Mileage Check

Buying a used car is always a risk. You can reduce that risk in different ways.

When you’re buying a used car there are a number of things you need to be sure of. One is that the car has not been stolen, and another is that it has not been written off. You can also find out if a car has been in an accident.

But another thing you need to consider is whether the car is showing the right mileage.

All sellers of used cars are obliged by law to let potential buyers know the accurate history of a vehicle. This includes the number of miles it has actually done. They don’t always do so. That’s why you need to be sure of the mileage that a vehicle has done.

Why is it important to know how many miles a car has done?

The number of miles a car has done is a very good indicator of how well previous owners have looked after the vehicle, and how much they have driven it. As a general rule, the more miles car has spent on the road, the greater the risk that something could go wrong in the future. That’s why you should also know the mileage of a car.

How does a car measure the miles it has done?

A clock called an odometer is built into every car and counts the total number of miles it has already done. Mileage fraud occurs when someone has turned back the clock to give a false reading. In the UK this practice is illegal and is also known as ‘clocking’. In the USA it is described as ‘busting miles.’

Changing the odometer or clocking is a serious problem in the UK.

People who change the mileage on cars do so to make them appear less used than they actually are. They can then try and charge higher prices for those cars that have been ‘clocked’ rather than what they are actually worth.

In what ways can the mileage of a vehicle be changed?

As well as rolling back an odometer (or ‘clocking), other ways in which the measurement can be tampered with and falsified include:

  • Disconnecting an odometer for a period of time and then reconnecting it.
  • Falsifying the actual mileage of a vehicle in writing at the time of sale.
  • Failing to report that an odometer has actually rolled through all the digits and started over.
  • Replacing an odometer but failing to report the replacement.

How big a problem is mileage altering in the UK?

Statistics released in 2011 demonstrate that around one in forty cars taking an MOT test in the UK are found to have been ‘clocked’ to reduce the mileage their odometers display. Other more recent information shows that may be as high as one in fourteen used cars in the UK now.

Changing car mileage readings is a big criminal business. The Office of Fair Trading in the UK estimates ‘clocking’ costs car buyers around £500m a year in inflated prices for second-hand cars.

That’s why so many used car dealers are tempted to break the law and either change the odometer themselves or get a mechanic to do it.

One consequence of this is that there is quite a high chance of coming across a car which has had its mileage altered when you are looking for a vehicle in the used car market.

The question you need to ask yourself if you are buying a new car is: can you take on trust the mileage reading a car is showing?

Does a seller have to tell you the true mileage of a car?

Under the law, a seller must let you the true mileage of a car. This is regardless of whether the seller is classified as a dealer or a private seller. All types of sellers are under a legal obligation to let you know exactly the number of miles a car has truly done.

Although it is a criminal offence for a seller not to tell the truth about mileage, some do not do so. In failing to disclose the truth and altering the odometer they break both the law and the duty of care they have to buyers.

Anyone involved in changing a car’s mileage, or covering up such a change, is breaking the law.

How can you check your car’s mileage online?

We have built an online tool which can give you the answer you need, and provide the best estimate of your car’s mileage.

To get an accurate report, all you need is your car registration number. It includes numbers and letters and is found on the front and rear of the vehicle.

Just type in your car registration number below and a comprehensive mileage check. Your registration number or number plate is also sometimes referred to as your VRM (Vehicle Registration Mark).

How reliable is our car mileage checker?

Our car mileage checker uses data from a variety of sources. We then use this to compile a full history of the vehicle you’re interested in. Every declaration made about the mileage of the car from previous MOTs is collected, analysed and provided in a short report to you.

We do this by looking at the records of the Driving Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA) and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), which crunches past and present MOT test data, including the mileage history recorded during MOT tests.

Should you suspect all issues with mileage?

If your report from us shows a discrepancy with mileage then that doesn’t necessarily mean a crime is being committed

There are some examples where an odometer has had to be replaced for legitimate reasons. This could be because it has been broken or parts have worn away. However, this will explain the minority of differences in reporting mileage, and you should always be wary.

The best thing to do if you get a report showing significant variation is to ask the seller directly for supporting documentation to help explain the issue.

Can you use our tool to find out the mileage of a motorbike?

Our mileage checker tool deals with all vehicles with a number plate, and that includes motorbikes.

Does our mileage checker tool cover commercial vehicles and vans?

Yes, it does. You can use it to check the mileage of a van or commercial too.

Can you still buy a car with tampered mileage?

Yes, you can still buy a car that has its odometer altered. You might even be able to negotiate a price reduction with the seller.

But the important thing to think about is that the person who is selling you the car has not told the truth about the mileage. If they have not been truthful about that, what else are they hiding?

What other issues should you think about?

Other things you need to think about when buying a used car are if there is any outstanding credit on it. We have a tool that lets you check this too.

Our technology can also help you make sure that it has not been written off by using our number plate technology.

We have also built searches that look for things like a car’s vehicle emissions and its car tax status. Our team has also built a checker to show when the car’s MOT is due. We can also check any history of number plate changes. We also cover the full spec of the vehicle which you’re looking at.