Car ‘clocking’ (winding back the odometer) in the UK could be cut if the prejudice against high-mileage second hand vehicles was challenged, according to the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI).

The value of any used car is tied closely to its mileage. The lower the mileage, the higher the value. As a result, some owners will illegally decrease or ‘clock’ the mileage displayed to increase the value of their car before selling.

The emphasis placed on car mileage, as opposed to overall condition, when second hand cars are valued may be contributing to the rise in clocking. With computer technology making it easier than ever to alter the mileage on a second hand car, it has been estimated by HPI that 1.4 million vehicles on UK roads show a ‘distance discrepancy.’

Ray Holloway, director of the RMI’s independent garage and fuel division, believes lessening the emphasis on mileage could reduce the practice: “The modern motor car is built to be used. It is a tool for going about everyday business, and is intended to last for a long time. As a result we need to update our attitudes towards high mileage vehicles.

“Just because a car has a high mileage it does not mean that there will necessarily be anything wrong with it. Forty years ago, it made sense to cut the value of a car as the mileage climbed. Build quality was not as good as today and major mechanical failures were the norm as early as 20,000 miles. This is not the case today, as the build quality and engineering of modern cars means that if it has been well looked after, and has a full service history, there shouldn’t be anything actually wrong with it. Yet despite these technological advances we still foster a dislike of well-travelled vehicles in our customers.”

Holloway said that the low financial value placed on high mileage second hand cars means that there can be a monetary gain for motorists if they reduce their car’s mileage before selling. If high mileage cars were valued based on their overall condition, there would be less incentive to tamper illegally.

The emphasis on mileage is a UK phenomenon, Holloway claims. “In Europe, the industry is set up in a way that allows for high-mileage vehicles. As people are able to drive between countries, high mileage cars are more common, but if they are well looked after they will be worth more than they would in the UK.

“If the motor trade placed a higher value on good condition high-mileage second hand cars, we could help reduce this illegal activity.”