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Mileage “Clocking” Under Spotlight As Legal Loophole Exploited

By Stephen Turvil | April 27, 2016


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How much winding back mileage increases vehicle value, safety & legal issues, and how to avoid buying clocked cars.

Mileage “Clocking” Under Spotlight As Legal Loophole Exploited
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1.7 million clocked vehicles in UK, HPI, estimates

Vehicles that have their mileage reading wound back to make them look fresher have been “clocked” – and there are 1.7 million suspects in the UK, HPI said. The Government now plans to close the legal loophole which enables perpetrators to operate with impunity.

Clocking is favoured by those of questionable moral standing because, on paper, it increases value and makes cars easier to sell. Perpetrators are typically “mileage correction firms”, of which The Sun calculated there are up to 100 in the United Kingdom.

How clocking changes the value of vehicles

HPI revealed how slashing 30,000/60,000 miles from the odometer readings of a range of models changes their apparent retail values. 

MakeModelYearRetail Value at 30,000 MilesRetail Value at 60,000 MilesRetail Value at 90,000 MilesImpact of 60,000 Miles
FordFiesta 1.25 (82) Zetec 3 door2012£6,450£5,650£4,795£1,655
VolkswagenGolf 1.6 Tdi (105) Match 5 door2012£9,245£8,195£6,875£2,550
NissanQashqai 1.5 dci (110) Tekna 5 door2012£12,495£10,950£9,575£2,920
AudiA3 1.6 Tdi S Line 3 door2012£12,450£10,950£9,650£2,800
Fiat500 1.2 Lounge 3 door2012£5,975£5,175£4,795£1,180
VauxhallAstra Sports Tourer 1.4i 16V Tech Line 5 door2012£7,725£6,625£5,725£2,000
VauxhallCorsa 1.4 Sxi 5 door2012£5,795£4,995£4,375£1,420
NissanLEAF 5 door Automatic2012£8,475£7,225£6,250£2,225
Land RoverRange Rover Evoque 2.2 SD4 Pure 5 door2012£23,250£21,500£19,650£3,600
MazdaMX-5 Convertible 1.8i SE 2 door2012£9,495£8,125£6,950£2,545

Mileage correction forms popular with lease car customers

It is not just motorists planning to sell vehicles that contact mileage correction firms. Drivers increasingly hire or lease machinery via finance offers such a personal contract plans, and most incorporate a mileage limitation of (say) 40,000 over 3 years.

Exceeding the limit incurs a penalty of several pence per-mile. On this basis, some people conclude it is cheaper to clock their vehicles. After all, such services – that are often performed in car parks rather than traceable offices – cost as little £40 to £90.

Mileage correction firms operate in grey legal area

Correction firms work in a grey area of law. It is legal to modify odometer readings, for example. Offences are only committed if vehicles are then knowingly misrepresented when sold. Mileage correction firms might not “ask too many questions”, in other words.

They might also justify their actions by stating - perhaps legitimately on occasions – that they alter readings to rectify faults. Representative sentiments from a range of websites include:

  • digital odometers often go wrong and have to be recalibrated,
  • readings can be incorrect following an electrical fault,
  • a replacement odometer will read 0 miles and need adjustment.

Government promises action to penalise clockers

The Government is keen to crackdown on correction firms so tampering with odometers could become illegal. Any “I am okay because I am not selling the cars” defence might then be worthless. 

Business Minister, Anna Soubry, said: “If people are evading quite clear laws and regulations that we as society said they should not, that needs sorting out. I will look into this, along with my colleagues at the Ministry of Justice and in the Crown Prosecution Service, and we will stop it."

Neil Hodson, Deputy Manager for CAP HPI, argued: “News that Business Minister Anna Soubry is going to take a stand against mileage correction firms illustrates just how serious a problem clocking continues to be to this day.” He continued: “We are delighted that the spotlight is falling on these fraudsters again.”

Clocking has safety implications

Mr Hodson said that clocking has a wide range of safety implications too. He explained: “There is the potential to miss important servicing and warning light indicators, as the car’s various different components will be reading different mileages.”

“By changing the mileage, a clocker will actually be causing conflicts within the cars electronics and interfering with the normal routines for servicing and repair.” Issues of this nature might invalidate the warranty which has financial implications. 

Clocking has legal implications following a collision

There are also legal implication following a collision. Mr Hodson added: “In modern vehicles, crucial evidence of a cars performance and speed at the time of an accident will be stored in the car's on board computer.” 

“Such evidence may have an important contribution to make in an accident investigation, but sadly if a vehicle has had its mileage tampered with the integrity of the data could be said to have been compromised and likely inadmissible as evidence in court.” 

Mileage correction firms banned in 2018

European Union rules ban mileage correction firms by May 20th 2018. The HPI reported that this new law is supported by 71% of dealers in the UK. That is no surprise as traders that even unwittingly sell clocked cars face hefty fines and prosecution, Mr Hodson said.

How to spot clocked vehicles

Cross reference mileages shown on MOT test certificates with the service history and invoices. Look for consistency and natural progression. If, for example, MOT mileage on April 1st 2016 is 80,000 then a service stamp 2 days earlier at 85,000 is suspicious.

Documents should also be free of corrections and time gaps. Imagine the paperwork shows a car travelled 65,000 miles in its first 3 years. Now at 5 years the odometer says it has done 75,000 – just 10,000 more - and the paperwork for the last 2 years is missing. 

It might be that the owner simply required the vehicle less and misplaced its papers, but they might have been binned to conceal tampering. Condition compared to other cars of similar age/mileage, gut instinct, and the how a seller behaves also indicate the truth. 

Further, service history can be faked so contact the garage that has (apparently) maintained the vehicle. Plus, of course, a history check from a specialist such as HPI should highlight discrepancies. 

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