Skip to content

How to Avoid Mileage Manipulation When Buying a Used Car

How to check for mileage manipulation when buying a used car

How to check for mileage manipulation. Traffic fines in Germany. There are many scams going on with a study by ADAC showing that mileage on new cars can also be easily manipulated. Here’s all you need to know:

How to prevent mileage manipulation

Resetting the odometer can be done quick and easy for as little as 50 euros. According to the police, every third used car sold in Germany has a modified speedometer. By deceiving used car buyers or leasing companies, fraudsters inflate the value by an average of €3,000 per car. The total estimated damage in Germany is about 6 billion euros annually.

EU Regulation 2017/1151 stipulates that the mileage in the car must be systematically protected. However there is still lack of detailed regulation on what the protection should look like and which body should check it. This resulting in contined deception.
Read also: Orange arrow on the German highway and what it means

Can todays car’s be tampered with?

ADAC random sample of three current vehicles proves that the mileage of many current cars can still be manipulated quickly and easily.

Three randomly chosen cars, which should have already been protected from the factory, were tampered with a freely available device: a 2019 Ford Kugadin, a 2020 Opel Grandland Xdin and a 2019 Peugeot 208.

Additionally, ADAC evaluated device manufacturers’ websites  for “adjusting the speedometer”. Result: As soon as new vehicle models hit the market, there are already mileage manipulation deals.

How do fraudsters manipulate the speedometer?

Fraudsters use handy, easy-to-use manipulation devices that are legally available from around €150. These devices contain software that allows the vast number of car mileages to be manipulated within seconds. The odometer reading can be changed at will without removing the speedometer or other parts in most cars.
Read also: New EU Road Safety Regulations Effective July 2024

Until shortly before the sale of a used car, speedometers are not tampered with. Since its easy, it is a common practice even when the car is in use, so that the wrong data is entered into the vehicle history. For instance, leasing companies are fooled about the agreed mileage or residual value.

According to ADAC’s head of vehicle technology Markus Sippl, “Besides the inflated purchase price, buyers can have other problems.” For example, thinking the timing belt change is taking longer based on the odometer reading.

“If the timing belt then breaks because the replacement interval was not recognized, this can lead, in the worst case, to engine damage costing thousands of euros,” says the expert.

Is the manipulation device legal?

Based on the decision of The Federal Constitutional Court, manufacture and sale of manipulation devices is allowed. Banning of the devices would not be much help as the suppliers are often based abroad.
Read also: Driving in Germany: Rules for getting around with a foreign driver’s license

On August 17, 2005, tampering with the odometer was banned by law and is punishable by up to a year in prison. Also it is prohibited to advertise mileage manipulation devices in newspapers and on the internet. However, this ban is often ignored as advertisements and websites continue to be widespread in practice.

How to spot manipulated mileage

A vast majority of people cannot detect when an odometer has been manipulated. Therefore, used car buyers should check for discrepancies:

  • Contact the previous owner listed on the registration certificate. Ask them for the documents mentioned in the first point. Clarify the mileage with which the vehicle was sold. Other previous owners are also partially in the service book.
  • Request for inspection on the used car.
  • Pay attention to the condition of the car and how it runs. 
  • Read the fault memory and maintenance interval in the workshop. Compare the mileages that are sometimes recorded when errors are entered with those displayed on the speedometer.
  • Check repair invoices, AU and TÜV reports, fuel receipts (if you use a fuel card, the mileage is there), logbook entries, and oil change stickers or tags for plausibility. The oil change is scheduled after 40,000 kilometers at the latest. So if a car is supposed to only have 100,000 kilometers on the clock and the next oil change is scheduled for 180,000 kilometers, something is wrong.