An investigation into clocking has revealed that there could be as many as 2.5 million cars and vans on Britain’s roads with doctored mileage, putting buyers at risk of purchasing vehicles that have covered misleadingly long distances..
Rapid Car Check reviewed the mileage of seven million cars and vans and found that 443,061 – or 6.3 per cent – had discrepancies with documented records.
The study outlined which models are most likely to have been clocked by devious owners and unscrupulous sellers, with French brands dominating the top of the standings headed by the Citroen Dispatch van.
Clocked: An investigation has found that there could be almost 2.5 million cars and vans on Britain’s roads with adjusted mileage, putting second-hand buyers at risk of paying over the odds for motors
By adjusting a vehicle’s mileage using cheap devices, or service providers found online, crooks can demand more money for a vehicle they are selling on the used market, putting buyers at risk of purchasing models that have been driven further than advertised.
This not only means a consumer could be paying over the odds for a second-hand car or van, but also be at risk of facing more repair bills for wear and tear issues that tend to crop up when vehicles hit higher mileages.
Essential maintenance meant to be done at set mileages could also have been skipped.
Having tapped into the Driver and Vehicle Standard Agency’s data, the vehicle history checking firm said 443.061 (5.9 per cent) of the seven million motors checked had inconsistencies between the odometer reading on the car and the documented MOT history.
It said these instances could be a result of deliberate criminal activity to wind down the displayed mileage of the vehicle.
However, some of the cases identified could have innocent explanations, such as MOT testers keying in a vehicle’s mileage incorrectly when completing a certificate.
Another 50,249 motors (0.7 per cent) investigated were found to have discrepancies due to entries being made in miles, whereas others were in kilometres.
The smallest sample was 21,347 cars and vans (0.3 per cent) found to have a combination of lowered mileages and mixes of miles and kilometres.
According to the latest official vehicle license statistics, there were 38.9 million licensed vehicles in Great Britain as of the end of September 2019.
With 6.3 per cent of motors found to have mileage inconsistencies in the investigation, Rapid Car Check suggests that as many as 2,408,231 vehicles on British roads could have been clocked at some point.
The Citroen Dispatch van was identified as the model most likely to have been tampered with. Some 2,448 of the 8,188 examples checked were found to have mileage discrepancies
The Renault Scenic of all ages (not just the latest model pictured) was second in the list of most-clocked cars and vans
The Peugeot Expert van – the sister commercial vehicle to the Citroen Dispatch – rounded out the top 3 most clocked motors. Of the 20 vehicles found to have adjusted mileage, more than half were French brands, suggesting these could be easy targets
Of all the cars and vans checked by the company, the Citroen Dispatch commercial vehicle was identified as the model most likely to have been tampered with.
Some 2,448 of the 8,188 examples checked were found to have mileage discrepancies, working out at almost one in three (30 per cent).
And it wasn’t the only French car identified as being an easy target for clocking.
Second in the list is the Renault Scenic MPV. The family car had a mileage discrepancy rate of 29.6 per cent.
It was closely followed by the Peugeot Expert, which is the sister-van to the Citroen Dispatch. Some 28.6 per cent of examples checked had mileage inconsistencies.
Of the top 20 most clocked cars, 11 were from French brands Citroen, Peugeot and Renault, suggesting these are easy targets for those with access to devices that can adjust a car’s mileage.
You can see the full list of the 20 most clocked motors in the table below.
The 20 cars and vans most likely to be clocked
1. Citroen Dispatch (van) – 8,188 reviewed, 2,448 discrepancies (29.9%)
2. Renault Scenic – 19,717 reviewed, 5,840 discrepancies (29.6%)
3. Peugeot Expert (van) – 8,371 reviewed, 2,397 discrepancies (28.6%)
4. Renault Grand Scenic – 11,209 reviewed, 3,134 discrepancies (28.%)
5. Ford Transit (van) – 145,209 reviewed, 16,116 discrepancies (11.1%)
6. Vauxhall Combo (van) – 21,756 reviewed, 2,403 discrepancies (11.0%)
7. BMW X5 – 20,510 reviewed, 2,167 discrepancies (10.6%)
8. Peugeot 206 – 37,422 reviewed, 3,839 discrepancies (10.3%)
9. Vauchall Vectra – 45,973 reviewed, 4,704 discrepancies (10.2%)
10. Citroen Xsara – 22,284 reviewed, 2,254 discrepancies (10.1%)
11. Fiat Punto – 40,881 reviewed, 4,032 discrepancies (9.9%)
12. Ford Transit Connect (van) – 32,964 reviewed, 3,162 discrepancies (9.6%)
13. Peugeot 307 – 21,795 reviewed, 2,042 discrepancies (9.4%)
14. Mercedes Sprinter (van) – 26,020 reviewed, 2,235 discrepancies (8.6%)
15. Toyota Avensis – 25,431 reviewed, 2,152 discrepancies (8.5%)
16. Renault Clio – 87,553 reviewed, 7,262 discrepancies (8.3%)
17. Renault Megane – 47,508 reviewed, 3,918 discrepancies (8.2%)
18. VW Passat – 89,797 reviewed, 7,196 discrepancies (8.0%)
19. Citroen C4 – 36,205 reviewed, 2,872 discrepancies (7.9%)
20. Peugeot 207 – 48,463 reviewed, 3,822 discrepancies (7.9%)
Source: Rapid Car Check
Clocking was a common practice in the days of analogue odometers, as it was fairly simple to wind down the mileage
Why is clocking back?
The act of clocking, which was prevalent in the days of analogue vehicle odometers that were simple to wind back, has become more common thanks to new technology.
More people are 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.
The practice is estimated to cost motorists over £800million a year because cars are worth less than their mileage suggests – and it’s increasingly difficult for those who fall victim to seek compensation.
HPI, which also offers a vehicle checking service, said a recent rise in clocking cases was partly a result of motorists looking for ways to avoid having to pay additional fees on car finance deals as a result of exceeding contracted mileage.
Barry Shorto, Data Relations Manager at HPI
Barry Shorto, head of industry relations at HPI, told This is Money last year: ‘Criminals are increasingly using more advanced technology to make it easier for them to clock vehicles and cover their tracks.
‘The continued development of technologies to alter digital odometers, easy access to this technology via the internet and similarly, the ease of access to mileage adjustment services online, some of whom will behave legitimately, others less so, are all exacerbating the trend.
‘The increase in mileage-related finance arrangements such as Hire Purchase and Personal Contract Purchase may also be a contributing factor as motorists look to avoid costly penalties for exceeding mileage allowances.’
Exceeding these limits can be costly for those who finance their vehicles.
Penalties 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, many avoiding these additional charges and – those with PCP deals – hand their clocked cars back to dealers who are then likely to unknowingly sell them with tampered mileage.
Experts say the act of clocking is making a return due to the high demand for car finance. Monthly payments are partly based on drivers covering no more than a contracted mileage during the period of their deal, and going over this can result in steep additional charges
Is clocking illegal?
The act itself of clocking a car’s odometer is not an offence.
It is illegal to sell a car without disclosing known mileage discrepancies, but it is not illegal to adjust a vehicle’s odometer mileage.
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England and Wales, has previously called for a ban on DIY ‘mileage correction’ tools, which can be bought online from about £100.
Cllr Simon Blackburn, chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, described clocking as ‘a rising major fraud, which not only rips off motorists, but can have dangerous implications’.
He advised buyers of used cars to ‘make thorough checks to ensure that the vehicle is showing its true mileage and that its service history and MOT certificate are accurate’.
Blackburn added that clocking is ‘tarnishing the reputation of honest used car dealers and sellers’, warning that ‘councils won’t hesitate to bring any car dealer or private seller to justice who shows a blatant disregard for safety and consumer rights’.
Experts say that it is for this reason that it is becoming increasingly difficult for buyers of second-hand clocked vehicles to seek justice and compensation.
While buyers can screen the annual mileage of older vehicles using the government’s MOT checker, new cars don’t have their first MOT until they are three years old – meaning there’s little in background assessments consumers can make for nearly-new models on the market.