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.

But it isn’t as easy as it sounds: 

  • 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.

When purchasing a used vehicle: 

  • 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, which may contain pertinent information. A PPSR search costs less than $5.00 online. 
  • Report any odometer tampering to the Office of Fair Trading for investigation.