How Do I Know If The Mileage Is Genuine On A Used Car?



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The lure of a brand new car is always strong. The fresh new car smell. The soft new leather upholstery and the shiny new paintwork. There’s also the peace of mind that comes with knowing there’s no dodgy history lurking under the bonnet. You know the car wasn’t slammed hard by a boy-racer in a previous life. You know the inner workings are brand new, and there’s a lovely long warranty to keep you safe. It all sounds great, but it comes at a price. Roughly double the average second-hand quote for the same car.

For that reason, we often advise buyers to look at the used car market. You’re bound to find a bargain here. But, it takes some real skill to sniff out the cars in good condition. After all, it’s only a bargain if the car is well-maintained. So, it’s your job to use your intuition to find the good models. One of the first things to look for is low mileage. That suggests the car hasn’t suffered too much strain. However, there’s an age-old practice of rewinding mileage to make the car seem younger than it is. It’s your job to make sure the mileage is genuine. Here’s how.

Buy from a reputable dealer

As a buyer, you might be tempted to buy on the private market, or even at auction. You’re bound to find a bargain, but you also increase the risk of dodgy sales. Instead, look to the relative safety of professional dealerships. Most second-hand dealerships are now just as reputable as the leading new showrooms. For example, we know that Carbase check all their cars for mileage tampering using expert techniques. When you buy from a reputable dealer, you get a little peace of mind.

Check the service history and MOT certificate

Your used car should come complete with a full service history. It’s a small manual that details every repair, service, and maintenance job. Next to every service, the mechanic will write down the mileage. A car with genuine mileage will list relatively similar differences between service visits. Measure those gaps with the current mileage, and assess whether it all adds up. If you need a general marker, consider that the average annual mileage is 10,000. A three-year old car should have around 30,000 miles on the clock, with regular intervals in the service history.

Look for physical signs of tampering

Some owners rewind the odometer by physically removing the device. Now, this is not a simple job (as you can imagine!) It requires sheer force and leverage to get behind the dial. With that in mind, you’ll often see scratch marks and dents all around the face of the dial. Imagine trying to get it out with a screwdriver, and you’ll understand what we mean. Of course, some owners are more sophisticated than that, so don’t trust this technique alone.

Inspect the rest of the car

Finally, assess the condition of the rest of the car. Are the tyres worn out? Are the gear stick and steering wheel worn down through the trim? Is the engine healthy, and the fluids topped up? If the rest of the car shows evidence of wear, but the clock is suspiciously low, then something’s not adding up. Use your intuition here.

Follow this advice and you’ll avoid buying a banger! Trust your instincts, and don’t be afraid to investigate. Good luck!


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