Used car buyers have a 1 in 20 chance of purchasing a vehicle with a mileage discrepancy, according to an investigation by automotive checking company hpi and consumer group (LTU).

This investigation found that hundreds of millions of miles were being removed from odometers across the UK each year, potentially costing used car buyers £800m.

The practice allows companies to save on maintenance costs, and leads to inflated prices at dealerships once the vehicle is sold on. It could also lead to possible safety risks, hpi and LTU added.

Private hire clocking

The investigation uncovered hundreds of private hire, minicab, and chauffeur-driven vehicles in England’s North West that were operating with clocked mileages.

Chris Hargreaves, of LTU, said: “Clocking within the private hire, minicab, and chauffeur industry has reached epidemic proportions and something needs to be done to prevent this unscrupulous practice before a real tragedy happens.”

Barry Shorto, head of industry relations at cap hpi, said: “A clocked vehicle could be hiding serious levels of wear and tear…a potentially serious safety threat.”

A Mercedes-Benz had 180,000 miles off the clock, enabling it to be sold at £20,250 when its true value was £11,150. In one case, 460,000 miles had been removed from the odometer of one private hire vehicle.

“The 330 clocked cars we found had about 80m miles removed but that was just in the north west of England. UK-wide it’s safe to say that hundreds of miles must have been wiped out thanks to clocking,” Hargreaves added.

Despite the spread of clocking and growing customer concern, only 10% of dealers said they actively declare that they have conducted mileage checks on a vehicle.