Clocked cars

It is an offence under consumer protection law for a trader to give false, misleading or deceptive information about the history of a car, for example, a trader giving false information about a car’s mileage.

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 look 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). 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, you should 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 – check the car’s history, paperwork and have it looked at by a competent mechanic to be on the safe side.

Buying a clocked car could turn out to be expensive as well as dangerous. If you don’t know what the real mileage is, 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.

Whether you are buying from a dealer or privately, check out our car buyer’s checklist and use it to help you when buying a used car.

Top Tip

Before paying any money you should ask the seller 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 was clocked. If they are not willing to do this, you should strongly consider walking away.

I think I bought a clocked car, what should I do?

If you have evidence that a car has been clocked, report this to us as soon as possible. You should act quickly as we cannot investigate a suspected clocked car if you have had it for more than three years. You can read our car crime consumer guide for more information on what to expect if you make a complaint about car crime to us.

Last updated on 31 May 2022