What you need to know about odometer fraud

Odometer fraud, the winding back of odometers to suggest a vehicle has travelled less distance than it really has, has probably been around since they were first fitted to vehicles.

Tampering with odometers to make them show a false reading is illegal and criminal charges can result. Queensland’s Office of Fair Trading investigates such complaints and will prosecute offenders, if they can be identified.

Identifying odometer fraud can be difficult

It isn't as easy as it sounds, because:

  • There’s usually little or no physical evidence to confirm that an odometer has been tampered with.
  • Even when there is, it can be difficult or impossible to determine who is responsible and when it occurred.
  • In most cases it is documentary evidence, such as service records, registration transfers etc. that proves the discrepancy, though this often doesn’t show who is responsible.

There are few legitimate reasons for resetting an odometer reading.

One example would be fitting a new or replacement speedo to a vehicle. In this case the odometer reading of the replacement unit should ideally be reset to match that of the old unit. If the skills and equipment to do this aren’t available, at a minimum, a record of the reason for the change and the differences in the readings should be kept and provided to future purchasers to avoid allegations of fraudulent activity.

Tips for purchasing a new vehicle

When you're considering buying a new vehicle, follow these tips:

  • Never rely on the odometer as a gauge of vehicle condition.
  • A vehicle with a genuinely low odometer reading could still be in poor condition if it has been subjected to hard use.
  • There is no substitute for an independent vehicle inspection to determine a vehicle’s overall condition.
  • Wherever possible compare the vehicle’s odometer reading against any available records. These could include documents such as Safety Certificates, previous sales contracts or service records.
  • Also check the vehicle through the Personal Properties Securities Register (PPSR), and / or car history checks, which may contain pertinent information. A PPSR search costs $2.00 online.
  • Report any confirmed cases of odometer tampering to the Office of Fair Trading for investigation.

Things to note

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs.