A vehicle's odometer reading is one of the key factors in determining what that vehicle is worth, as it indicates the number of miles a vehicle has traveled. A vehicle with high mileage is worth less than a vehicle with low mileage. It is very important to record this number correctly every time you are required to do so.
Incorrect odometer recordings can occur for a number of reasons, including guessing and fraud. This page contains resources to help you protect your vehicle’s value and detect odometer fraud.
There are different types of odometer readings, indicated by the letters in parentheses, which may appear on a vehicle’s title:
- Actual (A) - The exact distance the vehicle has traveled (accrued mileage) as displayed on the odometer, whether in miles or kilometers.
- Not Actual (N) - The exact distance the vehicle has traveled is unknown. The reading that displays on the odometer does not reflect the actual mileage and should not be relied on. The title issued in the new customer's name will show an odometer brand of "NOT ACTUAL". This brand is permanent and cannot be changed. Recording a "NOT ACTUAL" odometer brand on a vehicle lowers the value of that vehicle.
- Exceeds the Mechanical Limits (E) - The odometer has reached the highest odometer reading mechanically available and has started numbering back at “0”. This refers to vehicles equipped with a 5 digit odometer that only display a reading up to 99999. The mileage displayed on the odometer is recorded on the vehicle record with an indication that the reading exceeds the odometer's mechanical limits. For example, the odometer displays 12000; however, the cumulative mileage is 112000. In this case, the odometer reading on the new title will display 12000, and the odometer brand will be "EXCEEDS".
- Exempt (Virginia) (O) - The following vehicles are exempt from odometer disclosure in Virginia:
- Non-Passenger vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of more than 16,000 pounds (vehicles designed to carry cargo)
- Exempt (Prior State) (O) - Some states do not require odometer disclosures on titles for older vehicles. DMV will honor these exemptions. However, the exemption must be indicated on the new title.
Guessing is a common cause of bad odometer readings. Take the time to record the reading on your odometer; do not guess at your odometer reading!. Proper recording can ensure that your vehicle maintains its value.
Odometer Fraud is another common cause of odometer discrepancies. It typically occurs when a seller of a used vehicle manipulates the odometer itself or records it improperly to trick the buyer into paying more for a vehicle than it is worth.
When buying a used vehicle:
- ASK to see the title and compare the mileage on it with the vehicle's odometer.
- COMPARE the mileage on the odometer with the mileage indicated on the vehicle’s maintenance or inspection records.
- LOOK at the wear and tear on the vehicle- especially the gas, brake, and clutch pedals- to be sure it seems consistent with and appropriate for the number of miles displayed on the odometer.
- REQUEST a vehicle history report to check for odometer discrepancies in the vehicle's history. If the seller does not have a vehicle history report, you can get one yourself. The National Motor Vehicle Titling Information System (NMVTIS) offers vehicle history reports free or for a small fee. These reports pull information from a national database and include odometer information from other states in which the vehicle has been registered.
You can also get a DMV Prospective Purchaser Inquiry (PPI) Report. A PPI report contains vehicle history information collected only in Virginia.
If you believe you are the victim of odometer fraud, you may:
- File an online complaint with DMV Law Enforcement.
- Contact DMV Law Enforcement with the details of your complaint, either via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 804-367-1678
Checking the Recorded Odometer Reading
When you present your title application (VSA 17A), DMV will check the recorded odometer reading against past readings. If there is a discrepancy, you may either:
- Allow DMV to hold your title while you collect evidence of the vehicle's actual mileage. Evidence may include inspection records, maintenance records, and work orders. You may bring your evidence to the nearest DMV customer service center. You will be contacted after the evidence has been reviewed.
- Proceed with the transaction. The odometer reading recorded on your title will be branded "Not Actual." This could greatly diminish the value of your vehicle.
If you had selected the first option and your evidence has been accepted, the odometer reading recorded on your title will be listed as "Actual." If your evidence is not accepted, the odometer reading recorded on your title will be listed as "Not actual" with the higher mileage recorded.
Once DMV makes a determination regarding the odometer reading recorded on your title, it is final.
- Your Odometer: The Key to Your Car's Value (DMV 280) - A PDF document containing information similar to this page
- Odometer Disclosure Statement (VSA 5) - Required when selling a vehicle in Virginia
- Odometer Fraud Complaint - If you suspect you are the victim of odometer fraud
- Titling a vehicle in Virginia - How to title a vehicle in Virginia, including odometer information
- Virginia Dealer Manual
- Obtaining DMV Records
- NMVTIS Vehicle History Report - The National Motor Vehicle Titling Information System (NMVTIS) offers vehicle history reports free or for a small fee.