‘art then a science’ however if you are seeing constant ‘Red Flags’ it’s better to put your money back in your pocket and move onto the next deal.
However take time to determine if there is a reason why things appear they way they do, some of the best deals we have picked up are the ones others were not bothered to investigate fully
With a little bit of digging, you may be able to establish there is a genuine reason behind discrepancies.
Good luck and safe buying.