Is It Legal To Sell A Car With A Broken Odometer?

When buying a used vehicle, the last thing you want is to fall for a common automobile scam. Many shady automobile dealers try to sell second-hand cars with broken odometers or incorrect mileage readings. But is it legal to sell a car with a broken odometer?

Under federal law, it’s a crime to hide mileage readings from the buyer. If a vehicle has a broken odometer, the seller must therefore inform the buyer about the issue before the sale. The broken meter can also be replaced legally, as long as the new one is set to the accurate reading. 

Let’s discuss why it’s illegal to sell a car with a broken odometer under federal law. We’ll also look at how to determine the mileage on a vehicle if the odometer is broken. 

Is It Legal to Sell a Car With a Broken Odometer?

Car odometer detail

If you’re buying or selling a used vehicle, you may already be aware of the laws that prohibit odometer alteration. Basically, it’s a crime to tamper with the odometer to reset the mileage reading during a vehicle’s sale. 

If a seller misguides that buyer about the vehicle’s condition during the sale, it’s considered a fraud. Sometimes, the automobile dealer deliberately tampers with the odometer to change the mileage readings. 

But what if the odometer is broken? Can you still sell the vehicle? 

You can, but you’ll have to declare that the odometer is broken before the sale. 

If a seller puts a second-hand vehicle up for sale and deliberately hides information about its faulty components, such as a broken odometer, then the sale of the vehicle is illegal. 

So, if you’re a seller of a used vehicle, make sure that you carefully inspect all its components. After that, give the buyer accurate information about the vehicle’s condition and its components (including the odometer). If a buyer still wants to purchase the used car with a broken odometer then its sale is entirely legal since the buyer was not misinformed. 

In this case, make sure that you ask for the buyer’s signature on an affidavit so that no charges are pressed against you if the buyer changes their mind after the sale. 

What Is the Federal Odometer Tampering Law?

Tampering with the odometer to reset or change the mileage reading or replacing an odometer with a new one that shows less distance covered is a crime under federal law, which applies in all 50 states. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, civil and criminal penalties related to practices such as money laundering, illegal profit, deceptive trade practice, conspiracy, mail or wire fraud, counterfeiting, and even forgery can be applied to odometer tampering. 

According to federal odometer tampering law, while transferring ownership of the vehicle, the seller needs to indicate the accurate mileage on the vehicle’s title.

Moreover, if the seller knows that the odometer reading is inaccurate, then they’re required to fill up a notarized odometer statement to disclose this fact to the buyer. 

However, if the vehicle has been used for more than a decade, then the seller needs to write “exempt” on the odometer disclosure statement. 

Even if the seller doesn’t indicate that the vehicle is “exempt” from mileage disclosure and decides to disclose the odometer reading on the document, it has to be accurate. If the reading is incorrect, it’ll be a violation of federal odometer tampering law, which is a punishable crime. 

Is It Legal to Replace the Odometer Yourself?

So, if the odometer on a vehicle is broken, why not just get it replaced?

The good news is that it’s legal to fix a faulty odometer or replace a broken odometer with a new one. The only thing you need to be careful about is that the fixed or new odometer shows the accurate mileage reading.

If the fixed or new odometer doesn’t show accurate mileage or shows less distance covered than the original, it’ll be considered illegal odometer tampering. To avoid such a mishap, make sure that you write down the mileage on the old instrument cluster before getting rid of it. 

Also, if possible, keep proof of the old reading at the time of replacement. Doing so will allow you to indicate the correct mileage on the new instrument cluster. 

So, if you have time and the appropriate tools and devices, you can replace a broken odometer yourself. Nonetheless, it’s best to have it replaced by a certified mechanic or workshop so you have a witness to the mileage on the old odometer. 

How to Find the Mileage if the Odometer Is Broken

10000 km milestone on a car

Sometimes, you can’t figure out the correct mileage reading due to a broken odometer. If you’re also facing this problem, there’s no need to worry — there are ways to find the mileage even if the odometer is broken. 

Here’s how you can do it:

  • Use an odometer scan tool or mileage scanner. You can also utilize a mileage approximation calculator to get an estimated distance traveled. 
  • Recover the data about the distance covered from the car’s key memory. 
  • Visit a dealership service department to the obtain mileage reading from their high-tech computer scanners. 
  • You can ask for maintenance records from your local repair shop or your mechanic. These records can help you calcultate the mileage. 
  • Download mileage tracking apps for your vehicle. 

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