INDIANAPOLIS — Buying a used car can save you a lot of money, but thousands of cars in Indiana have more miles on them than the odometer shows.
Vehicle history check company Carfax estimates 18,000 cars on the road in Indiana have a potential odometer rollback.
"There’s an average of $4,000 lost per car that consumers lose every year buying one of these rolled back vehicles," Chris Basso, a spokesperson for Carfax, said. "By rolling back an odometer, you’re artificially inflating the value of the car, making it seem like it has fewer miles and artificially adding value to it."
Dealers and individuals can swap out the entire odometer cluster, or use tools to change the reading.
"It can actually be easier to roll back an odometer because you have tools readily available on the internet that can change the mileage in seconds," Basso said. "All you have to do it plug in the new odometer reading and it's done in seconds."
A Clinton County man learned firsthand the importance of researching a car’s odometer reading before you buy it.
Terry Snyder, of Mulberry, was looking for a vehicle when he saw an ad on Facebook for a Dodge Nitro with 149,000 miles on it.
When he got to the dealer, Go Brothers Automotive on Madison Avenue, Snyder asked them to run a vehicle history report.
"What we did come across was the mileage was way off according to the Carfax report, to the tune of almost 100,000 miles," Snyder said.
Carfax maintenance records showed the Nitro had 240,252 miles on Nov. 5 while at an auto auction.
Call 6 Investigates spoke with the vehicle’s previous owner of 11 years who told RTV6 nothing was wrong with the odometer.
The previous owner confirmed the Nitro had about 240,000 miles when he donated it on Oct. 24.
Call 6 Investigates went to Go Brothers Automotive on Madison Avenue.
Sales manager Eric Gomez did not want to speak with us on camera, but told us after they got the car from auction the odometer was malfunctioning.
"We replaced it," Gomez said. "We bought it at the auction and we don’t know what happened at the auction. It’s not the only car with malfunctions on the speedometer cluster."
Gomez said they typically find parts in junkyards and use them to replace broken parts.
Records show the dealer disclosed the odometer discrepancy in writing to Snyder, as required by federal law.
Gomez said the dealer did nothing wrong, and pointed out they offered a fair price for the vehicle’s actual mileage of more than 240,000 miles.
Snyder said he bought the car knowing the mileage on the odometer was wrong.
"We spoke with the previous owner and we knew it was a good car," Snyder said. "We knew from speaking with the previous owner it had only been out of his possession for less than two weeks, so we weren't concerned with the condition of the car. Our only concern was with the mileage shown on the odometer."
Snyder paid $5,000 for the car.
"Honestly, I think we underpaid for what the vehicle is," Snyder said.
As Call 6 Investigates has reported, people can face criminal charges if investigators determine they intentionally deceived the consumer.
"Do not sign on the dotted line until you've thoroughly read over all the paperwork in a used car transaction and understand what you're putting your name to and your hard earned money down on before you do it," Basso said.
Snyder is glad he insisted on getting a VIN history check and encourages others to do the same.
"Be cautious. Do your homework, and make sure it's exactly what it should be before you buy," he said.
Here’s how to protect yourself.
Keep in mind, most cars average 12,000 to 15,000 miles per year, so if that’s way off, it could be a red flag.
Look at the gas and brake pedals for wear and tear to see if it’s matching up with the mileage.
In addition, you should have a mechanic look at the car before buying.
Click here for other tips on buying a used car.
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