The new MOT Certificate makes it easier to spot clocked cars.

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Clocking is the process of rolling back vehicles' mileages to increase their values. On older cars – with mechanical odometers – this can be done by winding back old-style mechanisms. However, crooks use software to fiddle with newer digital displays. As such, from November 18th 2012, VT20s must not only record the relevant vehicle's current mileage but those from the previous three tests. This makes it easier for buyers to check for consistency and sidestep problems.
Clocking is common because it is profitable. As such, a Jaguar XJR 4.2 V8 Supercharged – on a 2008/08 registration – that has covered 80,000 miles and is in excellent condition retails for £15,500. However, roll back its mileage to 40,000 and a crook could sell for £19,000 – a £3,500 increase. This applies to everyday cars too. A Ford Mondeo 2.5T Titanium X Sport – for example – retails for £6,100 assuming a 2008/57 registration and a mileage of 80,000. But roll this back to 40,000 and it could sell for a further £1,500, at £7,600.

Irrespective of the new certificate, the only way to be sure a car's mileage is correct is to buy new. That said, second-hand shoppers can minimise the risk. Step one is to cross reference MOT mileages with the service history/invoices. Information can be corroborated further by contacting the garages that have seen the car. If there is no paper trail… be suspicious. Step two is to find comparisons. For example, a Mondeo that has covered 50,000 miles should look and feel better than one with 150,000. Drive a few examples, then, and familiarise yourself with the range's characteristics. And, of course, buy from a reputable source and order a history check from a company such as HPI. Then cross your fingers.

By Stephen Turvil,