Concerns have been raised about the increase in ‘clocked’ cars after the number of vehicles with mileage discrepancies hit an all-time high in 2018.

According to vehicle data specialists Cap HPI, the number of cars on UK roads that may have had their mileage altered has risen to one in 14 - an increase of around a third (30 percent) on the number seen five years ago. Back in 2016, one in 16 cars had a mileage discrepancy, while in 2014, that number stood at just one in 20.

Although it is not illegal to alter a car’s odometer - and there can be legitimate reasons for doing so - it is an offence to sell a car without declaring its true mileage. The illegal act of ‘clocking’ takes place when a sellers attempt to deliberately defraud a buyer using a car with a false odometer reading. In all, Cap HPI says the practise is costing motorists around £800 million every year.

Closeup of odometer

Cap HPI’s head of industry relations, Barry Shorto said this type of fraud was a growing issue driven partly by new technology and partly by the increase in mileage-based finance deals.

“Clocking and mileage fraud is a problem that refuses to go away and continues to get worse,” he said. “Used car buyers now have a one-in-14 chance of purchasing a vehicle with a mileage discrepancy which is extremely concerning. Criminals are increasingly using more advanced technology to make it easier for them to clock vehicles and cover their tracks.

Vehicle digital odometer

“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 PCP and PCH may also be a contributing factor as motorists look to avoid costly penalties for exceeding mileage allowances.”

And Shorto also said the statistics showed the value in checking whether the car you intend to buy has a hidden past before you make the purchase.

VW Group computer active info display odometer speedometer

“Our valuation data conclusively shows the potential cost to dealers and motorists of the clocking problem,” he said. “With clockers able to add thousands of pounds onto the value of a car, unsuspecting buyers stand to lose out, as do dealers. That’s why we advise retailers and consumers alike to conduct a vehicle history check to spot a mileage discrepancy before they buy.

“It can be almost impossible to tell a clocked vehicle just by looking at it, which makes a vehicle history check an even more vital form of protection for buyers. A clocked vehicle could be hiding serious levels of wear and tear, especially if it has been previously used as a high mileage private hire vehicle for a couple of years, meaning the additional cost of unexpected repairs or even a potentially serious safety threat to driver, passengers and other road users.”