The AA has released shocking findings that show that 11% of second hand cars imported from the UK have had their mileage doctored. The practice is called clocking. The analysis is based on a survey of 5,430 registration numbers and vehicle records for cars imported from the UK in 2011.
The number of UK imports had been increasing year on year from 2000 to 2008 with 33,000 being brought in last year alone and 23,000 imported to the end of September this year. It now emerges that almost 1 in 10 of those cars has a false mileage.
The AA can check mileages on UK imports because only it can access the British National Mileage Register (NMR) which contains 160 million odometer readings. When a consumer inputs the current mileage of the vehicle onto AA Car Data Check it is compared and cross-referenced with those records. The NMR was established in 1997 and is used as a tool to protect both public and trade in the UK.
“Some Irish consumers are being taken for a ride as Ireland is seen as a dumping ground.” Says public affairs manager Conor Faughnan. “Since 2008 the AA has been working to reduce the numbers of these vehicles with AA Ireland’s Car Data Check service (www.aaireland.ie/car-data-check). This will show information on any car with an Irish registration – whether it used to be British or not. The awareness of this service has helped reduce clocking rates from 18% but there is much still to do.”
While it is entirely possible to get a good deal by buying a car in the UK and importing it into Ireland it is not necessarily going to save you money given the deals that have become available at Irish garages in recent years. Certainly it is worth checking out the value available locally as part of your research. An Irish dealer will also be nearer at hand in case there are any problems with the vehicle.
“If you are planning to bring in a car from Northern Ireland or Great Britain make sure that you check its history.” Says Faughnan. “The AA’s UK counterparts offer the same sort of pre-purchase vehicle inspection as we do here in Ireland and it makes sense to invest in an AA engineers report before parting with thousands of Euro.”
Clocking in the UK
Ironically, modern cars are easier to ‘clock’ than they were in Arthur Daley’s time when rolling back the tumblers required some skill. It is now becoming a scourge. NMR UK research shows at least 1 in 8 vehicles have some sort of mileage discrepancy with at least 1 in 12 clocked.
The Manchester Evening News (M.E.N) carried out an investigation in the UK this year into clocking and queried various councils. The number of reported cases of car-clocking across Greater Manchester has rocketed in four years – with the economic downturn apparently fuelling the rise. Out of the councils that supplied the M.E.N. with figures, Manchester has seen complaints of clocking double since 2006. Tameside council has seen four times as many reported incidents as the average over the last five years.
British consumer watchdog the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) estimates that car clocking costs consumers up to £580m a year nationally. The OFT has called for government to either ban or regulate mileage-correction services. Estimates from vehicle-checking specialists HPI show that clocking swindled Greater Manchester motorists out of an estimated £22m per year alone.
It is clearly a serious concern that the clocking rates for imports into Ireland is higher than that found in the UK itself.
Clocking in Ireland
There are clocked cars locally as well of course. If the UK figures for clocking were transposed to the Irish fleet then the number of vehicles on false mileages could be as high as 160,000 and the cost could exceed €40m annually based on the OFT figures. To combat this, the AA is one of the main driving forces behind the Irish National Mileage Register. This is critical to protect the consumer. Currently www.nmr.ie holds over 5 million readings and has individual readings for over one third of the Irish fleet. This database corroborates the mileage discrepancies for Ireland at 8% in the trade and 12% in the public domain.
Of the vehicles the NMR finds with a mileage discrepancy, here are the most common makes in order.
‘Clocking’ should be a specific offence
Most people are surprised to hear that clocking a car is not an offence in itself under Irish law. You may not mislead a customer about any aspect of a car, and you cannot sell a car that is unroadworthy but no law says that you cannot change the odometer dial.
The AA wants to change this and introduce the offence. In 2010 a Bill was submitted to the then government for inclusion into the 2010 Road Traffic Act to make clocking and interfering with an odometer a specific offence. While it was moved by Labour at the Transport Committee June 16, 2010, it was not passed. The AA would also call for the release of the NCT mileage records to further boost the NMR.
The AA also wants to introduce the equivalent of a car ‘death certificate’ whereby a car that is written off is correctly disposed of and its registration number is retired. Car write-offs also find their way back onto the road, often in the hands of an innocent and duped owner.
Our existing laws are weak. The AA’s work helps a lot, but we need much tougher legislation to target these bad and dangerous practices.
Note to editors 1: Clocking is not just fraud, its dangerous
Clocking is a major safety concern as a vehicle with more mileage than indicated may not have had the correct servicing at manufacturers recommended intervals. This makes breakdowns more likely and increases the chances of an expensive repair like a timing belt. More seriously, critical parts such as braking and power steering systems may be in need of repair without the driver knowing it.
Note to editors 2: Cars can be clocked more easily than ever before
The technology behind clocking is readily available and it can be done from as little as €80 to €100. Most cars can be clocked without having to remove the instrument cluster. A computer is used to calculate the code that the manufacturer uses for mileage and this code is used to adjust the mileage on the clocked vehicle. Far too easy, and it’s not even illegal.
Table: Volume of car imports – but as many as 1 in 10 may be clocked
Info from AA:
I may have bought a clocked car from Britain or Ireland… what do I do?
Firstly, find out the truth. Check at www.aaireland.ie/car-data-check. If the car has had its mileage changed you may have recourse to the seller but realistically it may be very difficult to get any satisfaction. However you can arrange for an AA Inspection of the vehicle (phone AA Technical Services 01 6179370). Once you are in the picture as regards the car’s real age and state of health at least you can make your decisions armed with the facts.