A car’s odometer reading can indicate kilometres the car has actually travelled and whether the necessary checks, services and repairs have been carried out at the required times. A valid and correct odometer reading is necessary to maintaining the car’s mechanical safety.
The odometer can be found on the dashboard and can be either analogue or digital. Both analogue and digital odometers are vulnerable to tampering. Newer cars that have digital control units or computers may allow the odometer to be replaced or re-programed using fraudulent software.
It is illegal under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) to change an odometer in a car and can result in a maximum penalty of $50,000.
Checking the Odometer
The car’s odometer will be recorded at every service or repair and will be written in the service history logbook. If the seller doesn’t have a logbook, ask them for the details of the servicer or repairer and call them to ask for the details of the service history.
To check for signs of tampering you should first check the odometer of the car against the most recent reading in the logbook. You are looking to see if the odometer is less than the amount written in the logbook from the most recent service. If it is less than the written amount, it is likely the odometer has experienced tampering.
Before buying a car, it is recommended that you seek an independent inspection from a licensed mechanic and ask them to also check for evidence of odometer tampering. With their experience, they may be able to uncover inconsistencies between the condition of the vehicle and the odometer reading. For example, if the interior is worn suggesting the car has been used a lot, but the odometer reading is low suggesting the car has not travelled far, it could indicate tampering.
If you buy a car and discover the odometer has been tampered, try talking to the seller to resolve any issues. State what the issue/s is and how you would like it resolved. Sample text is available on the sample letter to a car dealer page.
If you’re unable to resolve the dispute with the dealer, you can lodge a complaint with Consumer Protection.