How to Check if a Used Car Mileage is Genuine or Tempered

For someone who is not an expert in vehicle inspections and mileage verification, detecting an odometer rollback won’t be easy. Still, if there is one way to tell for sure if someone has played with the instrument cluster, then it will be using online vehicle history checking services. Here is the full guide that shows you exactly how to tell how many miles a car has without using the odometer that can be clocked or modified in many ways.

5 ways to tell if a used car mileage is true or rolled back

Before starting, keep in mind that in order to detect an odometer rollback, some methods work better than others, and that’s not always the same for every car. So, the car mileage check is not an easy process as there are many advanced techniques that scammers use. Thus, we recommend taking the time for inspection or using the first method below, which saves time and effort at once.

1. Reverse lookup the car VIN or License plate

By using any of the modern methods to search for the car’s history report through its VIN or the license plate number, you can see the actual expected mileage based on previous ownership records. This means the system detects frauded odometer mileage by comparing historical records from different sources, that includes previous owners, maintenance checks, insurance agencies, and more.

2. Compare the mileage to the car condition

To spot an odometer fraud on a pre-owned vehicle, start by inspecting its current condition and compare the numbers with what you see. If the car has 40K miles on it and it has cracks, vibrations, and lots of issues from the interior and the exterior, then, probably, it’s not the correct mileage, and there is an odometer tampering.

The current car mileage will be much higher than the number you get from the document that the buyer or the agency provides.

It’s also important to ask yourself how many miles a used car of 2018 or 2019 has. In reality, the average mileage for a car that is 2 years of age should be around 15000 miles in the USA. That depends on many things like the purpose of the car, the size of the city, and the distances that the driver regularly travels or on occasions.

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For 5 years old used cars, expect the mileage to be something like 70K miles. If you see the mileage of the vehicle far away from that, then that possibly indicates a problem. Meantime, there are exceptions when car owners buy cars and don’t use them often because of the second car they drive and prefer.

So, there is nothing wrong with a car that has 50K miles on it, if it’s a 5-year-old or more, and that’s valid if everything in the car is still new, well-maintained, and not abandoned.

You can tell if the car’s odometer has been rolled back if everything you see is not compatible with what the mileage indicates. So, be careful with that and don’t assume the mileage is always correct. Just compare and watch for any possible warning.

3. Ask for the car’s maintenance records

By comparing the mileage listed on the car’s inspection record, you can tell if the odometer number is correct or modified. That’s important, especially for newly purchased vehicles with 3 years of age or less. Because the car is new, it should have been inspected and maintained periodically by the manufacturer or the dealer.

Otherwise, if you find no records or the seller refuses to provide you with historical car maintenance checks, then it’s a sign that the odometer is reversed back.

4. Use a car diagnostic service

When you diagnose the car using software or with the help of a mechanic, everything as problems will be listed. That way, the mechanic, who should have enough experience with vehicle inspections, can tell if the mileage on the odometer is the right one or fake.

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Here is a simple example, in general, car manufacturers including Ford, BMW, VW, Toyota, and others recommend changing the automatic transmission fluid (ATF) every 100K Miles as a maximum.

So, if you test the car and notice it has vibrations, hesitations on shifting, or issues visible on the diagnostic report, then, the car has at least 100K miles as mileage. Now, if the seller talks about something like 40K miles, that’s a sign of odometer tampering that you should be aware of.

Repeat the same method for the most important car parts like the steering rack, brakes, engine mounts, suspensions, alternator, starter, etc… Each one of these parts will fail after a while if the mileage is exceeded. Thus, the buyer can tell if the seller is lying on the odometer numbers or not.

5. Has anyone messed with the instrument cluster?

Because this is not a 100% correct method to inspect car odometers and see if the mileage is correct or not, we added it as the last one. If you care about the real mileage of the car you want to buy and detect frauds, then, look at the screw that opens the instrument cluster.

If you notice scratches from screwdrivers, then, someone opened the cluster and accessed the odometer in order to modify it. The instrument cluster does not fail in general like other parts of the car. So getting that removed previously from the car is a sign that indicates the odometer has been manipulated.

Why do people reverse their car mileage?

Lots of car buyers believe that the mileage of a car that’s higher than 150K miles means more maintenance costs, and the parts will fail in the next few years. In other words, the cost of repairing the car will be higher than its sale price. That’s why some car sellers will open the instrument cluster, modify the odometer and make the mileage look like 60K miles or so.

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Keep in mind that buying a used Toyota car even with 180K miles on it won’t be a problem as the brand is well-known for selling well-built vehicles and strong car quality. On the other hand, when you buy a high-mileage used BMW or Mercedes car, then, the cost of repairs during the next few years will be a fortune.

Another possible reason for people to reset the car mileage is when they get their old odometer broken and buy another one used from a crashed vehicle. In this case, there are many odometer correction services that match the new odometer mileage to the old one. So this is the only genuine way for a car odometer to be tempered.

Imagine if someone buys a used odometer with 220K miles on it for his car that has only 100K miles, it will be required to maintain the exact mileage to avoid wrong data and issues. But when the owner wants to sell the car, that’s another story, he should explain that and provide you with the information like when he does the change, etc…

As another tip, remember that both digital and analog (old) odometers can be tempered. Of course, there are penalties for doing that, as the dealer can see how many times the odometer has been modified manually.


Now you know how to check the mileage of any car online. All you need is one of the vehicle details, like its VIN or the plate number. Using these two pieces of information, you get all of the car history reports and more, but remember to compare the conditions of the car equipment, seats, leather, etc… As mileage alone is not a factor in buying a car.

Think about a car that is not maintained properly, even if the mileage is low. It’s all about making a balance between buying a pre-owned car that has a low mileage, and that’s well marinated and repaired.

About Cartipso Writing Team

When every piece of information should be verified, we have the best experts in automobile, and car-related topics to share their latest tips, tricks, and guides with you, every writer double-checks the article, so, readers get real how-to's from mechanics, engineers, and technicians.

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