Odometer fraud

Fight odometer fraud with the Federal Odometer Act

According to a 2002 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are over 450,000 cases of odometer fraud each year, making it one of the most common forms of auto fraud. The study estimates that the increased cost consumers pay to buy vehicles with odometer rollbacks is over a million dollars per year, which makes it one of the top crimes against property in the United States. Fortunately, car buyers have a powerful tool to combat odometer rollbacks--the Federal Odometer Act. The Odometer Act has several major protections against odometer fraud:

  • It prohibits odometer tampering

  • The Act forbids false statements about an odometer reading during a sale

  • It requires that a transferor disclose a vehicle's odometer reading each time it's transferred

  • The Act establishes notice procedures when a repair results in a change to the odometer reading

The Odometer Act allows a person victimized by odometer fraud to bring a lawsuit against anyone who has violated the Act with intent to defraud. Successful litigants are entitled to $10,000 or three times their actual damages, whichever is greater. Further, the rollback artist has to pay for the buyer's attorney fees and court costs. In addition, the Odometer Act provides for federal agency enforcement and many states, including Minnesota, have criminal penalties for odometer fraud.

How to deal with an odometer rollback

Shady car dealers love to find a way to make an extra buck on a used car. One way they do this is by rolling back the odometer. WIth digital odometer displays, it is often very easy for a car dealer to roll back an odometer. We sue car dealers for odometer fraud and can get significant legal damages. Here's how you deal with odometer fraud:

Why scammers roll back the odometer

Easy--rolling back the odometer lets a dealer sell a heavily-worn car for newer-car prices. I drive a 2007 Honda Fit Sport. With 50,000 miles a car like mine might sell for $9,676. With 150,000 miles it sells for $5,067. An unscrupulous car dealer might see that $4,600 as easy money.

How to spot odometer fraud

Here are a few tips for finding a rolled-back odometer, either before or after the sale.

  • Pull a vehicle history report such as a Carfax and AutoCheck. Sometimes these don't show rollbacks, so just because a CarFax comes up clean doesn't mean the odometer is too.

  • Ask the seller for maintenance records. Even oil change records almost always mark down the mileage.

  • Look in the owner's manual or on service stickers inside the door or under the hood. Did the car dealer leave behind damning evidence?

  • Look for damage to the instrument panel. There may also be fingerprints inside the glass. This is a great sign of odometer tampering.

  • Is the brake pedal worn? Tires? Take the car to mechanic to see if they can find evidence that the car is more used than it appears.

The Federal Odometer Act may protect you.

The Federal Odometer Act is a very powerful law that punishes the perpetrators of odometer fraud. Any dealer who rolls back an odometer, or sells a car knowing the odometer has been rolled back, may be liable for triple your money damages, with a minimum of $10,000. Plus they have to pay your attorney's fees if you win.