How to Spot a Clocked Car

Selling a clocked car is illegal, yet the purchase of software to clock a car remains legal, creating an easy loophole for those who are willing to deceive potential buyers. Last year saw a 10% increase in cars with altered mileage odometers so it’s important to know what it is and how to spot it.

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What is clocking?

Clocking is a term used when a car seller, both dealer or private, alter the mileage odometer to improve the value of the car. Sometimes they deceive you of this action, discreetly hiding this information in the contract to make the transaction legal. Either way, it is a misrepresentation of the vehicle.

You would think that old cars would be more likely to be tampered with as they will be less technically advanced and easier to corrupt. However, surprisingly it is newer cars that are more likely to be clocked. New cars don’t have to have an MOT for the first 3-4 years so there’s more chance of a new car having no service history, with no MOT mileage check, leaving no paper trail for the buyer to verify the details.

Since the introduction of digital odometers, it has become more difficult to clock a car, but it is still possible. So, if you’re selling your old car for a new one then it’s worth knowing how to spot a clocked car and what to do if you are sold one.

Selling a clocked car is illegal. Knowing how to spot a clocked car when buying a second-hand vehicle will help to prevent you from my being misled by the buyer, which could save you money.

Has my car been clocked?

Without knowing how to spot a clocked car, it can easily go unnoticed and you could be conned out of hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds. So, if you’re looking to buy a new car, particularly with a good mileage, then learn a few tricks on how to pick up on this attempt of deception and you will be sure to limit your chance of being misled.


Check the electricals

The seller may be able to alter the car’s mileage, but it’s not completely fool proof - if you tamper with the electricals then it is going to show as a malfunction. Check the electrical system for any faults and that will be a clear indication that the seller isn’t being completely honest with you. These will appear through basic electrical glitches, including dim lights from a charging malfunction and any issues on the car’s trip computer.


Check the service history

If it’s a new car, there is a chance that the car has no service history or MOT information. However, if it does, then the MOT paperwork can be used to verify the information you are being told. Compare the paperwork to what the mileage odometer is saying to make sure there are no discrepancies.


Double check the mileage

Before you sign on the dotted line and drive away with your new car, double check the mileage odometer. It is likely that the seller will wind back the car’s mileage on your first viewing so you think it has done less than it has, but will then roll it forwards again to the actual reading before you drive it away. This is a clever way to make the transaction legal, and the buyer will be none the wiser of the deception until after the sale.


Conduct a vehicle check

If after checking for these signs and you’re still not sure, you can conduct a HPI vehicle check using a service such as Rapid Car Check by entering the registration plate here.

What to do if the car is clocked

If you missed the signs of a clocked car and you go ahead with the deal, don’t worry, it isn’t too late. Finding out after the sale isn’t ideal but you can still get your money back.

  1. Inform your local Trading Standards Office


    Don’t let the deceit go unnoticed. It isn’t actually illegal to clock a car as long as they tell you that they have done so. Therefore, if you are unaware of what they have done and they sell you the car, then this is illegal and you should inform your local Trading Standards Office.
  2. Demand a refund


    If you have been misled on the car you have bought then you are entitled to a refund according to the Consumer Rights Act 2015. If you struggle to get in touch with them to receive this, then you should still contact the Trading Standards Office to help you resolve it.
  3. Do not sell on


    If you find out after the sale that your car has been clocked, it’s only natural to want to get rid of the car, but one thing you must not do is sell the car on. You will then be committing an illegal act too. You will be protected by the 2006 Fraud Act and are more likely to receive your money back at no risk to yourself by informing the authorities and demanding a refund.

Becoming a victim of car clocking is a massive hassle to sort out once you’ve bought the car and is something that we would advise you to avoid. Therefore, if you are in any doubt about the sale, don’t buy!

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