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Odometer vs. Speedometer — What's the Difference?

By Fiza Rafique & Maham Liaqat — Updated on March 26, 2024
An odometer measures the total distance a vehicle has traveled, while a speedometer shows the vehicle's current speed.
Odometer vs. Speedometer — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Odometer and Speedometer


Key Differences

Odometers record the cumulative distance a vehicle has covered since its manufacture, providing a measure of the vehicle's overall usage and wear. On the other hand, speedometers indicate a vehicle's speed at any given moment, offering immediate feedback to the driver for safety and legal compliance.
While an odometer's reading changes gradually and only increases over time, a speedometer's reading fluctuates constantly as the vehicle accelerates or decelerates, reflecting the dynamic conditions of travel. Whereas odometers are essential for determining a vehicle's value and maintenance schedule, speedometers play a crucial role in promoting safe driving speeds and adherence to traffic laws.
Odometers can be mechanical or digital, with digital versions being more common in modern vehicles due to their accuracy and reliability. Conversely, speedometers have evolved from mechanical linkages to electronic systems that provide more precise and instantaneous speed readings.
The primary function of an odometer is to track the total distance traveled, which is critical for scheduling maintenance, calculating depreciation, and assessing a vehicle's lifespan. Meanwhile, the speedometer's main purpose is to help the driver maintain appropriate speeds, thereby enhancing road safety and preventing speeding violations.
Odometers and speedometers, though different in function, often coexist within a vehicle's dashboard, providing essential information to the driver for effective vehicle management and safe driving practices. While the odometer provides insight into a vehicle's history and condition, the speedometer focuses on the present moment, guiding the driver's immediate actions on the road.

Comparison Chart


Measures total distance traveled.
Shows current speed.


Vehicle maintenance, value assessment.
Safety, legal compliance.

Reading Change

Gradually increases, does not decrease.
Constantly fluctuates.


Mechanical or digital.
Mechanical or electronic.


Long-term vehicle management.
Immediate driving decisions.

Compare with Definitions


Measures cumulative distance.
The car's odometer showed 80,000 miles, indicating significant use.


Displays real-time speed.
The speedometer indicated she was driving at 55 mph.


Mechanical or digital versions available.
Modern cars feature digital odometers for enhanced accuracy.


Aids in adhering to speed limits.
He checked the speedometer to ensure he wasn't speeding.


Can indicate vehicle's life span.
A low odometer reading suggests the car is relatively new.


Fluctuates with vehicle's speed.
The speedometer reading dropped as the car slowed down.


Helps in maintenance scheduling.
Based on the odometer reading, it's time for the vehicle's routine service.


Crucial for safe driving.
Regularly monitoring the speedometer helps in maintaining safe driving speeds.


Used in calculating depreciation.
The vehicle's value decreases as the odometer reading increases.


Mechanical or electronic types exist.
Electronic speedometers provide immediate speed readings accurately.


An odometer or odograph is an instrument used for measuring the distance traveled by a vehicle, such as a bicycle or car. The device may be electronic, mechanical, or a combination of the two (electromechanical).


A speedometer or speed meter is a gauge that measures and displays the instantaneous speed of a vehicle. Now universally fitted to motor vehicles, they started to be available as options in the early 20th century, and as standard equipment from about 1910 onwards.


An instrument for measuring the distance travelled by a wheeled vehicle.


An instrument on a vehicle's dashboard indicating its speed.


An instrument that indicates distance traveled by a vehicle.


An instrument for indicating speed.


An instrument, usually embedded within the speedometer of a vehicle, that measures the distance the vehicle has traveled since production.


An instrument for indicating distance traveled as well as rate of speed.


A wheel used by surveyors, which registers distance traveled.


An odometer.


An instrument attached to a vehicle or connected, as by a flexible cable, to the wheel of a vehicle, which measures the distance traversed.


An instrument located within the dashboard of a vehicle that measures and indicates the current speed of the vehicle.


A hodometer.


Such a device incorporating an odometer.


A meter that shows mileage traversed


A meter fixed to a vehicle that measures and displays its speed

Common Curiosities

How often should I check my odometer?

Regularly, to keep track of maintenance schedules and vehicle usage.

How does a speedometer work?

It measures the vehicle's current speed, typically through electronic sensors.

Can an odometer's reading go backward?

No, legitimate odometer readings only increase with distance.

What does an odometer measure?

The total distance a vehicle has traveled.

Can a speedometer affect fuel efficiency?

Indirectly, as maintaining optimal speeds can lead to more efficient driving.

What happens if my speedometer stops working?

Driving without a functioning speedometer can be unsafe and is often illegal.

Why do some cars have both analog and digital speedometers?

For driver preference and redundancy, ensuring information is always accessible.

Is it possible to reset an odometer?

Legally, no. Tampering with an odometer is illegal in many jurisdictions.

Why might an odometer reading be important when buying a used car?

It indicates the vehicle's wear and usage, impacting its value and expected lifespan.

Is a speedometer necessary for driving?

Yes, it's essential for maintaining legal speed limits and safe driving.

Does every vehicle have an odometer and a speedometer?

Yes, they are standard instruments in vehicles.

Can GPS devices replace speedometers?

They can provide speed data but are not legal replacements for built-in speedometers.

What is the legal significance of odometer fraud?

Tampering with an odometer to misrepresent a vehicle's mileage is a criminal offense, leading to serious penalties.

What's the difference between mechanical and digital odometers?

Mechanical odometers use gears, while digital ones use electronic counters.

How can an incorrect speedometer reading be corrected?

It may require recalibration or repair by a professional.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Maham Liaqat

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