How many kilometers are too many for a used car?


When it comes to buying a car, you want your new used car to give you thousands or tens of thousands of miles of hassle-free transportation. And common sense seems to suggest that the fewer miles a used car has, the more faithfully it will serve you. But with used car prices at record highs, a higher mileage car may better suit your budget.

Is Buying a High Mileage Car a Good Idea? Is the correlation between lower kilometers and the best car a strict rule to follow? The real answers to these questions are a bit more nuanced than they appear at first glance. There are exceptions, and they are not always apparent.

All of this raises an obvious question: how many kilometers should a used car have, anyway?

To give you a better idea of ​​what might be the ideal mileage for a used car – and why it’s a hard metric to measure – and when a high-mileage car might be the best buy, we did the research. and flushed out the facts. The following are worth keeping in mind the next time you check an odometer at your local dealership:

Use and abuse

All cars are driven, but the line between used and abused is thin. Some owners are so fanatical that they’ll keep all receipts for their car, whether it’s an oil change, refueling, or car wash. Others will not be aware of the need for car maintenance until the lights start flashing on the dashboard.

Most people will fall into the spectrum between these two extremes. But when there are two similar cars with different mileage, you should go for the better maintained car rather than the lower mileage car. Of course, there is a limit to this – a car with 30,000 miles is better than a car with 300,000 miles. But if the gulf is only ten or twenty thousand, would you prefer the neglected car on the lower mile or a pampered car on the top mile?

To get an idea of ​​the maintenance history, the best resources are actual receipts for services performed or a log of repairs performed. If these maintenance records are not available – and it is not unusual that they are not – a Carfax or Autocheck The Vehicle History Report will disclose any known service record history in its report. These reports will also flag any previous accidents, which you want to avoid, regardless of the mileage. Trusting a car’s history can be more important than any other factor, including the number of kilometers shown on the odometer. Many of iSeeCars used vehicle listings refer to the free Carfax and Autocheck reports. To complement these vehicle history reports, iSeeCars provides everything you need to know about a used car, including price analysis, listing history, and projected depreciation with its free VIN verification tool.

And don’t overlook just taking a peek under the hood. If you pull the dipstick and see dark, muddy oil, it’s high time for a change. Cracked belts and hoses are also probably past their prime. Equally of concern is cloudy coolant. All of these signs point to poor maintenance and excessive wear and tear, and it can mean additional headaches down the road (if you want a more comprehensive guide to inspecting a used vehicle, see what to look for when buying a used car).


On the other hand, it is obsolescence. Sometimes a car is hardly used and spends most of its life collecting dust in a garage. Eventually, when this car hits the market, the seller will likely try to get the best price thanks to its unusually low mileage.

At first glance, it seems like the premium is worth it – how often can you find a like-new example of an old, abandoned car? For those who swear by a certain product – think loyal city car buyers or diesel truck buyers – such a find sounds like a bargain.

But there is a catch. When a car sits for an extended period of time, some parts fail. Rubbers, gaskets, and gaskets are a prime example of this: when enough time passes, these flexible components will become brittle and ineffective regardless of their use. It is not uncommon for a car with unusually low mileage to show leaks after being suddenly put into service on a daily basis, due to the failure of these rubber parts.

The irony here is that if the car had been driven regularly, this might not have been a problem – the process of thermal expansion and contraction when an engine is running, as well as the light lubrication of all of them. passing fluids may have prolonged deterioration of the latter. rubbers.

This particular concern only applies to older cars with very low mileage – think of a ten year old car with only 30,000 miles or less. These are rare finds, and might still be worth buying if you have a soft spot for a certain make and model, but beware of potential expensive fixes that can lurk in an underused car.


You should also be wary of a newer car that has accumulated mileage well in excess of the national annual average of 12,000 to 15,000 miles per year. Any car that sees such large annual mileage means the driver was having a heavy seat time. It is inevitable that racking up miles with such a clip means that more maintenance will be needed sooner.

You might be able to buy a longer car for less, but that also means you’re much closer to major maintenance for things like timing belts, cooling systems, and brakes. Maintaining these systems doesn’t come cheap – and they are expenses that can be deferred if you buy a lower mileage car.

How old should a used car be?

It is worth repeating the annual average annual mileage for a typical commuter is 12,000 to 15,000 miles per year. This means that a five-year-old car is probably between 60,000 and 75,000 miles; a ten-year-old car also has 120,000 to 150,000 miles on the odometer.

At some point in a car’s life, unexpected repairs will start to occur with increasing frequency. There is no difficult age or mileage that this occurs at, but quite often it does happen when the car is 8-10 years old and 100,000-120,000 miles. It’s inevitable – engineers can’t build cars to last forever. If there’s a certain age or mileage to avoid, it’s the decade-old car that already has a six-digit odometer.

Mileage and vehicle age are indelibly linked, but just like mileage, there is no one right answer as to what a good age is for a used vehicle. Generally, you want the most recent car that you can afford within your budget. But the usual used car considerations persist – if there’s a car that’s a year or two older than you’d like but has been well-maintained and has never been in an accident, it’s is a better buy than a newer car that has been in a wreck or poorly maintained. . As always, the general condition is essential.

Highway miles vs. city miles

Another thing to consider is the type of mileage a car has accumulated. For example, a car sold new in a New York borough will have a much more difficult life than a car sold new, for example, in rural Arizona. Why? This New York car will hit potholes and rush around traffic to go from fire to fire. The Arizona car will likely cruise serenely on the smooth asphalt that winds through the desert.

In all likelihood, the spacious Arizona’s car will rack up a few more miles than its New York counterpart. But those kilometers in the desert represent good mileage: mileage that accumulates with a certain ease that is not found in city driving. The reason is the same reason salespeople love to brag about the miles of freeway in their advertising: an open road with no bends to face or traffic lights to brake is the least stressful scenario for an automobile. It is also the scenario which accumulates the mileage the fastest.

City cars that are not taxis or ride-share vehicles will likely do well below the national annual average of 12,000 miles per year. But they will wear out faster due to the nature of urban conditions compared to cars that typically do long highway trips.

The bottom line

Mileage should be considered as an important factor among many important factors when buy a used car. You want the cheapest car you can get that has been properly maintained, has never been in an accident, and is used regularly. Sometimes that combo means ditching the cheapest car you can find. It’s OK. More miles won’t kill a car, but prior neglect will.

Shop smart and buy the nicest car you can find, and you will get thousands of miles of happy driving.

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