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Very low mileage older car - should I be suspicious?

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Jonathan M15/06/2017 14:49:15
730 forum posts
289 photos

Having totalled my car yesterday (whilst travelling at 30-35mph on an A road, an ultra-sudden obstacle in the form of a SUV shot out almost immediately in front of me - big bang, airbag inflation, write-off job, other guy's insurance paying out and funding the hire car), going to look at an identical make/model/year vehicle to my own now-dead 2002 120k car, but with a claimed 40k on the clock!?

Is it feasible, firstly that a 15 year old car can only have averaged 2,700 miles per year over three owners, and secondly for a modern digital odometer to be tampered with, either during its life or just before sale?



PS yes, I'm fine, thanks - safety belt, airbag, head-support all worked correctly.

PPS the Acrowot needs a minor repair to the fin!

Jon - Laser Engines15/06/2017 15:00:23
5481 forum posts
268 photos

That sounds pretty nasty. Note that your bmfa insurance will also cover you in this case as you had the model in the car and i assume were doing something model flying related. If so you are covered twice, isnt that nice!

Anyway i would be suspicious too but if the car looks tidy then it could be genuine. I bought my 2005 almera 5 years ago with only 38k on it. A check through the servicing history and MOT certificates revealed a few years of almost total inactivity. I suspect it belonged to an elderly person who only drove it to bingo once a week.

In any case if you can find some sort of evidence to backup the claim you should be fine. All modern MOT tests record mileage, as do kwik fit etc when they do any kind of servicing. ats euromaster noted my mileage on my service sheet even though i only dropped it in for an air con recharge (lovely and cool now by the way) so there must be something somewhere. If you have no paperwork or history i would walk away

Dave Hopkin15/06/2017 15:04:38
3672 forum posts
294 photos

Also take a good look at the drivers seat and compare to the passenger seat - if its only done 40k there should be very little wear or sagging on the drivers seat - if its been clocked the seat may well show more wear that you would expect .... likewise look at the rubbers on the pedals they should show very little wear

IanR15/06/2017 15:04:42
780 forum posts
4 photos

I heard someone bragging, once, about how easy it was to tamper with the odometer with a laptop with suitable software. He had had his car done - dropped the mileage from 30 odd thousand to 18000 prior to selling.

I would get an experienced mechanic - perhaps someone from the garage where you have your cars serviced - to give the car the once-over. He might be able to tell from wear and tear how much use the car has had. Even little things like wear on the pedals, steering wheel, carpets, seats etc not to mention mechanical parts.

Frank Skilbeck15/06/2017 15:05:56
4726 forum posts
101 photos

My wifes 04 Mitsubishi Colt has just passed 27,000 miles smile o, as John says check the service and MOT records, if it hasn't got them then it will depend on the overall conditions, if it looks like a 40,000 mile car then it probably is

John Helling15/06/2017 15:07:20
67 forum posts

Depends on make and model of car.

I bought a Rover 25 on a 52 plate with 24000 on the clock, I had the car for over 5 years and only spent money on 2 tyres and a middle box.

I now have another 2005 on a 54 plate with only 39800 and it is a dream to drive.

They never were a boy racers car, and they never were bought by attention seekers, usually second car and not abused.

So there are still bargains in private sales but doo your homework.

John H

Denis Watkins15/06/2017 15:14:20
4421 forum posts
112 photos

Same here guys, one of my cars is 2002 reg and is 43k, but like Jon says, I have the MOTs with mileages recorded.

Sadly, odometers can be messed with, but records do exist now for many years as insurance and MOT went online, and now Road Tax.

Former Member15/06/2017 15:21:18
3577 forum posts

[This posting has been removed]

Cuban815/06/2017 15:51:14
2950 forum posts
1 photos

TBH, I wouldn't be overly bothered by mileage. In my experience, cars that have had the 'little old lady treatment' i.e 2000 miles PA, never raced or rallied etc etc wink can turn out to be the worst pigs when you start to drive them normally. Cars are best used regularly and around 10-15K (genuine) miles per year about the ideal. Sympathetic use and regular servicing are the key, but how you might judge those characteristics in an older inexpensive second hand car with several owners is going to be difficult.

Don't discount higher mileage, newer cars - providing you can trace their MOT and service/repair history and use common sense, there are some very good buys around.

Edited By Cuban8 on 15/06/2017 15:51:56

Neil6715/06/2017 15:54:24
202 forum posts
3 photos

I am just about to change my car for an eight year old car with just over 35,000 miles on the clock. It's from a local, independent, reputable (allegedly) garage which has been in business on the same site since 1926. I asked for a double check on the mileage and was shown the MOT history and also a Car Passport which shows all the relevant agencies are happy that the mileage is correct. Checks, which others have suggested look ok - fingers crossed!

It's an estate for obvious reasons, but I don't do a lot of mileage as we have another car, but my trusty VW Passat Estate has a failing Dual Mass Flywheel (£1,800), faulty electrical hand brake which cost £69 to diagnose,plus a quote of £560 to fix, and to top it all when I indicate right or left it quite often operates the opposite indicators. Oh and VW have had three attempts at fixing a water leak in the front drivers foot well.

Good luck with your potential purchase.


Chuck Plains15/06/2017 16:04:49
1096 forum posts
244 photos

I would say it still needs to be cheap due to it's age. But you haven't mentioned the make or model or the price. Those are always to be considered when the actual value of a vehicle is in question.

Braddock, VC15/06/2017 16:04:52
1654 forum posts
82 photos

I bought a 51 plate car with 44000 miles on it. No problems.

A giveaway for a car with the mileage clocked is the headlamp lens, if plastic they should stay clear for at least 60 - 70 thousand miles, after that the shotblasting of rain and dust really clouds the lens. also should list all the mileages plus any failures and advisories, good for reference purposes.

Cuban815/06/2017 16:07:06
2950 forum posts
1 photos

Episodes of 'Can't pay? we'll take it away' regularly  have the high court enforcement officers serving writs on some appallingly dodgy car dealers. An education in where not to buy a car and they give decent traders (most are of course) a very bad name. Caveat Emptor.

Edited By Cuban8 on 15/06/2017 16:08:20

Steve J15/06/2017 16:08:19
1906 forum posts
54 photos

You can check a car's MOT history (including mileage) on the DVLA website -


PS Braddock beat me to it...


Edited By Steve J on 15/06/2017 16:10:03

ken anderson.15/06/2017 17:29:44
8680 forum posts
807 photos

hello Johnathan.... don't let your head rule your heart...if you aren't 100% have a look around its a buyers market.....your dosh-spend wisely ...

ken financial dept.

Michael Ramsay-Fraser15/06/2017 19:01:30
229 forum posts

As stated above, don't consider it without checking the MOT history. It's highly unlikely to have been clocked within the first 3 years and every year thereafter, provided it's been MOT'd, the mileage should be recorded unless its been SORNED.

I've just bought a 13 year old car with 30k on the clock and it's an absolute beaut. If you're still unsure, ask for an RAC inspection.

Andrew Dunn 115/06/2017 19:06:29
24 forum posts
4 photos

an MOT history check can be done here .... will list mileages and failures/advisories

Former Member15/06/2017 19:52:12

[This posting has been removed]

Geoff S15/06/2017 19:54:17
3659 forum posts
26 photos

We have a 12 year old Mitsubishi Spacestar we've owned for 10 years and it has fewer than 40k miles on the clock. It's rarely used for short runs because we either walk, cycle or use the bus. We were going to replace it this year but the guy who does our MoT tests said we may as well carry on with it.

The annual mileage is recorded on the MoT certificates, which we have on file so we have proof that it's genuine. So yes, with reasonable evidence, an old car could well have done fewer miles than you'd expect.

Sounds a horrendous accident btw. Glad that the combined effects of the airbag and seat belt saved you from serious injury.


Edited By Geoff Sleath on 15/06/2017 19:59:13

Jonathan M16/06/2017 08:56:49
730 forum posts
289 photos

Guys, that's all brilliant advice, thanks! How much a car has been actually driven is easily estimated by the state of the driver's side.

In the past my worst experiences have been with cars that have been 'stood' and higher-mileage examples (125k plus), even so-called 'long-life' makes like the older Merc estates, which failed much earlier than they should have and got very expensive when they did.

The best older car I've ever had was my 2002 Honda CRV 2.0 petrol, the very mount which is now in the knacker's yard. I bought it at 60k aged 10 in very good condition from a retired farmer, and put another 60k on it over 5 years, and my only major expense was a new front brake disk! While it lacked the long boot-space of an estate, its got good airy capacity and a versatile cavity in the back.

I like its upright sitting position (weak lower-back), good head-room (I'm tallish), and the slightly higher poise of a small AWD (better vision and less night-time glare on my local country roads). Petrol is fine for me despite its 28mpg average (I've loathed diesel ever since I was a cyclist in London and a motorcyclist everywhere else).

Which is why I want to replace it with exactly the same model of a similar age!

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