How to Check True Mileage on a Car: A Comprehensive Guide

June 16, 2024

When purchasing a used car, knowing how to check true mileage on a car is crucial to avoid potential scams and ensure you are getting what you pay for. Mileage fraud, where sellers tamper with the odometer to display fewer miles than the car has actually traveled, is a significant issue in the used car market. This can lead to buyers overpaying for vehicles that may have more wear and tear than indicated.

Verify Mileage Using OBD2 Scanners

how to check true mileage on a car

One effective way to determine a car's true mileage is by using an OBD2 scanner that can read live data from all control modules in the vehicle. Not all OBD2 scanners have this capability; suitable tools include the ThinkDiag Act 2 or OBDeleven. These tools allow access to different control modules, where you can look for mileage and distance data to detect potential odometer rollbacks. It's important to compare mileage data from various control modules to identify any inconsistencies.

Choosing the Right OBD2 Scanner

how to check true mileage on a car

When selecting an OBD2 scanner, consider its ability to read live data from multiple control modules. For instance, the Carly adapter may not be able to read data from all control modules, unlike more comprehensive tools like the ThinkDiag Act 2. By choosing a capable scanner, you can perform a thorough check and detect mileage fraud effectively.

The Importance of Checking for Odometer Rollbacks on Newer Cars

how to check true mileage on a car
"I 25 Mileage Sign" by jimmywayne is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

Knowing how to check true mileage on a car is especially important when buying a newer vehicle. The difference in mileage can significantly impact the car's value. Odometer rollback fraud is easier with digital odometers, which can be reprogrammed with special devices. Checking the live data values that may not have been altered can help in detecting these frauds.

Other Methods to Verify Mileage

Beyond using OBD2 scanners, there are additional steps to verify a vehicle's mileage. These include checking display reports, online records like MOT checks, and paper documentation. Examining the car for signs of wear and tear consistent with the reported mileage and comparing it to average mileage for similar vehicles can also provide valuable insights.

The Legal Aspect of Odometer Fraud

Consumer advocates have called for a ban on devices capable of resetting odometers, but this practice remains legal in many places. Understanding the legality and consequences of odometer tampering is essential. If you suspect mileage fraud, it's advisable to contact the seller or relevant authorities and consider legal action if necessary.

Dealerships as a Safer Option

Purchasing from reputable dealerships can be a safer option, as they are less likely to engage in odometer fraud to protect their reputation. Dealerships often provide verified mileage and better transparency, making it easier to trust the car's history and condition.

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