Ireland's Publication for the refinishing & associated Industries

Turning back time on clocking

The end of October marks the end of British Summer Time and, as we turn the clocks back, used vehicle history expert,HPI, reminds used car buyers to watch out for unscrupulous sellers turning the clocks back on their mileage readings. Known as ‘clocking’, this not only adds significant value to a vehicle, but it could lead to higher maintenance costs, as the vehicle might have more wear and tear than the buyer realises.

“At this time of year we’re reminding used car buyers that it’s not just clocks in their houses that can be turned back. Car ‘clocking’ involves altering a vehicle’s mileage and is often done by used car sellers wanting to hike up a car’s value,” says Nicola Johnson, Consumer Services  Manager of HPI. “1 in 20 vehicles checked by HPI show a mileage discrepancy, a figure which  has risen 10% in the past five years.”

Stepping up the battle against ‘clockers’, HPI recently launched an e-Petition to DirectGov to close down so-called ‘mileage correction firms’ that are believed to be fuelling fraudulent activity.

Mileage correction firms claim to offer a service to amend a vehicle’s mileage for legitimate reasons; however a report by the Office of Fair Trading (OfT) concluded that there were very few legitimate reasons for a vehicle’s mileage to be altered, despite there being over 50 companies offering such a service in the UK**.

Johnson continues, “Whilst altering a car’s mileage is not illegal in itself, not declaring that mileage change to a potential buyer is illegal. However, this doesn’t stop dishonest vendors who see clocking as a victimless crime and an easy way to make some extra cash. Of equal concern is the fact that vehicles with tampered mileages may end up missing out on vital servicing actions, which could make the vehicle breakdown, or potentially lead to an accident. Mileage correction firms make it even easier for these criminals, which is why we’ve launched our e-Petition to ask the Government to properly investigate the need for these companies, and help protect the car buying public.”

The HPI Check draws upon HPI’s National Mileage Register (NMR), which contains over 150 million mileage records, giving buyers extra assurance that a vehicle checked by HPI has not been clocked. With access to 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, has had a plate change or is subject to outstanding finance. The HPI Check offers a financial guarantee in the event of the information it provides being inaccurate, offering added peace of mind to used car buyers.

Johnson concludes, “As the clocks go back this autumn, we urge used car buyers to conduct an HPI Check to ensure the vehicle hasn’t had the miles turned back by clockers.  An HPI Check comes with a mileage check as standard to help buyers avoid paying over the odds for a vehicle that may have more wear and tear than they realise,  which could represent a major safety issue.”

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 150 million mileages recorded on it, and can identify mileage discrepancies recorded against the vehicle.

Many of these signs could be innocent, so look for more than one of the above as possible evidence of clocking.