You’d think clocking cars would have died out with the Ford Escort.
Not a bit of it. Car odometers may well be digital instead of analogue, but this has only made it easier than ever to readjust the displayed mileage on a car. Experts say the practice has actually jumped 25 per cent since 2014 alone. That’s around the same time the car finance market really began to blossom. Is this just a coincidence? Absolutely not.
According to vehicle history check provider Cap HPI, one in 16 cars in the UK has a discrepancy between its actual and apparent mileage. That’s an increase of 25 per cent since 2014. It also found that more than 40 per cent of car dealers have bought a second-hand car that they’ve later discovered has been clocked.
The growth in car clocking may these days not be down to dodgy car dealers looking to make a quick buck, but private car owners looking to avoid forking out penalties. Why? The PCP (Personal Contract Purchase) and PCH (Personal Contract Hire) trend.
If you cover more miles that your finance agreement dictates, you’ll be stung for every mile you go over limit. That’s why it’s often cheaper for drivers to pay a ‘mileage correction firm’ to turn back the odometer and escape these, despite facing the risk of hefty fines and even jail sentences if caught doing so.
Again, the figures speak for themselves.
An average 10 per mile over limit, for someone who agreed to a 5,000 per mile PCP deal but ended up covering twice that, would incur a £1,500 bill at the end. In anyone’s book, that’s got to hurt. The fact new cars aren’t MOT’d, and thus don’t hook into official mileage recording networks, for the first three years of their life could also be a factor.
Yes, the service book records mileage – but, with few ways of actually monitoring the true mileage of a nearly new motors, what’s to stop an owner altering the mileage before each service? It’s not a hard process to clock a car.
You simply find a company willing to hook a laptop into your car’s electronics to alter the mileage, and you’ll be driving away again in a magically lower-mileage for just £100 or so. It’s not difficult, but it could be hard luck on the person who ends up with such a car.
The problems that can be caused by a clocked car are numerous.
The brakes could wear out more quickly than you’d expect. Same with tyres. Major components could actually fail way before you’d think they should. Servicing schedules may be mixed up, so the car wears out faster. A timing belt change may be missed – and if it snaps, that’s an engine destroyed, and an owner facing a very big bill indeed.
Drivers who decide to cover the PCP balloon payment at the end of their agreements to keep the car can make a pretty penny out of falsifying the mileage, too. Owners can pocket between £2,000-£4,000 more for a family car with 60,000 fewer miles on its odometer, be it either a truly low-mileage car, or simply one that’s been tailored to look like one. For trusting second-hand buyers, that’s got to hurt.
Want to see it spelled out in black and white? An investigation by a leading motoring magazine showed how mileage affects the value of six different popular family cars.
According to a recent investigation by The Times fewer than 150 prosecutions for car clocking have been brought in the past five years despite an estimated 2 million vehicles having their mileage reduced illegally. The newspaper sent freedom of information requests to all Britain’s councils, which are responsible for policing the crime.
Worryingly, one in five councils had not investigated a single case since 2012. And many of the councils that did chase car-clocking activity were probing very few cases – one in three had not managed to pursue one case a year.