State and Federal Laws Prohibit Odometer Tampering and Inaccurate Odometer Disclosures


Buyers rely heavily on a vehicle’s mileage in determining a vehicle’s condition and value.  Accurate odometer readings and disclosures, therefore, are essential for maintaining a reliable basis for determining a vehicle’s condition and value.

For these reasons, state and federal law prohibit not only odometer tampering, but also inaccurate odometer disclosures.  Under federal law, a seller is required to provide an odometer disclosure statement certifying that (a) the odometer reflects the actual mileage, (b) the odometer reflects the amount of miles beyond the mechanical limit of the odometer, or (c) the odometer reading does not reflect the actual mileage.

Besides rolling back or modifying odometer readings (e.g. using odometer “kill switches”), unscrupulous sellers of motor vehicles also ignore tell-tale signs of possible odometer discrepancies or fraud.  For example, there may be inconsistent odometer readings recorded in a vehicle’s title or repair history.  That is, a vehicle’s title history may show lower mileage in 2007 than in 2006.  Additionally, there may be signs of possible odometer tampering that the seller should have noticed such as missing screws around the odometer casing or evidence that the casing and trim around the odometer were removed at one time.  Such signs would put the seller on notice that the odometer may have been tampered with and would require the seller to investigate the odometer’s accuracy further.  If the seller ignored these signs, it would not have a solid basis for certifying that “the odometer reflects the actual mileage.”

Buyers concerned about potential odometer inaccuracy can use Carfax, Autocheck, and other such reports to see if there are odometer discrepancies in a vehicle’s history.  However, these types of reports are not always complete.  In addition, some repair facilities and specialty garages inspect vehicles for odometer tampering.

If a seller does tamper with the odometer or fails to provide accurate odometer disclosures, it does so at its own peril, because the federal law imposes severe penalties on violators.  Buyers should be aware, however, that the federal law does not require odometer disclosures for vehicles over ten years old.


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