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Car enthusiasts taken for a ride

CHOICE says buyers of imported used cars could be getting a bum steer on odometer readings.

21 October 2016

CHOICE says buyers of imported used cars could be getting a bum steer on odometer readings. 

CHOICE is urging car enthusiasts to do their homework when purchasing overseas second-hand cars following an investigation that found one consumer was left nearly $12,000 out of pocket after falling victim to odometer tampering.

CHOICE's investigation found one consumer paid $24,999 for a second-hand van with just 36,091km on the clock, yet the Japanese auction report later revealed the van had actually done 183,203km. 

"In this case the odometer was wound back a staggering 147,000kms, leaving the unsuspecting consumer out of pocket nearly $12,000," says CHOICE Head of Media Tom Godfrey. 

"It's a timely reminder for car enthusiasts that regardless of the odometer reading on the contract of sale or on the clock, don't purchase a vehicle unless you've verified the kilometres from the original overseas auction report. 

"With thousands of vehicles and motorcycles imported through the Specialist and Enthusiast Vehicle Scheme (SEVS) each year, it's easy for dodgy dealers in Australia to tamper with a vehicle's odometer to make a quick buck." 

Although second-hand vehicles imported under the SEVS go through Customs and compliance workshops, there's no requirement for the documented odometer reading to be accurate when the vehicle is deemed fit for sale. 

"The fact is there is plenty of time and opportunity for odometers to be tampered with after vehicles are deregistered overseas," Mr Godfrey says.

"If a dealer can't guarantee the mileage is accurate then you are better off steering clear of the purchase.  

"Odometer tampering attracts heavy fines of between $10,000 and $50,000 for individuals, depending on the state."

CHOICE's latest findings come following a two-year NSW department of fair trading and police investigation into the practice, which stung four Sydney dealerships in the process.  

For more information, view our article on odometer fraud.

Tips for car enthusiasts

● As a first step check to see if the car's log book matches the odometer reading
● Be wary of any dealer who can't vouch for the accuracy of the odometer 
● Have the vehicle inspected by a licensed third party mechanic before purchase 
● If you're buying a Japanese vehicle purchase the original auction report to verify the odometer reading.