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Are car dealers the new victims of clocking?

Are car dealers the new victims of clocking

Clocking - the unscrupulous act of purposely winding back a car’s odometer to reduce the number of miles on its counter - is back in the news again.

This crime was mainly perpetrated in the Nineties by some unscrupulous used car dealers, intent on fooling unsuspecting customers into buying cars that had been made to look newer than they were.

Are car dealers the new victims of clocking?

Today, our research shows that it's mainly dealers who are most worried, with 70% of dealers rightly concerned about damaging their reputation by selling a clocked car. Shockingly, our research also shows more than 40% of dealers have already had the dubious experience of part exchanging a car which they later discovered had a discrepant mileage.

However, the problem is not entirely one sided and worryingly, this problem is not going away.

The recent news that an independent dealer in Birmingham has been jailed for five years and six months for clocking more than four million miles off cars, reflects the size of the problem. Believed to be the biggest investigation ever by Birmingham Trading Standards, the case revealed that the criminal trader had made a profit of £170,000 on vehicles by tampering with mileages. 

It's now easier than ever to adjust a mileage with cheap tools available on the internet and some are certainly taking this to heart.

One in 20 vehicles checked against HPI showed a discrepant mileage, whilst a recent Daily Telegraph online poll uncovered that 25% of respondents would consider clocking a car and 18% stated they would definitely clock their car. 

CAP Automotive uncovered that the unscrupulous were adding £ thousands on to the price of a vehicle, laying bare the problem the industry is having to contend with. 

A 2012 Nissan Qashqai 1.5 dCi for example, with 60,000 miles ‘unwound’ off its clock to make it look like a 30,000-mile car, will increase its value by £3,200.

Similarly a Range Rover Evoque’s value can increase by as much as £4,000 with 60,000 miles removed from its clock.

Not only are dealers finding that they are unwittingly paying more for part exchanged clocked vehicles than they should, but they are also opening themselves up to problems once a discrepant mileage is uncovered.

This problem is set to continue until mileage correction devices are outlawed, which according to the Office of Fair Trading won’t be until 2018. When the OFT published their report on this subject back in 2010, it was estimated that nearly half a million cars had been clocked on UK roads.

Our own history checks show that this number has now risen substantially, with a 10% increase since March alone. Today, one in 12 of the vehicles check has been clocked, which equates to 2.9 million cars with incorrect mileage figures on their odometers.

Are car dealers the new victims of clocking?   Are car dealers the new victims of clocking?   Are car dealers the new victims of clocking?

Are car dealers the new victims of clocking?

Philip Nothard, CAP’s consumer specialist explains: “When a car has had its mileage altered, people will put a false number plate on it and take it to a non-franchised garage to have its oil and filters changed. Then when it goes back to the franchised garage, the dealer doesn’t pick up on it.

“The trade is losing out as much as customers are but the government doesn’t seem that bothered, because it’s dealers making a noise about it and not consumers.”

Sue Robinson, Director of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), added: "I can remember going back 10 to 15 years and lobbying the government about this very issue. Still nothing has happened. The lengths drivers go to in order to hide their deceit is indeed pretty criminal. 

Robinson continues: “I think one of the problems is the word ‘clocking’ is seen as a bit of a joke. When I’ve been talking to MPs about it and talk about fraud – because that’s what it is – you get a very different response.”

Protect against risk

With drivers prepared to go to such lengths in order to get away with this dishonesty, it is perhaps more important than ever for buyers to undertake thorough car history checks.

Are car dealers the new victims of clocking?


Protect against these risks with a quick and comprehensive HPI Check.

Download your FREE copy of HPI's paper 'Clocking: A Growing Concern'