One of the first questions when shopping for a used Corvette usually is: “How many miles does it have?”
Imagine searching the title for this information and seeing the term “Exempt Mileage.” That might be a warning sign for you as a buyer, but don’t be discouraged. The use of this term is actually quite common for cars 10 or more years old.
The Federal Odometer Act (FOA) of 1972 protected consumers from odometer fraud. Under this act, the seller is required to document mileage at the date of vehicle transfer. The seller is also required to disclose if there is incorrect miles shown due to odometer malfunctions or if the odometer has exceeded the display limit of 99,999 miles, or “rolled over.”
For example, if someone purchased a classic Corvette with 70,000 miles and drove it for an additional 110,000 miles, the odometer would only display 80,000 miles instead of the true mileage of 180,000 miles. That’s because the odometer rolled over at 99,999 and re-started again at 0 miles.
Odometer malfunctions, such as cables snapping or gears rounding off, also are common in older cars. And in some cases, odometers can actually flip extra miles. All these issues make it difficult to reliably verify the mileage of older cars. That’s why sellers of cars 10 years or older are no longer required to report mileage at the time of sale. On the title under mileage, these cars will be marked “exempt.”
There are other ways to estimate mileage and, in most cases with older cars, how well it has been maintained can be more important than how many miles are on it. If you’re in the market for a classic Corvette, instead of focusing on mileage, look for these telltale signs:
• The condition of the console. A high-mileage car will usually show scratches and wear.
• The paint job. When looking at original paint, you can open the doors and hood and feel the edges to make sure there is not a ridge that would indicate a tapeline from paintwork.
• The door stickers. Original, low-mileage Corvettes should retain their original door stickers and show no evidence of overspray.
• The condition of the brake pedal and seat bolsters.
It’s also important to learn whether the Corvette was kept in a garage or if it had regular maintenance, such as oil and other fluid changes, new brakes or suspension work throughout its life. Answering these questions will help you get a better understanding of the car’s condition than simply knowing the mileage.