How to avoid buying a clocked car

It is estimated that clocking costs  €9bn across the EU and around €60m in Ireland annually writes Geraldine Herbert

What is car clocking and how easy is it to do it?
‘Clocking’ is a term used to describe the process of reducing a car’s recorded mileage, helping it to appear more attractive to prospective buyers. With modern cars it can simply mean plugging in a laptop into the central computer under the bonnet. With older cars it was a much bigger job of taking apart the dashboard and physically winding back the odometer and as a result there was usually evidence of tampering.

Figures from Motorcheck.ie suggest that the rate of clocking in used cars to be as high as 20% despite the introduction of legislation in 2014 to criminalise the practice.

Is there a law against clocking vehicles? Yes. It is illegal to interfere, or engage another person to, interfere with an odometer under the Road Traffic Act, 2014,  unlike in the UK where it is not an offence to alter the mileage on a car the criminal offence is when you sell that car on without saying what you have done.

What is the impact of clocking?
1) Car clocking inflates a vehicle’s value so consumers end up paying far more than the car is worth.
2) A clocked car can be in far worse mechanical condition than it can appear on the surface, with major items such as the suspension, exhaust and clutch potentially all in need of replacement.
3) Those cars can be far more dangerous to drive, as well as more costly to run.

What is the EU recommending
Members of the European Parliament recently voted in favour of new legislation to combat mileage clocking in cars. One of the solutions they are proposing is similar to Belgium’s “Car-Pass” which reduced car clocking fraud by 97%.

How car pass works
1) Mileage fraud is considered a serious crime sanctioned with severe penalties (up to 1 year imprisonment).
2) Creation of a central database containing the odometer readings of all vehicles registered in Belgium
3) All professional car dealers and repair shops are required to transfer VIN number, mileage and date when repairing or maintaining a vehicle or replacing parts (ex. tyres, windscreens,…)
4) The seller of a second hand vehicle is obliged by law to deliver a certificate showing the mileage history of the vehicle to the buyer. If they fail to do so the transaction is void.
5) Supported by all stakeholders: consumers, automotive sector and government.

How to spot a clocked car​?
1. Get a car history check

2. Check the car’s NCT certificates

3. Look at the car’s service history

4. Inspect the car’s condition

5. Have a thorough test drive


What comeback do you have if you buy from a dealer?

As a consumer you are protected by the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980 so the car must be

  • Of merchantable quality – the car should be of reasonable quality taking into account the price
  • Fit for  purpose – the must be road worthy
  • Must be as described – the buyer must not be mislead into buying something by the description of goods or services given orally by a salesperson or an advertisement, e.g Mileage, condition etc


What about buying privately?

When buying from a private seller you do not have the same consumer rights as you do when buying a car from dealership, it is very much a case of ‘buyer beware. However it is  an offence for a seller to withhold or provide misleading information about the car  so with this in mind  there are important questions you must ask.
1. Has the car ever been crashed?
2. Has any bodywork been done to the vehicle ?
3. Has any major mechanical work been done on the vehicle ?
4. What is the correct mileage for this vehicle?
5. How many previous owners has the vehicle had?
6. Is there any outstanding finance on the vehicle?
7. When was the last full service carried out on the vehicle?
8. Has the car been imported and if so, have all relevant charges been paid (VAT, VRT etc)?

Why does the NCT not check for clocked cars and report them?
The NCT is not responsible for policing odometer fraud or clocked vehicles. The data recorded at the NCT is transferred to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport National Vehicle and Driver File (NVDF) where it is stored and An Garda Síochána has access to this data. Enforcement of the Road Traffic Acts relating to clocking is the responsibility of AGS.

What to do if you buy a clocked car
If you have evidence that a car has been clocked or crashed, report it to the CCPC  as soon as possible and you  should also contact the Gardaí

You can listen back to Geraldine discussing clocked Cars on Newstalk here
Geraldine Herbert
6th July, 2018

Author: Geraldine Herbert

Contributing Editor and Motoring Columnist for the Sunday Independent and editor of wheelsforwomen. Geraldine is also a regular contributor to Good Housekeeping (UK) and to RTÉ Radio One, Newstalk, TodayFM and BBC Radio. You can follow Geraldine on Twitter at @GerHerbert1

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