How Do I Read an Old Odometer With More Than 100K?

by Blaze Johnson

An odometer is a device designed to measure the total distance traveled by a vehicle. Unlike trip odometers, conventional odometers cannot be legally reset or tampered with. Many older vehicles feature a five-digit odometer that has the potential to “roll over” after exceeding the 100,000-mile mark, making it difficult in some instances to determine the true mileage of the vehicle. Thanks to the Federal Truth in Mileage Act, persons are required to disclose the actual mileage when selling a vehicle, which may help you determine the correct figure after examining the vehicle's title history.

Step 1

Examine the vehicle's instrument panel and locate the odometer.

Step 2

Note the reading displayed on the odometer gauge. Certain vehicle odometers may feature a white or different color single-digit number placement, used to calculate tenths of a mile; disregard this number.

Step 3

Examine your vehicle's title and locate the mileage stated on the document. If the odometer mileage figure on the title includes “Exceeds Mechanical Limits” verbiage, obtain a title history report for the vehicle from your local DMV.

Step 4

Examine the title history report and locate the disclosed odometer readings stated from each prior owner. This will help you gauge whether the vehicle odometer has “rolled over” the 100K mark more than once.

Step 5

Determine the actual mileage of the vehicle by adding the current odometer reading to the appropriate rollover amount. For example, If the odometer reads 4,800 miles and the title history search suggests the vehicle had 70,000 miles reported from the previous owner, the actual mileage may be 104,800 miles.

Step 6

Consider the condition and age of the vehicle if you cannot obtain adequate odometer reports for the vehicle. Although not an entirely accurate gauge in determining mileage, age and excessive wear on the vehicle can provide an educated guess as to whether the vehicle's odometer has “rolled over” more than once.

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