What is odometer fraud and how to spot it when buying used cars?


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Odometer fraud is not uncommon in Nigerian used car market.

1. What is the reason for Odometer fraud?

ODO stands for odometer, a small part of the car with a small screen to display with the purpose of recording the number of miles or kilometers the car has traveled since the date it left the factory. It is mostly located on the tableau, visible to the people on the front seats.

Now is the reason. As a general rule of the market, cars with fewer miles traveled could be sold at higher prices, as opposed to lower price for cars with a higher number of kilos traveled. That's pretty much the reason why odometer fraud occurs.

This problem has been on the market for way too long that we don't even know exactly when, but probably not very long after the first used cars market was born. It is serious not only because it hikes the price of the car in an unethical way but also it's very subtle and is often taken care of by professionals.

They Rolled Back OVER 200,000 MILES on THIS CAR! Here's how you can avoid Odometer Rollback Scam

2. Signs of interference with your odometer

Generally speaking, there are two to three ways to detect the issue in used vehicles. First off, carefully check the dashboard and look for the following signs: 

  • The screws that hold the odometer to the tableau are loosened or missed
  • The numbers in the screen are not in line with each other
  • The protection cap shows signs of being scratched

If the car has one or all of the above, the change that its odo has been rolled back. Also, you should see if the car's condition really "feel" like they've traveled such miles or the number is much greater.

a car odometer

It is important to check if there are signs of odometer tampering

According to car experts, a typical car in Nigeria that has traveled around 30 thousand kilometers or is more than 3 years old would still have its initial pairs of tires and components. Some scratches on the surface are acceptable. Otherwise, the presence of a new alternator and/or radials, water pump means that it has traveled more than 190 thousand kilometers. 

Another seemingly simple way to approve the validity of the number on the odo is to cross-check it with a receipt that has a real number in it (For example, a receipt of an auto service say that the car has changed oil after 100,000 kilometers but the odometer only present 80,000). Those numbers should match if you buy the car from an honest owner.

3. Can I prevent odometer interference from happening?

Modern vehicles are equipped with digital odometers that are more secured with any kind of tampering. Having said that, a pro hacker with a right kind of equipment and lines of codes could though not easily, hack the odometer without breaking a real sweat. And it's almost impossible to track back to the one who tampered the odometer, especially those cars that has changed hands many times.

a man fixing an odometer

There are many pro-scammers lurking in the Nigerian market

4. Will I be protected by the law?

You surely are. This fraud is considered a crime and if the amount of money hiked by the roll-back method exceeds a certain number, the case will be moved into Grand Theft section and could result in the previous owner being put in jail. Still, there are some people who seem to neglect this and would try to commit the fraud anyway.

Final words: If you're a motorist and could potentially sell your vehicle, never attempt to do that, no matter how tempting it is. Together, we can create a scam-free market in Nigeria.

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