Rogue traders may exploit high-tech cars but there is a solution.

James Ruppert: how to beat tech cheaters

James Ruppert: how to beat tech cheaters

by James Ruppert

26 February 2019

Follow @@autocar

According to our friends in the north, specifically the Nordic region, car owners will be easier to cheat once advanced technology is introduced. 

Bo Ericsson, CEO of the Swedish Vehicle Workshop Association (SFVF), is the one sounding the alarm. He is pretty cool that all the big players are doing the right things, but there is a group of companies out there which are doing their very best to verify and guarantee that what you are buying is the real thing, with a properly stamped-up service history and genuine mileage. 

Apparently, consumers in the EU are being deceived by rogue car dealers for the equivalent of €8.9 billion a year, so it is a good job we are off then… What is being highlighted is mileage fraud. It’s not as exciting as the great British crime of ‘clocking’ but it’s pretty much the same: tampering with histories and digital readings and whatnot. 

The SFVF also views the advent of self-driving vehicles with some dread because they will constantly be connected when 5G is introduced. It thinks that is a hack waiting to happen, allowing bad people to remotely manipulate odometers. 

The SFVF makes a case for boring things like digital service books, but actually printouts of company car service histories have been around for decades. Surely, the simple answer is to ban all this tech or, to be on the safe side, do as we always recommend right here: buy a zero-technology vehicle, or ZTV. 

James Ruppert: how to beat tech cheaters

Our Verdict

Mini 3-door HatchJames Ruppert: how to beat tech cheaters

Now in its third generation, we find out if the bigger, cleverer and more mature Mini can still entertain like it predecessors did

Find an Autocar car review

Choose a makeAbarthChanganAllardAlfa RomeoAlpinaAlpineArielAscariAston MartinAudiBACBentleyBMWBorgwardBowlerBugattiBYDBytonCadillacCaparoCaterhamChangan AutoChevroletChryslerCitroenCupraDaciaDallaraDavid BrownDodgeDSEagleElementalEternitiFerrariFiatFiskerFordGreat WallGeelyGinettaGumpertHennesseyHondaHongqiHyundaiInfinitiIsuzuItalDesignJACJaguarJeepJIAKen OkuyamaKiaKoenigseggKTMLadaLamborghiniLanciaLand RoverLexusLincolnLotusLynk & CoMahindraMarcosMaseratiMaybachMazdaMcLarenMercedes-AMGMercedes-BenzMercedes-MaybachMG MotorMiniMiaMitsubishiMorganMS-RTMurrayNextEVNioNissanNobleOldsmobileOpelPaganiPeroduaPeugeotPininfarinaPorscheProtonQorosRadicalRamRenaultRimacRiversimpleRoeweRolls-RoyceRoverSaabSeatSenovaShelbySinSkodaSmartSpykerSRTSsangyongSSCSubaruSuzukiTataTeslaTigerToniqToyotaTriumphTushekTVRVauxhallVencerVeritasVolkswagenVolvoVuhlWestfieldWeyZenosZenvoZolfeZoyte

Then a model

Driven this week

  • James Ruppert: how to beat tech cheaters
    26 February 2019
    First Drive
    Bentley Continental GTC 2019 review
    Immensely capable, quiet and refined open-top cruiser produces huge,..
  • James Ruppert: how to beat tech cheaters
    25 February 2019
    First Drive
    Porsche Boxster T 2019 review
    Porsche's drop-top sports car already had a strong driver focus, but the..
  • James Ruppert: how to beat tech cheaters
    25 February 2019
    First Drive
    Mercedes-Benz A180 2019 UK review
    New entry-level version of the A-Class includes a manual gearbox in the range..

As usual, let’s avoid the Defender or Series Land Rover cliché. Most of them are ZTVs, but you knew that. It is hard to find any contemporary carb-fed, no chip, no rail injection motor. There has been an element of elec-trickery since the 1970s. So let’s look at basic, reliable, boring vehicles that aren’t classic car trendy. 

Hateful old-school diesels are great, such as an unburstable 2003 Peugeot 406 HDi Rapier estate with all the services documented from 4500 to 140k miles and the belt done at 100k. An ex-demonstrator car plus one owner, no history doubts and yours for £895. That should be an almost 50mpg piece of kit, too. 

Another estate – this time a 2003 Volkswagen Passat TDI with a documented 240k miles and a couple of months’ MOT – was £250, so presumably bigger bills are around the corner. This was another two-owner example, incidentally. 

What I like about these sorts of vehicles is that there is no attempt to hide the miles. These are not true ZTVs, just honest ones. 

Mileage is nothing except a service interval reminder. Online service record companies exist, but I say keep it real and search out some real-world estate-shaped oil-burners.

What we almost bought this week

James Ruppert: how to beat tech cheaters

Mitsubishi Shogun Pinin: The tiny Pinin, named for Pininfarina, which built it for Europe in Turin, looks so like the full-sized Shogun in this week’s used buying guide that seeing one makes you think you’ve washed up on Lilliput. But it’s a capable off-roader with town-friendly manners. We found a decent 2002-reg example with 100k miles for £600. 

Tales from Ruppert’s garage

Mini Cooper, mileage – 102,445: Remember that Mini Cooper I own? It has been at my local garage for a couple of months. Yes, really, that long. I have popped in a few times to check up on her and obviously she’s in very safe hands. I even got to start her after Christmas. 

The boss, Ian, is old school and won’t let it go until it is running perfect. The work amounts to what can be described as an engine rebuild. Ian has taken it for a spin and there were still teeny, tiny leaks and seeps. Plus something was missing, which had to be fitted. Forgot what it is. Hope I’m not charged storage.

A to Z Bangerpedia

James Ruppert: how to beat tech cheaters

A is for Alfa Romeo 147: It was the best pocket-sized Alfa for decades, with great styling, engines and specs. A genuine alternative to a safe and dull old VW Golf. The 2.0 came with the option of a semi-auto gearbox, which worked well but wasn’t reliable. The 3.2 V6 had a whacking 250bhp but struggled to put all that power to the road. There were also 1.9 diesels, offering 115bhp or 140bhp. 

Today, choose between Turismo or comprehensive Lusso trim across the range. It’s getting rare now, but a tidy 1.6 TS from 2004 with 107,000 miles is £500.

Readers’ questions

Question: What new warning lights have hybrids and electric cars given rise to? David Potts, St Albans

James Ruppert: how to beat tech cheaters

Answer: One of the strangest has to be the Nissan Leaf’s tortoise light. It means the car has limited power. Another is the Renault Zoe’s battery with a thermometer through it. It’s telling you the temperature of the traction battery is either too low or too high and that you must reduce your speed. A third is the plug and cable light that’s telling you the car is still connected to the charger. Wonder what would happen if you sped off? John Evans

Question: I’m tempted by a 2006 Ford Focus diesel with 200,000 miles on the clock for £275. The MOT is due in March. Should I? Tom Ford, Guildford

James Ruppert: how to beat tech cheaters

Answer: It was all going so well. The Mk2 Focus is an incredibly tough motor and I speak from experience, having many times passengered a 2008 example with 150,000 miles on it. But then you went and spoiled it all by saying something like the MOT is due. The trick to buying a banger is to acquire it with a full year’s ticket and escape the wagging finger of the man with the clipboard who’d like to see your bargain Focus off the road. John Evans

Send your used car tales to and readers’ questions to

Read more

Used car buying guide: Mitsubishi Shogun

Ford Focus review

Taking on the Three Peaks Challenge in a Nissan Leaf​

Join the debate




I've been reading car

26 February 2019

I’ve been reading car magazines for 25 years and one recurring type of article is the type where the writer tells us about all the problems of new technology or how cars ‘will never be the same’ once this ‘last of the breed’s dies out. Remember the horror stories about how ECUs would make cars over 4 years old impossible to run?

Load More By Alexis Carter
Load More In Cars

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Check Also

New Bentley Continental GT V8 is most agile yet

Coupé and convertible receive a 542bhp twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre engine that's good…