Buying a Used Car

10977343090?profile=RESIZE_400xBuying a used car has always been somewhat of a gamble.  Things are much better than in the past, but sketchy dealers are still out there and prey on unsuspecting buyers.  In the old days, rolling back the odometer was relatively easy.  Laws were then created and “some” of that fraudulent practice slowed.  Now everything is electronic and hacking the odometer is a bit trickier.  Or is it?

The on-line car buying company, CarFax, shares some pointers about this type used car sales fraud: “Many people think odometer fraud disappeared with the invention of digital odometers,” said the Public Relations Director for CARFAX.  “But that couldn’t be further from the truth.  We’re still seeing the number of vehicles on the road with a rolled back odometer rise year-over-year.  It takes con artists a matter of minutes to wipe thousands and thousands of miles off a vehicle’s odometer, and unfortunately these swindlers likely see this unprecedented used car market as a way to make quick buck.”[1]

Related article: CarFax Identifies 10 States that have the Most Vehicles with Rolled Back Odometers Scam[2].

Old Tactics and Newer Tactics - Older tactics we have learned about with newer model cars with digital displays included the use of mechanics’ scan tools for locating the source of a check engine light warning that ne’er-do-wells discovered can also be used to reset errors messages long enough to sell a vehicle to an unwitting buyer, as well as in some cases even change the odometer reading.  There is also the common practice of going to a junkyard and finding a same model car with low mileage that was totaled and simply switch displays to another car with much higher actual mileage on it.  The risk of these types of scams is that they are often traceable when investigators look for a paper trail of service records to show that the numbers on a suspected car’s odometer and dated documents do not match.

Mileage Blockers - According to a recent CNBC news report about odometer fraud, criminal investigators are telling us that now, for a relatively cheap price, car swindlers can buy online devices that alter your mileage while you are driving.  In other words, if you drove 100 miles one day, it may show your odometer reporting only 1/10 of that.  This is especially lucrative for car lessee's who scam dealerships by putting on more miles than the agreed upon contract limits without incurring extra fees when the lease ends.  These types of devices are referred to as “Mileage Blockers” and connect with your smartphone to instruct the car’s odometer what value the owner wants the odometer to read and/or when to stop recording mileage.  What make this especially insidious is that the owner can still provide a complete car service record history with bogus mileage that looks legit.

To learn more about odometer fraud, here is a CNBC report posted:  How Odometer Fraud Became A $1 Billion Problem[3] (video)

Your Best Protection from This Scam - Your best protection is to take the time and the relatively small expense of hiring an experienced mechanic to thoroughly inspect a used car for you to tell you not only the condition of the car and its value, but also whether or not the car shows any signs of its physical age and operating condition not correlating with its odometer reading.

An alternative to this is performing a DIY engine compression check.  Not only will a compression check provide you with a good starting point on determining whether an engine is sound, but it can also alert you to either an abused car engine or one whose odometer reading has been tampered.  In either case you will want to pass on the purchase.

There are several compression-checking tools with adapters for differing spark plug holes that can be a good investment if you are not willing to hire a mechanic for every used car you are considering as well as instructive videos on how to use one.

And finally… For additional articles related to protecting yourself when buying a used car, here are a few for your consideration:

  • The Most Important Used Car Scam Everyone Should Be Aware About
  • Engine Compression Test Demonstrated After 280,000 Miles
  • Mechanic Helps Car Buyers Find the True Value of a Used Car

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