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How to check a car’s true mileage

Purchasing a car ought to be an enjoyable experience, but it can also be a nerve-wracking one. That’s particularly true of a used vehicle purchase; there are so many things to check and double check. One of those things is a car’s mileage. But how can you be sure whether the mileage is genuine?

In the first instance, we suggest you follow these simple tips to check if your car might have been clocked.

  • Check the wear on the seats, steering wheel, pedals and compare this to the displayed mileage. Is is consistent?
  • In older vehicles, do the numbers on the odometer line-up properly? (this isn’t relevant on digital odometers)
Failing the ‘sniff test’

Should you guess the mileage on a car isn’t genuine, you can: there are several things you can do, such as:

Check the MOT certificates and service documentation to corroborate mileage readings.

Contact former owners and see if they can fill any gaps in the above documentation you have seen.

Ask the dealer to provide evidence of a background check.

The Experian check

Many reputable dealers will provide Experian reports for all their vehicles. This report gives reasonable confidence for a buyer, advising on the following things:

  1. Any outstanding finance agreements
  2. Those identified as stolen
  3. Those identified previously as written-off
  4. Registration number plate and vehicle identification number match
  5. CO2 rating for road tax purposes
  6. Valuation using industry data
Government resources

The UK Government has taken significant steps to make vehicle information free, and transparent. This is good news for those purchasing a used car. On www.gov.uk you can bring up the MOT history of a vehicle. This will show the test dates and mileage recorded, as well as any failures (with reasons) and advisory notices. This is great for painting a picture of a car’s life and how well it’s been looked after.

On a somewhat unrelated note, it also advises of any recalls raised on this particular vehicle. Should you find anything in this regard, you would be able to then ask for proof of the recall work being done.

VIN Decoders

There are many places online offering this support; therefore it will not be hard to locate one. Simply find a reputable website that offers what you are looking for and check for reviews online.

Supply them with all the VIN, and it will tell you things like the model year, engine size, trim and specification. This can help spot cars that are not genuine or may have more stories to tell – such as a car that should have leather seats but has cloth. Is it an imported model, or is this a warning sign?

Many websites then build in a vehicle history check too, which can tell you similar things to the Experian check noted above.

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