Odometer rollbacks a growing problem in Georgia

Odometer rollbacks a growing problem in Georgia

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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. -

Many of us buy used cars because they're more affordable. But, you want to make sure the price you're paying matches up to the car you're getting.

A car with 140,000 miles on it should be a lot cheaper than a car with 70,000. Unfortunately, just looking at the odometer is not enough to know just how many miles that car has traveled. There has been a spike in cases where the odometer is rolled back so that the price can be pushed up.  

For one college student, she didn't learn about the history of her used car until after she was left stranded by herself in the middle of the night on a Florida highway.

"My wife woke me up and said, ‘Raven is stranded on the side of the road,'" said DeKalb County resident Everett Edwards.

Right before Christmas, Raven Joyner went car shopping at East Side Quality Cars and found the car she wanted.

But, as she reported in a complaint to the state, less than a month after buying it she made a middle-of-the night call to her parents. Her car had died.

"It was dark. I was alone.  It was cold and I was afraid of the alligators, and of my mother," said Joyner.

Her mom didn't want her to drive the 1999 Acura to Miami to see a football game, and definitely not alone. Mom was worried with a car that had 132,000 miles.

If Raven's mother had known the real mileage, she definitely would have put the brakes on this trip. According to a vehicle history report, the car actually had at least 239,000 (239,779) -- the odometer had been rolled back more than 100,000 miles.

Odometer rollbacks are a growing problem. Carfax, a vehicle history agency, reports in that in Georgia in a five-year period there was a 122 percent jump in odometer rollbacks.

The I-Team spoke with the manager of East Side Quality Cars by phone about the 100,000 mile difference in mileage. The manager says he bought the used car with a broken odometer and replaced it with another one.

The I-Team then asked "So, you're saying when you bought this new instrument cluster it had this mileage on it, and you just kept it on it?"

He said, yes, that's what happened, but he didn't think he broke any laws because it's an older car --  exempt, he says,  by federal law from mileage disclosure.  But the Department of Revenue, who oversees the Motor Vehicle Division, sees it differently.  A spokesman says if it happened this way, that is fraud.

The dealership took the car back and returned Raven Joyner's money after she filed a complaint with the state.
 
So, how easy is it to manipulate the new digital odometers? Equipment and software can be bought online that will rollback odometers, and the equipment is not difficult to use.

Josh Ingle, owner of Atlanta Speedometer, says he gets as many as three calls a week asking him to erase miles on a car before the owner puts it up for sale. He says he'll fix broken odometers but won't fraudulently fudge the miles, but some will. 

"If the dealer doesn't disclose the proper mileage, you might be in for a late night call," said Edwards.

Joyner knows now that she should have gotten a vehicle history report before buying the car.  As she says, lesson learned and now she preaches it to her friends.

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