Passengers who ride in private hire, minicab and chauffeur vehicles are potentially putting themselves at risk because of a clocking epidemic within the sector.
Research from automotive experts HPI and consumer group Licensed Transport Uncovered (LTU), revealed that hundreds of millions of miles are potentially being wiped from the odometers of these vehicles each year.
The illegal practice of clocking is carried out in order to cut maintenance costs and deliberately defraud used car buyers when the time to sell on comes around.
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.
“The 330 clocked cars we found had about 80 million miles removed, but that was just in the north-west of England. UK-wide, it’s safe to say that hundreds of millions of miles must have been wiped out thanks to clocking.”
HPI estimated that used car buyers have a one-in-20 chance of being sold a vehicle with a mileage discrepancy, and that clocking is costing the UK motorists £800 million annually.
LTU’s investigation found that a Toyota had 114,000 miles removed from its odometer, while a Mercedes-Benz with 180,000 miles off the clock was on sale for £20,250 – when its true value was closer to £11,000.
The worst offender was a private hire vehicle that had a colossal 460,000 miles removed.
Hargreaves explained that manufacturers and leasing companies needed to be more prudent about lease agreements.
He said: “It is truly shocking to discover that reputable leasing companies are giving out lease agreements to the industry based on as little as 10,000 miles per year.
“In most local authority districts a licensed vehicle has to be doing at least 1,000 miles a week to make any money. So why is any lease deal being done for less than, say, 50,000 miles per year?
“If any thought was given to these transactions, the ridiculously low mileage lease deals would never be signed up in the first place.”
Both HPI and LTU believe that a major clampdown is urgently required.