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LEGAL DICTIONARY

Odometer Statement

What Is an Odometer Statement?

An odometer disclosure statement is a legal document that states the accurate mileage on a vehicle’s odometer at the time of transfer from the seller to the buyer. If the seller knows that the car’s mileage is incorrect, the document must contain that information.

When Is an Odometer Statement a Good Idea?

Most passenger vehicles today will have at least two owners during the time they are on the road. Since modern cars tend to last a good 20 years or more, that means they can rack up many miles on the odometer.

But how do you know the number on the odometer is accurate? What is the actual number of miles the car has driven is far greater than what is on the odometer? That situation could mean that a buyer is getting a car worth significantly less than they expect. In some cases, more miles can mean much more money in repairs.

Federal law prohibits “rolling back” or otherwise tampering with an odometer. Under the penalty of a fine of $1,500 or more plus legal fees, the law states that an owner cannot disconnect, reset, or alter an odometer for the purpose of changing the mileage display reading.

Yet, we all know that there are unscrupulous sellers out there who do not follow the law – that’s where an odometer statement comes into play.

How to Obtain an Odometer Disclosure Statement

Every state requires some form of odometer disclosure statement. You can visit your state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website for specific details about where you live.

Download your Bill of Sale now.

Some states use a federal form for the statement, and others have their own unique templates. The information that is standard on a completed odometer disclosure statement form includes:

  • The seller’s name and contact information
  • The buyer’s name and contact information
  • The date the odometer is certified
  • The vehicle’s year, make, model number
  • The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • The accurate mileage at the time of the date of odometer certification

You can verify the mileage on the statement by purchasing a vehicle history report from companies like Carfax or Bumper. The vehicle history report should either be consistent with the reading on the statement or flag potential fraud.

FAQs for Odometer Disclosure Statements

Is a car bill of sale the only document that should include an odometer disclosure statement?

No, not only a car bill of sale should have one. It’s a good idea to obtain an odometer statement along with the bill of sale when you purchase any type of vehicle, including the following:

Does replacing a vehicle’s engine reset the odometer?

No. The odometer is connected to the front wheel hub, not the engine. Therefore, changes to the engine will not affect the odometer reading.

What if the owner does not know the actual mileage?

If an odometer is currently broken or has not worked in the past, it may not give an accurate reading. In these cases, it is the owner’s responsibility to indicate on the bill of sale that the mileage is “not actual mileage.” For more information, you can obtain a vehicle history report.

Is it okay to replace an odometer?

Yes, it is legal to replace a broken odometer. In order to be compliant with the law, you need to ensure that the new odometer is set with an accurate mileage reading.

Helpful Resources:

ND DOT - Odometer Disclosure

GetJerry.com - What Is an Odometer Disclosure Statement?

Cornell Law - 49 US Code § 32703: Preventing tampering

instamotor - What Is An Odometer Disclosure Statement

Law Insider - Odometer disclosure statement Definition

Carfax - Vehicle History Reports

What Is an Odometer Statement?

An odometer disclosure statement is a legal document that states the accurate mileage on a vehicle’s odometer at the time of transfer from the seller to the buyer. If the seller knows that the car’s mileage is incorrect, the document must contain that information.

When Is an Odometer Statement a Good Idea?

Most passenger vehicles today will have at least two owners during the time they are on the road. Since modern cars tend to last a good 20 years or more, that means they can rack up many miles on the odometer.

But how do you know the number on the odometer is accurate? What is the actual number of miles the car has driven is far greater than what is on the odometer? That situation could mean that a buyer is getting a car worth significantly less than they expect. In some cases, more miles can mean much more money in repairs.

Federal law prohibits “rolling back” or otherwise tampering with an odometer. Under the penalty of a fine of $1,500 or more plus legal fees, the law states that an owner cannot disconnect, reset, or alter an odometer for the purpose of changing the mileage display reading.

Yet, we all know that there are unscrupulous sellers out there who do not follow the law – that’s where an odometer statement comes into play.

How to Obtain an Odometer Disclosure Statement

Every state requires some form of odometer disclosure statement. You can visit your state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website for specific details about where you live.

Download your Bill of Sale now.

Some states use a federal form for the statement, and others have their own unique templates. The information that is standard on a completed odometer disclosure statement form includes:

  • The seller’s name and contact information
  • The buyer’s name and contact information
  • The date the odometer is certified
  • The vehicle’s year, make, model number
  • The Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)
  • The accurate mileage at the time of the date of odometer certification

You can verify the mileage on the statement by purchasing a vehicle history report from companies like Carfax or Bumper. The vehicle history report should either be consistent with the reading on the statement or flag potential fraud.

FAQs for Odometer Disclosure Statements

Is a car bill of sale the only document that should include an odometer disclosure statement?

No, not only a car bill of sale should have one. It’s a good idea to obtain an odometer statement along with the bill of sale when you purchase any type of vehicle, including the following:

Does replacing a vehicle’s engine reset the odometer?

No. The odometer is connected to the front wheel hub, not the engine. Therefore, changes to the engine will not affect the odometer reading.

What if the owner does not know the actual mileage?

If an odometer is currently broken or has not worked in the past, it may not give an accurate reading. In these cases, it is the owner’s responsibility to indicate on the bill of sale that the mileage is “not actual mileage.” For more information, you can obtain a vehicle history report.

Is it okay to replace an odometer?

Yes, it is legal to replace a broken odometer. In order to be compliant with the law, you need to ensure that the new odometer is set with an accurate mileage reading.

Helpful Resources:

ND DOT - Odometer Disclosure

GetJerry.com - What Is an Odometer Disclosure Statement?

Cornell Law - 49 US Code § 32703: Preventing tampering

instamotor - What Is An Odometer Disclosure Statement

Law Insider - Odometer disclosure statement Definition

Carfax - Vehicle History Reports