Reading Vehicle Odometer [Why it Matters, How to Check]

Your vehicles odometer reading shows proof of how many miles it has traveled.

The more miles is more wear and tear and less value of vehicle.

The odometer will not reveal if miles are highway or city.


The odometer is on the dashboard near the speedometer. It shows a 6 or 7 figure number that indicates miles or km driven, like in this picture that show 160648:


The word odometer is from Greek word hodos.

An odometer will be off a little if you use different size tires, like substituting 265mm for 275mm.

Most cars these days have a resealable trip odometer, making for easy mpg calculations. In the US, odometers are in miles unless there is a km marking.

Cars and RVs generally last about 10 years or 150k miles before the maintenance costs really go up and everything starts to wear out. First is the water pump, then the cooling system, then the transmission, then sensors and everything else. This is why an accurate odometer reading is important when buying a used vehicle.

Average car mileage per year is 13k. Average RV mileage per year is 5k. Your insurance company will ask how many miles you drive per year because it makes a difference on rates.


Example of an odometer with 48386 km, and 70.3 km on trip:


Read your odometer and note maintenance schedule like:

Change oil every 3k miles

Lubricate chassis of RV every 6k miles.

Transmission service is due every 15k miles.

Tires last for 30k miles.


Example odometer with 137666 miles:



odometer with 63693 km:

Towing a Car Behind an RV odometer reading.



odometer with 7286 miles



Odometers can break or be fraudulent. They can be rolled back or rigged with enough effort.

To fight fraud mechanics are required to record mileage every time a car or RV is in for service.

Video clip of illegal rollback:




In the old days odometers were mechanical, driven by a gear system and cable.
Most vehicles made since year 2000 have electronic odometer design which is a digital system that uses an electronic sensor to detect how many revolutions are happening.


Terms to know:

Actual means the odometer reading is true.

Exceeds mechanical limit means it has rolled over 100k miles or more so there is no way to measure if it is 100k or 200k or 300k.

Exempt means that it is not needed.

Not actual means the odometer reading is not accurate, faulty, or not functioning.