Thinking about buying a used car this year? With odometer fraud and other scams up around the D.C. region, you’ll need to find different ways to verify mileage on the vehicle you want to purchase.
“A lot of people think that with digital odometers, that odometer can’t be manipulated. And that could not be further from the truth,” said Emilie Voss, director of public relations for Carfax.
For just a few hundred bucks fraudsters can buy tools that roll back the odometer on used cars, allowing them to jack up the price by thousands of dollars. Voss says that can trick consumers into overpaying for a used vehicle.
“So you might think the vehicle has 75,000 miles, and it has 175,000 miles,” said Voss. “And that significantly changes the value of the vehicle.”
In addition, Voss said the hidden, increased mileage on the vehicle will increase “the cost of ownership… because there’s likely going to be unexpected maintenance fees that you weren’t anticipating.”
According to Carfax, Virginia is the eighth worst state when it comes to odometer fraud and Maryland has seen an 18% growth in such scams since 2021. Overall, the D.C. metro area had around 32,000 cars on the road with fraudulent odometers in 2022, according to Carfax estimates. That’s up 6% over the previous year.
“When we look at the current used car market, prices are at record levels,” said Voss. “So it is enticing, unfortunately, for con men because they can make a quick buck if they have the tools.”
According to Voss, there is no digital footprint to tell exactly if an odometer has been tampered with.
To protect oneself from fraud, she recommends taking the used car to a third-party mechanic to look for any wear and tear with the car that is not consistent with its mileage.
Carfax also has a free online tool to help compare current mileage with the vehicle with older reported numbers.