Mileage anomaly (or mileage clocking) is one of the biggest risks of buying a used car. Some sellers will reset the odometer so the mileage seems less than it is, allowing them to sell the car at a higher price. To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, you need to arm yourself with information. Here’s how to check if a car is clocked.

Inspect The Condition

The first step is always to check the condition of the car. Your gut instinct should tell you if something isn’t right. If a car looks like it’s done thousands of motorway miles, chances are, it probably has. One of the biggest telltale signs of high-mileage vehicles is stone chips on the bumper. That’s when stones flick up and take off bits of paint. If the car has a lot of stone chips or it has a crude paint job on the bumper, steer well clear.

Then, you should look inside the vehicle. Looks for signs of wear and tear on the steering wheel, pedals, seats, and switches. For example, if the paint has worn away on all the switches, the car has probably done north of 100,000 miles. Inspecting the condition of the car won’t tell you everything but it should give you a good idea if you can trust the mileage.

Here are some of the most common problems on a high-mileage car:

  • Automatic transmission failure past the 100,000-mile mark.
  • Car batteries generally last around four years, regardless of the mileage.
  • Screeching brakes means that the pads are worn out.
  • A normal set of car tyres should last around 60,000 – 75,000 miles.
  • Water pump failure can occur between 60,000 and 90,000 miles.
  • Timing belts should be changed between 60,000 and 100,000 miles.

Test Drive The Car

Unless you’re new to driving, you’ve probably driven a few different vehicles. Again, this isn’t a scientific method to check if a car is clocked but it gives you an indication. Give the car a thorough test drive – slam the brakes, go through all the gears, accelerate quickly up to the speed limit, etc. Putting the car through these paces will tell you if it’s in good condition or not. If it feels old and clunky, it probably is. You can even test drive other examples of the same make and model to get a point of reference.

Get A Car History Check

A car history check is an affordable way to get more information about the car. If you feel like the seller isn’t telling you everything you need to know, we’d strongly recommend paying for a thorough check (it only costs about a fiver). The check will show you the recorded mileages (at every MOT and service), which could show up any discrepancies. For example, if the car’s mileage is 75,000 one year and 10,000 the next, you know the odometer has been reset. It will probably be more subtle than that but you get the point.

A car history check will also show up any outstanding finance, previous crash damage, previous owners, and theft warnings. If a car has any of these, the seller should have been straight up with you. If they failed to mention something, you should walk away from the purchase immediately.

To perform a car history check, you need the vehicle’s registration number.

Check The MOT Certificates

The next step is to check the MOT certificates. When a car becomes three years old, it needs to have an MOT check every year that it’s on the road. Mileage is recorded at every MOT, so it’s a great way to check for mileage anomalies.

The MOT testing company notes the mileage of the vehicle during the test, as well as any other details that came up during the tests. The MOT consists of dozens of checks including brakes, fuel system, lights, mirrors, seatbelts, windscreen wipers and exhaust system. You can check the MOT history of the car online. Just make sure you have the vehicle registration number to hand.

Checking the car’s MOT history should give you a clear view of how often the car has been used and how it reached its current mileage. In most circumstances, the mileage will rise at a predictable rate for each owner. Most people don’t change their driving habit dramatically. The latest style of MOT certificates show the previous mileage as well, so ask the seller to see all of the certificates and make sure everything adds up.

Talk To The Previous Owner

Most used cars have previous owners. You should try and get in contact with them and ask what mileage they sold the car at. If a car has multiple previous owners, try and contact all of them. Most people will be happy to answer a quick question if you’re polite and honest with them. What have you got to lose?

Look At The Service History

Whenever you’re buying a new vehicle, it’s important to look at its service history. Responsible car owners get their vehicles serviced at regular intervals (around every 12,000 miles). The mileage should be recorded at each service, so you should be able to see whether it has risen correctly. Compare this information with the MOT certificates and what the seller has told you about the vehicle.

It’s important not to take the service history at face value – it can easily be falsified (especially if the seller has an affiliation with a local garage). One of the best ways to check the accuracy of the service history is to call up the garages that performed the services. They should have records of each service and should be able to provide you with documents that match the seller’s.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions

When you’re buying a used car, you can ask the seller as many questions as you want. If they seem irritated or unwilling to give information, it’s probably best to walk away. We’d recommend making a list of questions based on this guide and work your way through them. Also, ask for the MOT history, service history, and any other documents related to the vehicle.

If you’re not satisfied that the mileage is accurate – WALK AWAY. There are plenty of other used cars around.

How Common Is Car Clocking In The UK?

Many people think that car clocking is a thing of the past. In fact, according to HPI, it’s more common than ever. Around one in 14 cars (around 7%) has a mileage discrepancy. That means there’s a good chance you could get caught out and pay over the odds if you’re in the market for a used car. It could be costing UK road users over £800m every year.

The reason that car clocking is so common is clear – low mileage vehicles sell for much higher prices than high-mileage vehicles. Dodgy dealers can make thousands on the sale of a clocked car. Aside from private garages, there are a number of car clocking firms that will lower the mileage for a fee. This is particularly common with cars bought on finance deals because they have strict mileage limits. For example, if your financed car has a limit of 5,000 miles per year and you do 10,000, you could have to pay a fine of up to £1,500. Paying a car clocking firm a couple of hundred quid seems like a small price to pay in comparison.

When you’re buying a used car there’s a one in 14 chance that you are buying a clocked car. Because of that, it’s crucial that you know what to look out for and practice caution.

What Should You Do If You Buy A Clocked Car?

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you suspect a car is clocked or you have already bought a clocked car. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do. The first port of call is to contact the seller and negotiate with them. Hopefully, it was a mistake, they will admit to it, and you can get your money back. If that doesn’t work, your next option is small claims court. The problem is, getting your money back could cost you more than the initial sum you paid. It’s a sticky situation to find yourself in. It’s much better to make 100% sure that the car isn’t clocked before you buy.

Are Clocked Cars Dangerous?

The safety of a vehicle is related to its mileage. A brand new car is considerably safer than a car with 100,000 miles on the clock. So the simple answer is yes, driving a clocked car could be dangerous. If you have been duped into thinking the car is newer than it is, there’s a good chance it hasn’t been serviced at the correct intervals. That means the brakes and other major components could need changing. If you’re uncertain about the safety of your vehicle, take it to a garage and have a comprehensive service.