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I took delivery recently of a new 2012 Elantra Sedan. To my surprise, the odometer read 235 kilometres. This seems unusually high to me. I would have expected perhaps 15 to 25 km including any PDI road test. The bill of sale shows 11 km at time of delivery. Below is the explanation provided by the dealer. Can you comment?

"When it comes to the bill of sale, we just put a number on it ... Most times the kilometres on the car range from about 50 to 300 on a new car … The reason for this being the car has to be test-driven a couple of times with regards to the inspection. And the car was most likely driven from to the boat in Halifax as well ... That is completely normal kilometres for the cars here when they first get here."

I have great difficulty accepting that there might be 50 to 300 kilometres on a "new" car. My sense is that the car was used as a demo. – Corinne

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A couple of hundred kilometres on the odometer of a "new" car may seem high, but the experts I contacted don't consider your case unusual, and say the mileage could be attributable to more than one factor. Before you were handed the keys, your vehicle may have been taken on several test drives, which can each last anywhere from two to 20 kilometres. We also know that, before arriving at a dealership, import vehicles must be transported over land and sea.

"The vehicles are driven at the factory and port to load on and off the boats and trucks, so we typically see about 20 km added right there," says one Vancouver dealer. "Pre-delivery inspections at the dealership require a road test, which can add 5 to 10 km. Overnight test drives are not uncommon and, if a customer takes a vehicle for a day and drives 40 km to and from work, it can add up."

As far as what constitutes a "new" vehicle, what's the rule?

"Basically a vehicle that's not been traded, or for which the warranty has not been registered, is a new vehicle," says Michael Hatch, chief economist with the Canadian Automobile Dealers Association. "There's going to be a range of mileage on a new vehicle when it's purchased, anywhere from zero to a couple hundred if it's been delivered from one dealer to another.

"Certainly, in more rural parts of the country where distances are greater, there's a greater chance that there's going to be a non-negligible number of kilometres on a vehicle when it's first traded. But it's still classified as a new vehicle until it's registered and the warranty comes into effect."

The consensus is that if your vehicle had done time as a demo, it would have logged thousands, not hundreds, of kilometres.

I contacted Hyundai Canada, which says officials will be happy to do some further digging into your query if you supply the 17-digit VIN. "When purchasing a new vehicle and there's a few more miles on it than a customer expects, that's something they can take up with the dealer with whom they are negotiating and take into account when they're purchasing that vehicle," says Hatch.

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The bottom line is a dealer can still call a car "new" with 235-plus km on the odometer, but you should have all the facts during the negotiating period. At the very least, request that the bill of sale be corrected to accurately reflect the odometer reading when you took delivery of the vehicle.

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