Consumer Protection

How to Protect Yourself: Odometer Fraud
Source: The Florida Attorney General's Office

Knowing a vehicle’s mileage is a good way to ascertain its condition and value. After a vehicle has been driven for a while, certain systems need routine safety checks and repairs. If the odometer has been turned back, mechanical problems that could affect safety may go unchecked and unrepaired. Because odometer readings are relied upon so heavily, both Florida and federal law make tampering with odometers illegal.

  • Disconnecting or turning back an odometer, and even owning a vehicle with a disconnected or nonfunctional odometer, are against the law.
  • It’s also against the law to sell a vehicle without providing a written statement that discloses the actual mileage at the time of transfer. All certificates of title in Florida are supposed to show the odometer reading at the time vehicles are sold.

If you are concerned that an odometer may have been tampered with:

  • Look for oil-change stickers, service records or warranty cards that may reflect the mileage of the vehicle.
  • Ask to see the odometer statement received by the person who is selling the vehicle to you in order to find out the mileage at the time he or she bought it.
  • If buying from a dealer, contact the previous owner to ask about the mileage and condition of the vehicle.

Useful information, including the names of previous owners and vehicles’ history of owners and odometer readings, can be obtained from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

If you suspect that the odometer has been rolled back on a vehicle offered for sale, contact your local law enforcement agency or the Division of Motorist Services. If you suspect odometer fraud has occurred with a vehicle you have already purchased, the Division of Motorist Services can assist you in obtaining a Florida title history record of the vehicle.

Knowingly and willingly violating the Odometer Fraud Law is a crime. In addition to paying damages to the injured consumer, the violator may also be sued by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The civil penalty for odometer fraud is $2,000 per violation. The law also provides for criminal prosecution for odometer fraud.

The Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act, 15 U.S.C. 1981-1991, allows the victim of odometer fraud to file a private lawsuit to recover damages incurred. Successful suits can collect three times your damages or $1,500, whichever is greater. You may also refer to your legal rights covered under Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, Chapter 501, Part II, Florida Statutes.

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