How to detect and avoid odometer fraud when buying used car


Posted by: Juliet Onyeachonam

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You may be paying more for a car due to odometer fraud. Read this article to find out how to detect and avoid odometer fraud when buying used car in Nigeria.

Odometer fraud, also known as odometer rollback, is the illegal act of resetting the mileage reading of a vehicle to a lower reading. Odometer fraud is one of the common tricks used by car sellers to defraud used car buyers. The result of odometer rollback is that a customer ends up paying more for a car than what it is truly worth.


Rolling back the odometer reading of an analog odometer is relatively complicated but not completely impossible

In Nigeria, this illegal act of odometer rollback is perpetrated most by tokunbo car dealers. For the untrained eye, it is difficult to tell when a vehicle’s odometer reading has been tampered with. In this article, auto experts will tell you how to detect and avoid odometer fraud when buying used car.

There are two types of odometers that can be found on cars imported into the country, namely:

  • Analog Odometers
  • Digital Odometers

Rolling back the odometer reading of an analogue odometer is relatively complicated but not completely impossible. On the other hand, digital odometers are easier to roll back, owing to the hack-able nature of its computer system. All that is needed is to simply remove the circuit board or use a rollback device that is plugged into its electronic system and the figures can be changed to any desired value.


A digital odometer can be rolled back by removing its circuit board or plugging a rollback device into its electronic system

Unfortunately, most car buyers due to inexperience can’t detect these fraudulent acts in the car they desire to buy and end up paying more for a vehicle that has had the life of it spent and the odometer rolled back to hide that fact.

Luckily for you reading this article, you don’t have to remain a victim of odometer fraud when you pay attention to the secrets of detecting odometer rollback which we will be revealing in this article.

>>> What determines a good Tokunbo car? Don't be cheated by its mileage

How to detect and avoid odometer fraud when buying a used car

Follow these 4 smart steps below to detect and avoid cars with rolled-back mileage.

1. Check service history

When a car goes for routine maintenance such as oil change or repairs abroad, its odometer reading is always noted down in a repair or maintenance order leaflet. You can sometimes find this document as part of the owner’s manual pack.

For this step, you need to put on your thinking cap. Most times, the perpetrators of odometer fraud are not so smart, so you might just be able to beat them at their game.


Vehicle service records can catch the gimmick

What you should check for is inconsistency in this service history document. For instance, it is odometer fraud if a car with a last known service history odometer reading of 100,000 miles abroad is put up for sale in Nigeria with an odometer reading below 100,000 miles.

>>> Have you seen these? Top 10 most reliable cars that easily survive over 320,000 km

2. Inspect the vehicle for excessive wear and tear

Although good vehicle maintenance can make a vehicle with hundreds of thousands in odometer reading still appear pretty sound, the experienced eye can still pick up oddities.

For example, when a car with mileage below 60,000 miles has had most of its OEM (factory-fitted) parts replaced, that is a red-flag raising suspicions of an odometer rollback. Under normal circumstances, a car with an odometer reading below 60,000 miles should have most of its factory-fitted parts still in place.


An obviously worn out car with a low odometer reading is apparently a case of odometer-rollback

You should thoroughly inspect the key parts of the used car you want to buy like the engine. While at it, you should also watch out for excessive wear and tear in places like the dashboard, door handles, steering wheels, brake pedals. Such excessive wear or outright changes of parts will always give an odometer fraud perpetrator away. 

3. Consider the age of the vehicle

For a tokunbo car with its origin in the United States, we should tell you that statistics show that the average distance covered by most drivers to and fro from work is 5-50 miles a day and about 13,000 miles in a year.

So when you are buying such a car as tokunbo in Nigeria and the car which is above 10 years old is showing an odometer reading below 100,000 miles, our brothers and sisters, that is likely odometer fraud staring you in the face!

>>> Check out 6 most fuel-efficient cars released in 2019: Toyota missed the top

4. Do a vehicle history check (VIN check)

To avoid long stories and to give you peace of mind in the car you want to buy, you can simply go the auto history report route. A simple VIN check of any car can give you comprehensive information about the history of the car. Information such as the car brand, model year, trim, color, accidents or major repairs and of course, the actual odometer reading are usually divulged in an auto history report.

A lot of car buyers actually do not know that they can do a VIN check of the vehicles they want to buy by themselves online. You can also get a basic auto history report for free on websites like and


VIN checks are one way to reveal the fraud

In conclusion, the menace of odometer fraud in Nigeria is robbing car buyers of getting actual value for their money, so knowing how to detect and avoid odometer fraud when buying used car will help you not to fall victim.

>>> Stay locked down with great car crime prevention and car buying tips here

Juliet Onyeachonam

Juliet Onyeachonam

Car maintenance

Juliet Onyeachonam is an enthusiastic car nut which is why she has turned that passion into a fantastic job by becoming a car blogger on Juliet's blogs are a wealthy resource for information on car maintenance, driving tips and also how things pertaining to cars work.

Additionally, because of her passion for the entertainment industry, Juliet does not write only hardcore but also entertaining articles about cars.

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