Thousands of cars sold with bad odometer readings in Georgia, South Carolina

Catching a faulty odometer

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - This story may have you running out to your garage or driveway. Tens of thousands of cars in Georgia and South Carolina are driven and sold with false odometer readings.

Most car owners have no idea. Carfax estimates it cost consumers more than $800 million in 2018. Carfax said more than 60,000 in Georgia have a false reading. In South Carolina, they say there are almost 18,000.

“This is likely the tip of the iceberg,” said Chris Basso, a spokesman for Carfax. “There are likely others that are out there that we haven’t identified yet.”

Rick Broussard at RPM Autoworx has pretty much seen it all. Even he was surprised by the Carfax numbers.

“I’m sort of shocked that it’s still going on because I knew the car manufacturers were putting a lot of effort into making sure that couldn’t happen,” Broussard said.

Carfax tracks the data in hundreds of ways. Any time the mileage goes up and comes back down, their system goes off. If you think you’re safe because your car has a digital odometer and not the one that can literally roll back, think again.

“Many people believe that since the digital odometer became widely used that people can’t roll them back anymore, and that just simply is not the case,” said Basso.

In fact, you can buy something online that plugs into your car and rolls the odometer back in minutes. Basso said old cars and leased cars account for most of the rollbacks. When it comes to maintenance, there are certain things that should need replacing at 100,000 miles. If you’re having to do it at 40,000 miles, you may have a bad odometer reading.

“You shouldn’t need any major suspension work,” Broussard said. “You should not need a tune up at 40,000 miles in most cases.”

Basso recommends taking the car for a test, checking the Carfax and having a mechanic give it a look.

“You could be left holding the bag on a car that’s worth half as much and could have serious mechanical issues,” Basso said. “You want to make sure that you’re buying with your head and not with your heart. Don’t fall in love with a vehicle until you’ve taken it for a thorough test drive, gotten a car fax report, and had a mechanic thoroughly inspect it."

There are a couple of things you can do to check for yourself, like checking the steering wheel to see if it’s more worn than it should be. Also, check the brake to see if it’s worn as well.

Here’s some good news. Carfax is waiving the cost to check for yourself if your car has been rolled back. You can check right here.

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