There are certainly a number of factors taken into consideration when shopping for a used car. You've probably determined a price range, list of models, preferred colors, and even certain options you'd like to have. However, another aspect of a used car that can make or break your purchasing decision is its mileage. It's no secret that lower-mileage vehicles typically carry higher price tags compared to those with higher mileage.
One of the most common questions that we're asked here at Schumacher Used is: How many miles are too many miles for a used car? We're here to give you the answer! Finding the sweet spot between mileage and price on a given used car is the best way to find a quality vehicle that will provide years of reliable performance without sacrificing your budget. We'll cover all the information you need to know about used car mileage along with some helpful shopping tips to help you make an informed decision.
The first thing to remember when considering the mileage of a used car is that not all miles are created equal. In fact, there are instances where a car with 40,000 miles is actually at greater risk for unexpected mechanical problems than a car with over 140,000 miles. As a general rule, lower mileage is better than higher mileage. Consider the fact that the average driver puts between 12,000 and 15,000 miles on their cars per year. This means that you can expect a 5-year-old vehicle to have between 60,000 and 75,000 miles on the odometer in order to be considered average. Below, we'll cover several factors that play a role in determining the risk that comes from buying a used car with low, average, and high mileage.
While some owners keep meticulous records and maintain their vehicles to the exact specifications recommended by the manufacturer, others will delay maintenance and neglect their vehicles. The truth is that the majority of drivers fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. Since mileage is just a number listed on the odometer of the vehicle, it's important to do a bit of research yourself to try and determine how well the vehicle has been taken care of.
A logical first step is to check the vehicle's Carfax or Autocheck vehicle history report for clues related to the maintenance records of the vehicle. You can see how frequently the vehicle received maintenance, if it was involved in any accidents, and if it was ever used in a rental fleet or commercial business. If you come across any red flags, consider a different vehicle.
Have you come across a vehicle with extraordinarily low mileage for its age? Sometimes, abnormally low mileage can actually present a variety of potential issues. Cars don't benefit from sitting unused for prolonged periods of time. Rubber components like gaskets, seals, and tires can become brittle and susceptible to failure if they're not regularly exposed to thermal cycles from regular use. Fluids are equally at risk for breakdown, leaks, and reduced lifespan when a car sits for a long period of time. Don't be fooled into thinking low mileage means problem-free! Be sure to do your homework and thoroughly inspect a low-mile used car before buying.
It's also wise to be suspicious of a newer vehicle that has mileage that far exceeds the industry average of 12,000-15,000 miles per year. High mileage means that this vehicle spent a great deal of time on the road and could have incurred above-average wear and tear. This creates the potential for the vehicle to require major services or repairs much sooner than expected, eliminating any potential value gained from the lower purchase price compared to an equivalent vehicle with average mileage. Once again, do your research and have a thorough inspection performed on any vehicle with higher-than-normal mileage before you make a purchasing decision.
Geographic location can also give you some insight into how easy or difficult of a life a used vehicle has had. Does the car in question come from a big city? There's a good chance that it's spent much of its life rushing from stoplight to stoplight, bouncing across potholes, and being subjected to door dents and dings. However, short-distance drives usually mean lower mileage across its lifespan.
Compare that same used car to an identical model that's spent its life in a rural desert town. Since the driver will typically have to travel longer distances to work, stores, and other necessities — odometer readings will be higher. On the plus side, wide-open stretches of highway driving are much less taxing on a vehicle's mechanical components. This is a great example of how a higher mileage vehicle may actually be a smarter buy than a lower mileage vehicle. The answer always lies in the details!
Just like mileage, it's important to consider the age of a vehicle when shopping for a used car. Regardless of mileage, certain components like belts, tires, and batteries will need replacing simply due to their age. This means that you should budget and account for possible maintenance and service costs based on the age of the vehicle just as you would the mileage. Age and mileage are certainly two factors that are related and play a role in determining a vehicle's value. In general, it's a smarter idea to opt for a vehicle that's newer in age compared to an older model. Just make sure that it's been properly maintained and is priced accordingly!
Now that we've covered many of the mileage-related factors that play a role in determining the value of a used car, you have all the information you need to start looking for your next used vehicle. In general, you always want to look for the newest model year vehicle with the lowest mileage, free of any accidents, driven regularly, and properly maintained. By taking the time to research vehicles that you're interested in, you can save yourself headaches and avoid unexpected expenses while enjoying thousands of miles of reliable driving. Shop our extensive inventory of used and certified pre-owned vehicles today!
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