Winding back the mileage meter or odometer seems to be a huge problem in Hungary. People try to make their used cars appear much younger or in a much better condition so that they can sell it for a higher price. The problem comes when the unsuspecting new owner takes the car to the MOT test or technical examination.
Since 2018, conducting an MOT test has been solely the task of private garages or workshops, but the government’s regulation is unclear on what the workshop has to do with a car on which the mileage meter has been wound back. It seems that almost everyone does it differently, and it has become somewhat normal for some to cheat in order to pass the MOT test; some even told the owner to wind the meter forward so that it shows more than during the previous roadworthiness test.
It is not worth winding it back less than 100,000 kilometres
According to Szabadeurópa, the case they heard about happened to have a 371,000-kilometre odometer wound back to just 281,000. A car mechanic told Szabadeurópa that, usually, if people wind the odometer back, they do it by 100-150,000 kilometres. “It is not worth touching the mileage meter under that in many cases,” he said.
When the owner in this particular case arrived at the workshop, they told him that they will not let the car pass the MOT. They then told the owner of two ways he could “fix” the problem. The mechanic said that either the owner could wind the odometer forward to correct the fraud or he could get a receipt from a scrapyard for a new odometer as if it needed to be replaced due to error. When the editorial office of Szabadeurópa called the same workshop, the owner said that they simply do not conduct the MOT for a car that has its odometer tinkered with, but the regulation does not state what is the necessary procedure in such cases.
According to the Hungarian Penal Code, a person who falsifies the data of the mileage meter of a car can be imprisoned for up to a year.
Can the test be conducted?
The 2018 regulation does not state directly that a car with a falsified mileage meter cannot undergo the MOT test; what is more, not even a spotless pedigree is criteria: the car could pass the test even with a tinkered odometer, although some things are unclear within the regulation. According to the Ministry of Innovation and Technology, the standard procedure is to treat this situation as if the car did not pass the test. In this case, the owner gets two months to perform repairs before a mandatory second MOT. The issue is that the odometer’s problem can only be solved by tinkering with it again or by unofficially replacing it.
I let it pass but with a warning
One of the inspectors told Szabadeurópa that they let such a car pass, but they write a note on the examination sheet about it. It seems like many mechanics do this, as the statistics of the Ministry of Innovation and Technology show that in 2018, there were 32, in 2019, there were 176, and last year, there were 221 such notes in the system.
The system is the Jármű Szolgáltatási Platform (Vehicle Service Platform) or JSZP. In this database, people can look up the history of a car by their license plate number as far back as 2012, as recording the mileage meter has been mandatory since then. Its main benefit is that almost anyone can search for the history of the car they would like to purchase, even getting access to pictures taken during MOT tests. The major flaw of the system is that regarding test stations, mileages less than the previous data can be easily typed in and the system does not send a warning, there is also no data before 2012, and cars brought in from foreign countries are hard to track because their odometer is usually wound back before entering Hungary.
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The whole system seems to be corrupt
It seems like the Hungarian MOT or roadworthiness system is quite corrupt, says Szabadeurópa. Last year, there were 1.58 million tests conducted. Despite the fact that the average age of Hungarian cars is close to 15, the success rate of MOTs has been around 99.9% in recent years.
In 2010, more than 3,200 cars failed the test, but by 2018, this number fell drastically to only 790, which, considering how the overall number of conducted MOTs rose by 300,000, is quite surprising.
The problem might be rooted in the fact that since 2018, only private workshops can conduct the test, which can give way to illegal solutions and deals. Often, workshops would offer to replace the problematic parts, or some would simply make the car pass the test for a bit of money on the side. Nonetheless, corruption seems to have crept into national test stations as last year, the Hungarian Public Prosecutor’s Office closed the country’s largest national test stations due to investigation.
The investigators found that the station was working together with the criminal underworld, and they confiscated HUF 250 million (€694,000) worth of property. The case involved a dozen employees and several officials.
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