Get a Detailed VIN History Report to Confirm a Car's Mileage Before Purchasing It

Posted on: 27 August 2015

An automobile's value is directly tied to its mileage, because mileage is one of the best indicators of how much wear and tear a car's received, and how much longer it may last. In order to boost a vehicle's value, some unscrupulous auto dealers will roll back the odometer on cars that they sell. If you're shopping for a used car, here's how you can confirm the reading on an automobile's odometer with a free VIN history report.

Rolled Back Odometers Are Problematic

Even though it's illegal, many unethical auto dealers either roll back odometers themselves or hire someone to roll them back. In order to benefit, dealers don't need to drastically change an odometer's reading. Reducing an odometer's reading by just 10,000 miles can increase its value by $600.

Unfortunately, switching to digital odometers didn't stop people from rolling back odometers, which is why it's still a problem. It's actually easier to roll back a digital odometer than a mechanical one.

Ask for Explanations on Low-Mileage Vehicles

According to data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWH), the average driver drives 13,476 miles annually. Since this is an average, half of all drivers drive less than this. You ought to inquire about any car that has an average annual mileage much less than this, though.

If a car you're looking at has an odometer reading that reports a much lower reading than you would expect based on the average driver's mileage, you should ask the salesperson about it. It's possible that the car was owned by an elderly person who didn't drive much, but you'll want to hear the explanation. If the salesperson doesn't know the driving history of the car, they can't guarantee that the odometer wasn't rolled back. Even if you're at a reputable, honest dealership, someone may have had the mileage reduced before the dealership got the car.

Get a Free VIN Report to Confirm the Mileage

Before signing to purchase a car, you can confirm the mileage with a free VIN history report. Reports are available to the public from the Federal government, but these reports sometimes don't include as many details as reports from private companies. In order to confirm a specific automobile's mileage, you'll want a detailed free VIN history report from a private provider.

Any VIN history report will list more information about whether a vehicle has been in an accident, flood or other catastrophic event. A detailed report will also include service records from some auto repair centers. Private repair shops might not share their records with VIN history reporting companies, and no one's going to send a reporting agency a note saying they illegally reduced the odometer's reading. Even having intermittent service records from some repair shops, though, can help you confirm a vehicle's mileage.

When looking at the service records included in a detailed a VIN history report, check the mileage notes that are included with each service. When a car's serviced, it's mileage is usually recorded. The specific numbers aren't important, because the amount people drive will vary from month to month. Every mileage record, though, should be greater than the one before it. If the recorded mileage remains the same or decreases, then the odometer may have been rolled back. If it increases with every service, than you can probably trust the odometer's current reading.

As you look for a car, don't naively trust the readings on odometers. Instead, protect yourself by getting a detailed VIN history report that can help you confirm whether a car's stated mileage is accurate. Doing this will help ensure that you don't pay more than you should for a vehicle.