Statistics show that we usually spend 3 to 5 years driving the same car. That’s 2 or 3 opportunities for scammers to fool us in one decade! So how risky is it to buy a used car nowadays, really?
As it turns out, the answer depends on your country of residence.
To start the year, we decided to figure out how the frequency of mileage rollbacks varies from country to country. So we conducted a research, looking at approx. 900,000 car history reports generated throughout 2021.
Read on for our findings, as well as a tip on how to avoid clocked cars.
Central and Eastern Europe is the hotbed for mileage fraud
Specifically, the Baltics as a unit have the worst numbers based on our findings. Latvia is in first place, with over 24% of vehicles checked showing the signs of odometer tampering. Estonia and Lithuania are not far behind, taking the 3rd and 4th place, respectively.
With that said, the Baltic countries are a small market. When it comes to the sheer number of clocked vehicles, we should look further east and south, to countries like Romania (2nd place), which has a mileage rollback rate of almost 20%, as well as Russia and Ukraine.
Poland (12%) and Hungary (14%) are also noteworthy, as are the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia, where approximately 10% of all cars have a fake mileage.
The issue is less prevalent in the more wealthy Western European countries, where people tend to buy newer cars. With that said, it’s still more commonplace than most seem to think!
How expensive is mileage fraud?
The issue of odometer rollbacks is a “quiet” but expensive one. According to data from the European Commission, mileage fraud causes damages of around €9.6 billion a year.
Many used cars in Eastern Europe have come from markets in Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Italy. As many as 30%-50% of these cars sold across borders have a fake mileage. And while the economic damage can be difficult to calculate, the mechanism is quite simple:
- When you buy a car with mileage fraud, you’re overpaying (by approx. 25%)
- You end up paying even more down the line on repairs, and finally
- You will find it really difficult to sell the car in the future
How to avoid cars with mileage rollbacks
Sadly, there’s no reason to believe odometer fraud will become less of a problem in 2022 and beyond. This crime is notoriously difficult to punish, both because the culprits are difficult to find and because punishments are not very forthcoming.
Here, again, we see a difference between Western Europe, where odometer rollbacks are a serious crime and the authorities are more capable of enforcing it, and Eastern Europe, where it’s just not a very big deal.
As such, the buyer’s best bet is to get a car history check. By looking up the VIN number of any car, you can see how its mileage has changed over time. This will help you avoid scammers and only choose cars with a real odometer reading.
Considering the chip shortage that’s been plaguing car manufacturers, the used car market will likely be hotter than ever, so it’s good to be prepared for all the tricks sellers throw at you!