How to unmask true low-mileage second-hand cars in the Philippines?

Updated Feb 16, 2023

The mileage on the odometer is not something you can entirely count on because it can be reset with the appropriate tools.

It is not unusual for used car sellers to tell potential buyers that their cars are well-maintained with low mileage and in a “like new” condition. As a car shopper, you have every right to be wary of this advertising, and it’s in your very best interest to do a little research to avoid getting duped.

The mileage on the odometer is not something you can count on completely, because it can be reset with the appropriate tools. Instead, spend some time to carefully check the following car parts in order to identify real low-mileage used cars.

1. The gearshift

For manual transmission cars, car buyers can test the real mileage by shifting the gear stick when in neutral. The older the car, the more easily you’ll be able to move the gear shifter.

Car's gearshift

The gearshift is an important factor when testing a used car

2. The doorknob

This is the part very few car owners pay attention to, even if they have very carefully embellished both the car exterior and interior. Check the smoothness of this spot inside of the car door handle. Obviously, you’re looking for a smooth knob that has no signs of excessive wear.

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3. The floor coverings

When you check the floor mats, flip the two layers of the pad up to the corrugated layer. Then, use hardwood material to knock on this part. If you hear a rattling sound, it’s a safe bet that the car is pretty old. Car mats and carpets are usually durable and it may take a significantly high mileage for them to display wear. Therefore, if you notice the coverings on the driver’s side seem rather worn for a car that is advertised as  a low-mileage used vehicle, you can safely consider the possibility of odometer tampering.

car's floor mat

Check under the floor coverings

4. Front driver’s door

From the driver’s seat, try to open the front door about 70 degrees to the car body, then use both hands to give the door a little shake up and down. A car that is less than 5 years old should make no sound. At the same time, you also need to observe the 2 hinges for any signs of replacement or makeover.

>>> Related: What’s the optimal mileage on a used car?

5. The engine temperature

According to experienced car mechanics in car maintenance, it is pretty simple to guess the age of a car by checking its engine temperature. You should start the engine and keep it running for about 8-10 minutes then check the cabin temperature. If the heat meter is still below average, it means that the car is comparatively new with low mileage. You can also open the car hood and feel the temperature with your hand. The older the car, the warmer it will feel.

Car's engine bay

An older engine tends to emit more heat given the same level of care and maintenance

6. The brakes

One last tip to unmask low-mileage used cars is that you should try the brakes when test driving. When the 5 parts above have been passed, you can proceed with this last step. Keep the engine running on low, then hit the gears and slowly release. If the wheels move then accelerate smoothly without shaking or dangling, that’s a good sign. Of course, when testing you need to make sure that the wheels are inflated and well balanced. You can drive straight and when steady at the speed over 30 km/h, release both hands off the steering wheel for a while. If it feels safe to drive, it’s also safe to choose to purchase this car.

>>> Check out more car buying and selling tips on