How to avoid buying a car with an odometer that has been rolled back

DENVER -- As the FOX31 Problem Solvers reported on Tuesday, “clocking” or the rolling back of vehicle odometers for fraudulent purposes, is a big problem in Colorado and nationwide.

For our undercover report, FOX31 stripped the instrument cluster out of one of our old, now-junked news vehicles with the purpose of seeing if a local auto repair facility would take miles off the odometer.

(By the way – don’t do this. There are so many ways you could get in trouble.)

The digital odometer on our Dodge Durango originally read 195,839 miles.

We heard Odo-Pro -- a licensed business operated by Peter Petrov Rains out of this house in Littleton -- offers an “Odometer Correction” service costing $89, plus shipping.

“I can’t believe it," said chairman of the Automotive Services Association of Colorado Brad Pellman. He told us during an interview he was disappointed to hear any mechanic would even offer such a service.

“Rolling back an odometer is certainly something we don’t even think about doing in our industry,” he said.

FOX31 sent the odometer to Odo-Pro requesting it be reset at 150,839 miles, or a 45,000-mile reduction.

In the work order form, we had to acknowledge that we had been advised that “altering the odometer for personal gain is illegal" and that "owners have a legal obligation to notify prospective purchasers if the vehicle's mileage has been altered.”

A few days later, Odo-Pro sent back our odometer with 45,000 fewer miles on it.

Our viewers and readers asked how they could tell if they were about to buy a vehicle with an altered odometer.

FOX31 checked out three services:

CarFax

Auto Check

The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System

Each charges various fees, between $10 and $39, to run the VIN of a car, but the results of that search might save you thousands of dollars.

Most times a vehicle gets maintenance (or is re-licensed), the odometer reading and date get recorded by auto-check services.

Here’s a good example of a red-flag:

The FOX31 Problem Solvers found a 2006 vehicle on Craigslist. We called and met the seller in an apartment complex parking lot.

The seller didn’t disclose during an undercover conversation and attempted transaction that the car’s CarFax report looked like this:

In January 2019, it had 125,219 miles.

Less than a month later, the same car had only 4,364 miles on it. It could be a clerical error, but raises some serious questions about how many authentic miles were really recorded.

And only because of CarFax did we know the car had been wrecked, totaled, then put back on the road with a salvage title.

Both other services also caught those discrepancies.

Federal law prohibits resetting or altering an odometer with the intent to defraud.

Enforcement is the responsibility of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which maintains an Office of Odometer Fraud Investigations.

The agency has not responded to our request to speak about our findings or this report.

The agency website advises contacting NHTSA’s vehicle safety hotline for fraud cases against dealerships, and contacting your state enforcement agency for individual odometer fraud cases.

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