How to help avoid buying a car that's had its odometer wound back

Where Can I Find the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)?

The vehicle identification number (VIN) is composed of 17 characters (digits and capital letters) that act as a unique identifier for the vehicle. A VIN displays the car's unique features, specifications and manufacturer.

The VIN can be found in a couple of places including on the car's registration label (1), on the compliance plate in the engine bay (2) or on the passenger side windshield (3), or on one of the door posts (where the door latches when it is closed) (4). See the image below:

Look for the VIN in these other locations:

  • Insurance card/Insurance policy
  • Vehicle title and registration certificate

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30 May 18

Buying a used vehicle is a smart way to save money. However, a second-hand car can come with hidden dangers. Most people assume a vehicle's odometer will display every kilometre it has ever travelled, unfortunately, this isn't always the case.

A CarHistory report can ensure your odometer hasn't been tampered with.The best way to help ensure your vehicle doesn't come with any hidden issues is to get a CarHistory report.


What is odometer rollback?

Odometer rollback is when a person illegally rewinds or tampers with a vehicle's odometer to deceive potential buyers, making it look like the car has travelled fewer kilometres. This enables them to sell the car for a higher price. Odometers can be illegally disconnected and replaced, and the numbers can be digitally or mechanically altered.

How can I tell if a vehicle's odometer has been wound back?

It can be difficult to determine whether a vehicle has had its odometer tampered with by physical inspection alone. However, there are some checks you can conduct:1

  • If the vehicle displays a very low mileage, check to see whether it has its original parts such as tyres and brakes.
  • Check the vehicle's overall condition including wear and tear on the gas and brake pedals.
  • Compare the vehicle's odometer reading with any inspection or maintenance records the current owner has available.
  • If you're buying an imported vehicle from Japan, check the original export/deregistration certificate, or obtain a copy through a third party.
  • Examine the odometer for crooked, widely spaced or misaligned numbers.
  • Check that all of the screws match and that the dashboard hasn't been removed or replaced.

Once you've done a physical appraisal of the vehicle you're interested in, have it inspected by a licensed motor vehicle mechanic.

CarHistory reports revealed 4,172 odometer wind-backs between 2013-2016 .Between 2013 and 2016, CarHistory reports revealed 4,172 odometer wind-backs.

Check the vehicle's reported history with a CarHistory report

The best way to investigate the possibility of odometer rollback is to get a CarHistory report. CarHistory is the only outfit that provides a comprehensive report on a used vehicle's reported history, regardless of how many states and territories it has been registered in.

Between 2013 and 2016, CarHistory reports revealed 4,172 odometer wind-backs.2 It's easy to get a report on the car you're interested in - enter the registration or Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to find out if its odometer reading is consistent with what has previously been reported, or if it might have been wound back. A CarHistory report can also provide you with other essential information on the used vehicle you're researching such as:

  • Whether it has suffered damage resulting in a written-off status.
  • Previous sale listings.
  • Vehicle safety and emission ratings.
  • If the car has been reported as stolen.
  • What the vehicle is expected to be worth in the current market.

What should I do if I suspect a vehicle's odometer has been tampered with?

Because odometer tampering is a serious and ongoing issue in Australia, the penalties are harsh. In Queensland, the maximum fine for tampering with an odometer is $25,230 or two years imprisonment.To report a suspected case of odometer rollback, you should provide the vehicle details such as the VIN, the seller of the vehicle and any supporting documents such as receipts, invoices, and contracts.4 If you suspect that a vehicle's odometer has been altered, you can report it to your state's local consumer protection agency.

Getting a certified mechanic to inspect the vehicle will help minimise the risk of buying a car that has had its odometer wound back. You can also help to ensure your future vehicle doesn't come with any hidden issues by finding out its reported history with a CarHistory report.

1. Choice.com.au. Odometer fraud. Accessed May 2018.

2. Choice.com.au. Odometer fraud. Accessed May 2018.

3. Qld.gov.au. Motor industry breaches and penalties. Accessed May 2018.

4. Service.nsw.gov.au. Report suspected odometer tampering. Accessed May 2018.

View a sample report >