If you’re in the market for a second-hand car, there’s quite a high risk that a vehicle in your search has had its mileage adjusted.

Earlier in 2019, we exclusively revealed that one in 14 used motors had been clocked – costing motorists over £800million a year because they’d purchased cars worth less than their mileage suggest. 

Additional research conducting over recent weeks has now named the models most likely to have had their odometers tampered with, and BMW’s X5 luxury SUV coming top of the clocked-car standings.

Clocked: Does your car feature in the list of models most likely to have had the mileage displayed on the odometer adjusted?

The investigation was carried out by vehicle history checking website, Rapid Car Check.

It reviewed the details of UK cars and their mileage using the online MOT database. 

In total, it checked 2.5million vehicles and found that 160,430 had discrepancies in their mileage data.

This works out a 6.41 per cent of all the models reviewed as part of the study, which represents around 2.4million of the 38.7million vehicles registered on UK roads.

The model found to most commonly be clocked was the BMW X5.

What is clocking? 

‘Clocking’ is a term used to describe the process of reducing a vehicle’s recorded mileage.

Doing so makes it appear to have been used less than it has, suggesting the engine and other major components are much fresher than they really are.

A car with fewer miles on the clock will be more attractive to prospective buyers and demand higher prices, meaning unscrupulous sellers can pocket extra cash for a significantly less valuable motor. 

Of the 7,531 examples reviewed, 882 had a record of dodgy mileage, which works out at more than one in ten (almost 12 per cent).

Second in the car standings was the Vauxhall Vectra, with just over 11.5 per cent having inaccurate mileage readings followed closely by the Peugeot 206.  

While the X5 was the most-clocked example of a passenger car, the data shows that clocking of vans is equally as – or even more – prevalent.

Around 13 per cent of all Vauxhall Combo and Ford Transit vans reviewed by Rapid Car Check show up as having been clocked, with other commercial vehicles also making it into the list.

Below is the full rankings of the 36 models of cars and vans the study found with more than 800 cases of mileage adjustments.

The BMW X5 has been named the most-clocked UK-registered car, with an investigation finding that 11.71% of models reviewed had mileage displays manipulated

The Vauxhall Vectra (left) and Peugeot 206 (right) are the second and third most-clocked used cars respectively

Cars and van most commonly found to have been clocked

1. Vauxhall Combo (van) – 856 of 6,507 examples clocked – 13.16%

2. Ford Transit (van) – 5,598 of 43,098 examples clocked – 12.99%

3. BMW X5  – 882 of 7,531 examples clocked – 11.71%

4. Vauxhall Vectra – 1,811 of 15,639 examples clocked – 11.58%

5. Peugeot 206 – 1,391 of 12,227 examples clocked – 11.38%

6. Ford Transit Connect (van) – 1,087 of 9,828 examples clocked -11.06%

7. Fiat Punto – 1,331 of 12,755 examples clocked – 10.44%

8. Mercedes-Benz Sprinter (van) – 859 of 8,282 examples clocked – 10.37%

9. Renault Clio – 2,545 of 27,257 examples clocked – 9.34%

10. Renault Megane – 1,368 of 15,293 examples clocked – 8.95%

11. Nissan Micra – 1,189 of 13,730 examples clocked – 8.66%

12. VW Passat – 2,577 of 29,887 examples clocked -8.62%

13. Ford KA – 1,652 of 19,407 examples clocked – 8.51%

14. Toyota Yaris – 1,662 of 19,810 examples clocked – 8.39%

15. Peugeot 207 – 1,230 of 15,219 examples clocked – 8.08%

16. Citroen C4 – 952 of 12,081 examples clocked – 7.88%

17. Vauxhall Zarifa – 2,078 of 27,640 examples clocked – 7.52%

18. Citroen C3 – 861 of 11,567 examples clocked – 7.44%

19. Audi A6 – 1,236 of 16,697 examples clocked – 7.40%

20. Mini hatch – 2,623 of 36,794 examples clocked – 7.13%

21. BMW 3 Series – 4,370 of 62,757 examples clocked – 6.96%

22. Honda Civic – 1,553 of 22,516 examples clocked – 6.90%

23. Ford Mondeo – 2,016 of 29,281 examples clocked – 6.89%

24. Audi A4 – 2,568 of 38,844 examples clocked – 6.61%

25. Vauxhall Astra – 4,545 of 70,005 examples clocked – 6.49%

26. Skoda Octavia – 893 of 14,655 examples clocked – 6.09%

27. VW Golf – 5,228 of 86,179 examples clocked – 6.07%

28. Ford Focus – 4,771 of 80,803 examples clocked – 5.90%

29. Vauxhall Corsa – 4,284 of 73,652 examples clocked – 5.82%

30. VW Polo – 2,588 of 49,352 examples clocked – 5.24%

31. Audi A3 – 2,402 of 48,023 examples clocked – 5.00%

32. Mercedes-Benz C-Class – 999 of 21,664 examples clocked – 4.61%

33. Vauxhall Insignia – 918 of 20,707 examples clocked – 4.43%

34. Seat Leon – 849 of 19,665 examples clocked – 4.32%

35. Seat Ibiza – 975 of 23,340 examples clocked – 4.18%

36. Ford Fiesta – 3,902 of 96,986 examples clocked – 4.02%

Source: Rapid Car Check analysis of 2.5m UK-registered cars

The vehicle found to have had its mileage clocked is examples of the Vauxhall Combo van (pictured)

Clocking is back on the rise 

Adjusting the odometer of a vehicle so that appears like it has done fewer miles than it has was a more prominent tactic used in the past when almost all cars were fitted with analogue dials.

These were easier to tamper with so a car appears to have covered fewer miles in its lifetime than it really had. 

This latest data suggests it is primarily older cars (namely the Vectra and 206) with these older odometers that are dominating the results.

However, motorists have been warned in recent months that the latest vehicles with digital readouts are just as susceptible to being clocked. 

And it’s not just private owners looking to knock a few miles off the car’s records so they can advertise it on the used market for more than it’s worth. 

Experts have revealed that people are also accessing online services to adjust digital mileage displays in a bid to avoid financial penalties for going over mileage restrictions agreed as part of finance deals on models. 

HPI has warned that clocking is back on the rise as more motorists turn to online services to adjust the mileage readout on the digital displays of new cars to avoid finance penalties

Drivers don’t even have to buy the software to make the adjustments themselves.

A quick online search brings up a number of companies that will come to you and change your car’s mileage for a fee of around £100. 

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute has been campaigning for years to have these companies, as well as the act of altering a vehicle’s mileage, outlawed, but to no avail.

With the rise of vehicle financing, it appears these services are being utilised more frequently. 

The vast majority of private new car registrations being hire purchase or personal contract purchase finance agreements with monthly charges based on depreciation linked to an agreed mileage allowance.

Some motorists who go over these annual mileage restrictions turn to underhand ways to avoid costly penalties for exceeding their allowance – which can be pricey. 

Penalties for going over annual mileage agreements can vary from 3.6p to as much as 72p for every single mile over the agreed limit.

By adjusting the mileage so that it display a figure within their pre-agreed limit, drivers can avoid these additional charges and – those with PCP deals – hand their clocked cars back to dealers who are then likely to unknowingly sell the vehicle to the next owner with tampered mileage.

Bought a clocked car? The chances of being compensated are slim

If you are unfortunately caught out and purchase a car that’s been clocked it can be particularly difficult to seek justice and compensation.  

That’s because the act itself of clocking a car’s odometer is not a legally an offence.

Instead, it’s only a criminal action if a clocked car is sold on the used market without its genuine mileage being declared.

The financial implications for the next owner can be substantial.

If the true mileage is significantly more than a buyer has been led to believe, the vehicle could be worth thousands of pounds less.

And that’s not all.

Trying to seek compensation after a motorist has purchased a clocked second-hand car is incredibly difficult, experts have pointed out

‘A clocked vehicle could be hiding serious levels of wear and tear, especially if it has been previously used as a high mileage private hire vehicle for a couple of years, meaning the additional cost of unexpected repairs or even a potentially serious safety threat to driver, passengers and other road users,’ Barry Shorto, head of industry relations at HPI, explained to This is Money earlier this year.

HPI’s vehicle background checker does flag clocked motors if they’re alerted on the system.

That’s because it compares the mileage reading on the odometer against the National Mileage Register.

And it warned that it’s not just clocking that’s on the rise.

HPI estimates that one in three of the 28million cars that it checks every year has a hidden history.

Five things to do to avoid buying a clocked car

1. Go through the service history

Most buyers want a car that’s been well looked after and has a full service history. If it has one, check the mileage stamps for each service interval to make sure they add up.

If there are any big surges or dips in annual mileage – for instance the car was doing 10,000 miles a year for three years but just 1,000 miles in its fourth – ask why. There may be a good reason for it, but it’s worth checking.

2. Use free online tools

The government now has an MOT online checker that allows you to see the past MOT performance of UK cars.

Make sure the mileage stacks up as you go through the historical data.

3. Does the condition match the mileage?

Vehicles that have covered lots of miles will have obvious signs of increase wear and tear.

Look for the volume of stone chips on the bonnet, lots of wear of the seats, carpets and major controls like the steering wheel, gear knob and pedals.

Another tell-tale sign is under the bonnet – see if nuts and bolts looks quite worn, suggesting they’ve been tightened a few times. 

4. Take the car for a spin

If you can, test drive a few of the same model with similar mileages to get a better understanding of the engine sound and performance and how tight the rest of the vehicle feels.

A clocked car that’s covered more miles than it suggests will have likely have a sloppy gearbox, clutch and tired suspension. Owners are unlikely to have changed these due to the high cost associated.   

5. Check the odometer when you collect the car

Most buyers will leave a deposit for a vehicle with the seller. When you return to pay for the car in full, make sure the mileage is showing the same as it did when you first saw it, as the odometer might have been switched back to a more genuine figure. 


This content was originally published here.