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The ‘legitimate’ clocker

20th April 2011 Print

In today’s modern consumer marketplace, most buyers would consider themselves savvy to the tricks con-merchants use to pull the wool over their eyes. However, even the most confident buyer is powerless against a practically untraceable, and perfectly legal, activity. Used vehicle data expert, HPI, is warning against one such fraud being committed up and down the country – used car ‘clocking’.
Car ‘clocking’ involves altering a vehicle’s mileage and is often done by unscrupulous used car sellers wanting to add hundreds, or even thousands to a car’s asking price. Many of these sellers are turning to ‘mileage correction services’ to help them do this. Whilst altering a car’s mileage is not illegal itself, not declaring that mileage change to a potential buyer is, and dishonest vendors see clocking as a victimless crime and an easy way to make some extra cash.
Nicola Johnson, HPI’s Consumer Services Manager, comments, “Armed with the right information, consumers can protect themselves against most cons out there, and most are rightfully careful when it comes to parting with a large amount of money. However, when you consider how easy it can be to change a vehicle mileage, and take into account that there are many mileage correction companies that will clock a car with no questions asked, they are facing an uphill battle.”
A report by the Office of Fair Trading in 2010 highlighted a growing concern  about mileage correction agencies, stating it was very rare there is a legitimate reason for a car’s mileage to be altered, despite there being over 50 businesses in the UK offering to do so.  HPI fully supports the recommendation made by the OFT that the Government should bring in legislation to outlaw mileage correction businesses – a request which has yet to be fulfilled.
Johnson continues, “Despite this problem remaining, there are steps consumers can take to guard themselves against a vehicle which has had its mileage altered.  Buying from a reputable car dealer can offer a level of protection, but those buying privately should always be sure to conduct a full and independent vehicle history check, such as HPI. “
HPI’s National Mileage Register (NMR), which is adopted as standard by leading retailers and manufacturers, contains over 130 million mileage records, giving buyers extra assurance that a vehicle checked by HPI has not been clocked. With more vehicle information than anybody else, HPI also confirms the vehicle description, whether it is currently recorded as stolen, been written-off by an insurance company or is subject to outstanding finance. The HPI Check offers a financial guarantee, offering added peace of mind to used car buyers.
Johnson concludes, “We wouldn’t accept supermarkets ‘correcting’ the sell-by date on perishables, so the question remains why we allow this to happen to our vehicles. Not only is this practice unethical, it should be made illegal particularly when you consider the potential impact upon the safety of the vehicle that clocking can have. However, until such a time as it is made illegal, used car buyers need to remain wary. There are some simple precautions buyers can take before purchasing a vehicle, as well as conducting an HPI Check, which should help protect them against the ‘legitimate’ clocker.”

HPI’s tips on spotting car clocking

Check the service history - Check the mileages displayed in the service history and look for service stamps from a genuine dealer.  Ideally the service invoices will accompany the service history. If in doubt, contact the servicing dealers and check the mileages they recorded at the time of the service.

Speak to the previous keeper - Get in contact with the previous keeper (details can be found on the V5/logbook). They can identify the mileage of the vehicle when they sold it.  Make sure this adds up with the current mileage.

Trust your judgement - Check who the car was last registered to on the V5.  Was it registered as a company car but has done less than 12,000 miles per year?  Or is it 15 years old with only 20,000 on the clock? Look for any evidence that indicates clocking.

Check the mileage - It has been known for clockers to wind back the mileage when you first view the vehicle and then return it to its original value once the transaction is complete.  Make sure you check the mileage is the same when you pick up the vehicle.

Look for signs of wear and tear - Does the wear and tear on the vehicle match its mileage?  Be careful to look out for signs such as worn seats, steering wheels and other vehicle parts.  Also look out for brand new easily replaceable parts; the wear and tear should be consistent with the vehicle’s displayed mileage.

Conduct an HPI Check - HPI’s National Mileage Register has over 130 million mileages recorded on it, and can identify mileage discrepancies recorded against the vehicle.