Car Clocking – What Is It & How To Avoid It?

Don’t be a victim of this crime.

"Clocking" has risen by 25% over the last three years. Many people presume that this crime is a simple myth nowadays, however, this incident is frequently reoccurring. We find out why.
What is ‘Car Clocking’?
Your car displays the total mileage it has driven on a meter called the odometer on the dashboard – this is essentially a 'clock' which tells you how many miles or kilometres your car has driven.
 
Car clocking is an offence under consumer law for a trader to give false, misleading or deceptive information about the history of a car. “Clocking” is the term used when an individual change the genuine odometer reading of the car to make the car seem like it has been driven less than it has.
How does mileage affect value?
The traditional reason for someone to clock a car is to be able to charge a higher price for it on the second-hand market.
 
Here is an example of how mileage can affect a car’s value:
An Audi A4 with 30,000 miles is £18,150, but with 90,000 miles it can be valued at £14,100.

A Mazda MX-5 with 30,000 miles is £13,600, but with 90,000 miles it can be valued as little as £9,625.
 
Why is clocking increasing?
It is believed that in the industry, it’s car owners rather than traders who are the cause of the increase in clocking.
 
“There are many factors that could be driving a rise in clocking,” says Barry Shorto, head of industry relations at Cap HPI. “One issue is the popularity of personal contract purchase (PCP) and personal contract hire (PCH) finance deals that often come with strict mileage limits, where each additional mile can prove costly. This has led some to turn to ‘mileage correction’ firms that offer to dial back the odometer to dodge the financial penalties.”
 
Nowadays, most new cars are bought using PCP deals. This involves the buyer stating how many miles they’ll cover in the car during the term of the contract. A car’s mileage has a huge effect on its value, therefore there is a penalty fee in place of an average of 10p for every mile that exceeds the agreed limit.
 
So, how do you spot a clocked car?
  • Check its service history – the seller of a cared-for car will have plenty of pass MOT test documents and a service book with stamps at all the right intervals to show you. Through these documents, look out for any gaps in the service history or any years that the mileage doesn’t go up or at a steady rate. However, if they don’t have these documents, you can also check previous MOTs online at gov.uk/check-mot-history-vehicle. In terms of service history, if you’re unsure about the stamps in the service book, you can call the garages that are recorded as having carried out the procedure to verify if this actually took place.
 
  • Inspect its condition – you should be able to spot the difference between a car that has and has not covered a lot of mileage. On the exterior, look out for stone chips on the bonnet and make sure there are no different shades of colour on any body panels or doors- this particular feature can signal that in fact, this car has been in a crash. Inside, inspect the driver’s seat – if it seems saggy or worn this can also indicate high mileage, as well as worn pedals, switches and steering wheels.
 
  • A test drive – take the vehicle for a drive, if it’s a clocked car it should have a sloppy gearbox, worn brakes and clutch and a tired suspension. So, whilst on your drive, listen out for strange noises from the engine and other components.
 
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions – if you feel like there are any discrepancies between a car’s mileage and its service history or condition, be vocal and ask why.
 
  • Get a history check – this method can’t always guarantee if whether a car has been clocked or not, an example being if it’s been done by the owner of a car less than two years old – but it will supply you with all the recorded mileages there are for the car; this will give you the reassurance you need. Furthermore, it will point out any other issues as well like if it has any outstanding finance or has previously been stolen or written off.
 
  • Keep checking the odometer – check the odometer before and after you go to collect the car, crafty car sellers will firstly turn a car’s mileage back so it looks impressive when you first see it. Then, when you decide to buy it, put it back up to the original mileage – which then they can’t be prosecuted for selling you a clocked car.
 
We hope this has kept you well informed with this issue and you understand the key signs of what a “clocked” car looks like.
 
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