Do A New Car’s Odometer Say Exactly ZERO Miles? (Checked)

New car owners may expect their cars to have zero miles on their odometer readings.

After all, a well-earned new vehicle shouldn’t have the characteristics of a second-hand one.

Keep reading because we’ll explain what you should expect, what’s generally acceptable and what to do in tricky situations.

Ford Fusion dashboard

Here’s the answer to whether new cars say exactly zero miles on their Odometers:

New vehicles do not come with exactly zero on their odometer readings. The minimum mileage you’d usually find in a new car is about 2 miles. It is almost impossible to see cars with anything less than that.

We’d explain why it’s so in a moment.

What Does the Odometer Do?

The odometer tells a car owner the total distance that car has ever traveled. It could be in miles or kilometers.

As you’ve guessed, it is beneficial when buying or selling a car. This is because it tells the driving age of a car and reveals more about the vehicle.

They should usually correspond if you compare the driving age in miles and the actual age in years. Typically, 11,000 to 16,000 miles per year is acceptable, and anything out of range could mean there’s a problem.

The odometers in use are mechanical and digital odometers. So you can guess how they function by their names. Keep them in mind; they’ll come up later.

Also, digital odometers are quickly replacing the older mechanical types.

What Should Be an Odometer Reading on a New Car?

This is essential when buying a car. Although new vehicles can’t have odometers with zero readings, they shouldn’t have extensive mileage, either.

Averagely, new cars would have at least 5 miles on their Odometers. An acceptable range is from 5 miles to 50 miles. This shows that the vehicle must have been driven over short distances.

Manufacturers usually do this before approving a car for sale. Think of it as your way of knowing they’re trusted.

Also, while the car spends some time with the dealers, they’d have to test run it occasionally. This is another way new vehicles accumulate more miles.

Can You Require New Cars To Say Zero on the Odometer?

It’s impossible to buy a car with zero miles since all vehicles must undergo testing before they can be sold. Other than that, the car must be driven from the shipment port to the dealership.

Unless you’d cover the costs of lifting and transporting the car to your doorstep, it’s not possible. Hence, any vehicle you buy must have some miles on it.

Don’t think of zero mileage as a disadvantage. Car and Driver explains that a vehicle should be “broken in” by the manufacturers before you buy it. They further emphasized that this “break-in” process isn’t complete until after the car is driven for 1,000 miles.

Their test running procedures help to fasten the process. You’re welcome.

What To Do If a New Car Doesn’t Say Zero on the Odometer?

Your new car will not have zero mileage on the odometer, so it’s nothing to worry about. As long as the mileage on the odometer is within the acceptable range, you are free to purchase the car.

Moreover, you should suspect any car with zero mileage. For example, if a car has zero mileage, it could mean that the Odometer has been tampered with.

Cars with low mileage on their odometers also indicate inadequate “breaking-in.”

How Many Miles Is Too Much for a Brand New Car?

For a brand new car, 200 miles is way too much. You should go for vehicles with 10 to 60 miles on them. New cars shouldn’t usually have over 100 miles on their odometers.

If you’re buying a car with over 200 miles, you’re probably buying a demo car. Demo cars are legally considered brand new but don’t qualify based on mileage. Instead, they are cars that the dealership staff has driven.

Think of them as cars with an extra layer of testing. They are considered new cars by law because they’ve had no prior owner (not on paper, at least). Good thing we know better, and they’re going to be cheaper than the cars with lower mileage.

So, if you’re opting for a demo car, get a great deal from it, at least. You earned it.

If your car has over 100 miles, you can choose to go for something else with lower mileage. After all, it’s your hard-earned dollars we’re talking about here.

Is a Car With 500 Miles Considered New?

Not at all. Recall that mileage plays an important role not just in buying but in selling, too. So buying a car with already high mileage isn’t helpful, especially if you plan to sell it later.

Potential buyers would weigh your car’s age based on mileage too.

Still, it may be in your best interest to buy a car with above 500 miles that still looks new. However, you’d be buying it as a used vehicle and should enjoy a massive discount. The advantage is that you won’t have to cover depreciation since the prior owner already paid for that.

What you’re doing is simply buying a car that has suffered depreciation.

However, before you do that, go with your mechanic to test and properly inspect the car. Components can only last for so long before they need to be replaced; some parts may experience premature wear.

So while inspecting the car, pay special attention to the engine and transmission or electric motor and battery.

Can Car Dealers Change the Odometer Reading?

Well, car dealers can technically change an odometer reading. Why? To help them present the car as newer than it is and command a higher price. This is called an odometer rollback.

So, although it seems unlikely since most odometers today are digital, Carfax has a different opinion. According to them, “nearly 200,000 cars have their odometers rolled back each year”. They also estimate that almost 2 million vehicles on the road have rolled back odometers.

Yes, you guessed correctly, that’s large-scale fraud.

How Do You Tell If Mileage Has Been Altered?

To avoid this fraud, examine the odometer for the number of miles first. The yearly car mileage shouldn’t typically be less than 11,000 or over 16,000. This is the first step in determining actual mileage.

For example, the odometer may be altered if a car is four years old but has less than 44,000 miles. Odometer rollback is usually done to take tens of thousands of miles off. That’s why it might be obvious enough.

Nobody goes through the trouble to take away only 2,000 miles. The wear and tear on the vehicle should also help you determine the actual mileage driven. However, some fraudsters can go through the trouble of replacing worn-out parts to sell the idea flawlessly.

You can also check out for missing screws on the dashboard or close to it. Contrary to popular beliefs, the mileage on digital odometers is regularly altered.

Dealers use mileage correction tools that they plug in. Hence, relying on physical inspection alone can be deceptive, and you might need help from a professional.

Related: Do Electric Cars Need Inspections? (Explained) 

Can a Mechanic Tell If Odometer Has Been Rolled Back?

Mechanics have improved methods of recognizing odometer fraud. They do all the analysis we’ve already explained above and more.

Since they’re mechanics, they rely heavily on vehicular performance and overall wear to determine the truth.

Hence, they check the vehicle conditions and observe the interior compared with vehicle age and description. They also examine parts such as the brake pads to determine their wear.

If the fraudsters have replaced specific components, they’d be able to tell the difference from factory-installed ones.

Usually, fraudsters don’t go all the way to refurbish a vehicle with rolled-back mileage. Doing so may warrant excess spending, which would void their efforts to begin with. That’s how the mechanics get them.

Related: Do Electric Or Gas-Powered Cars Have More Torque?

How Do You Know If Your 6 Digit Odometer Has Rolled Over?

A rollover (if it ever happens) is more dangerous than a mere rollback. Mechanical odometers tend to “reset” once they exceed the maximum mileage. For example, 6-digit odometers have an ultimate record of 999,999 miles.

This means anything over a million miles, and there’s a possibility of starting all over to look like “000,000”. However, digital odometers don’t have that problem.

Luckily, there’s an easy way to determine if a rollover occurred. First, it’s scarce for any car to hit a million miles without a total restructuring. Restructuring here signifies an engine and tranny replacement and overall bodywork.

Hence, it’d be too obvious so you or your mechanic can quickly figure it out. For example, a car at a million miles would almost give up. So a simple crosschecking with repair receipts would do the trick.

We advise you to perform a VIN inspection to validate various information. They include car maintenance, recalls, and car accidents to inspect and examine the car you’re about to buy.

When cross-examining and inspecting, compare the information offered by the dealership with that you got from the VIN lookup. If there’s any alteration or contradiction of values that doesn’t correspond, that’s a warning signal.

Still, we’d like to think that no one would attempt to sell you a car with a million miles on it. People are cruel, but we want to believe they’d have some conscience left, for humanity’s sake at least.

Related: Do All Cars Have ABS Braking Systems? (Basic Facts)

Final Thoughts

So don’t worry about searching for a new car with ZERO miles. Automakers are expected to test-run their vehicles to ensure they’re road worthy. We assume you wouldn’t want to experience a breakdown in your new car.

If you still insist on a ZERO mileage car, you can attempt to go shopping on the assembly line. That way, you get the vehicle as soon as it’s coupled (we’re kidding).

Also, if you and your mechanic pay attention to detail, you’d spot evidence of a rolled-back odometer. If you can’t prove it but are suspicious, it’s best you skip the car and maybe even the dealership.


How Many Miles Should a New Car Have | Car and Driver

Odometer Rollback | CARFAX

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