Clocked or crashed cars


It is an offence under consumer law for a trader to give false, misleading or deceptive information about the history of a car, for example, if the car was previously involved in a crash or recorded as an insurance ‘write-off’. It is also an offence for a trader to give false information about a clocked car.

Your car displays the total mileage it has driven on a meter called the odometer on the dashboard – this is essentially a ‘clock’ which tells you how many miles or kilometres your car has driven.

“Clocking” means changing the genuine odometer reading of the car in order to make the car seem like it has been driven less than it actually has.

The average annual mileage of a privately owned petrol car in Ireland is about 17,000 kilometres (10,500 miles). Diesel cars, if they have been used for business purposes, could have a higher average of about 24,000 kilometres (15,000 miles). So if you are thinking about buying a car that has substantially lower mileage than this over its lifetime, and also shows signs of heavy wear and tear, for example on the seat covers, pedal rubbers, gear knob or steering wheel, always be wary.

Spotting a car that has been clocked can be tricky. It is always advisable to carry out some checks on the car before you pay any money over – check the car’s documented history and have it looked at by a competent mechanic to be on the safe side.

Clocked or crashed cars could turn out to be both dangerous and expensive for the buyer. If you don’t know what the real mileage is, or if you’re not aware that the car was previously crashed, then you can’t judge the real condition of the car and parts that you think should be in good working order might be at the point where they are about to fail.

Consumers should only buy a car once they are fully satisfied that the car is roadworthy and any repairs carried out on the car are to a high standard. A consumer should not be at a financial loss because they bought a crashed car.  Although insurance ‘write-offs’ can legitimately be allowed back on the road, many are beyond repair or structurally compromised.  Always have a qualified engineer or mechanic check out a second hand car before you buy, and carry out a history check to find out if it has been crashed.

Report clocked or crashed cars

Before paying for a car, you should ask the seller if the car has ever been crashed.  You should also ask them to write the mileage, as displayed on the odometer, on your receipt. That way you have a record of the mileage the seller claimed was on the car if you find out later it has been clocked. If they are unwilling to do this, you should consider walking away without buying.

If you have evidence that a car has been clocked or crashed, report this to us as soon as possible. You should act quickly – any delay in reporting it may affect our ability to take action. We cannot investigate a suspected clocked or crashed car if you have had it for more than three years.

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