High Mileage: Red Flag or Advantageous Deal?

When buying a used car, many people focus on the mileage. It most often turns out to be one of the determining parameters of the vehicle’s condition. But how many thousand miles on the odometer are acceptable? Are seventy miles a lot? How about one hundred and twenty? The used car experts from Indy Auto Man explain what mileage a car should have so that the purchase can be called a good deal.

What good mileage is

The average owner drives about 10-12 thousand miles per year. The best mileage when buying a used vehicle should be at or below the annual average. Based on this, a five-year-old car can be considered a low- mileage with about 30-40 hundred thousand miles. A longer holding period, such as ten years, is guaranteed to exceed one hundred and twenty thousand. If the number on the odometer is significantly higher, the wear and tear of the car is more tangible. 

In theory, a car with higher mileage should have more problems, and maintenance costs only increase over time, even on the used cars with the least problems. However, mileage is not always a death sentence.

Factors affecting wear and tear

It happens that a high-mileage car is in a better state compared to a newer one. The reason is operating conditions and compliance with the manufacturer’s requirements.

The wear and tear of a vehicle – its body, assemblies, components, and mechanisms – is most affected by the operating mode. This concept includes road conditions, ambient temperature, and climate. In addition, the quality of fuel and consumables, timely maintenance, and driver experience are vital.

These factors are important to consider when choosing a car with mileage above the 60,000 miles mark:

Climatic conditions

Operating a vehicle at low temperatures increases the viscosity of oils, friction, and, accordingly, wear of parts. This phenomenon is especially typical for starting and warming up the engine. In addition, some unevaporated gasoline or diesel fuel settles on the cylinder walls, impairing lubrication. The oil properties also deteriorate at elevated temperatures, which naturally increases friction.

Wear of body elements

Even if the car has never been in a garage or under a shed, its paintwork will be in good condition for many years. Most problems with the body are associated with getting into an accident, after which pockets of corrosion may appear. Regardless of the mileage, it is crucial to examine the paintwork. It is best to entrust this task to a professional who has a thickness gauge.

Wear of mechanisms and units

The more accelerations, braking, and stops, the faster the car exhausts its potential. The highest load is typical for a vehicle used for short-distance trips in cities with heavy traffic like Indianapolis. Variable driving mode significantly accelerates its wear. Sharp starting and braking, bad roads, and weight overload significantly reduce the car’s lifespan.

Roads quality 

The ideal scenario for most cars is driving on empty and flat highways. On rural and forest dirt in off-road conditions, any vehicle wears out much faster, both the engine and chassis experience considerable loads. Thus, with the same mileage, the same models may differ greatly in the technical condition of the units and mechanisms.

It is impossible to find out exactly where the car was driven. One should not hope the seller will reveal the truth, especially if the potential buyer may not like it. It is better to use common sense: nobody buys a Ford Bronco SUV for driving only in the city. And if such a specimen has actively conquered off-road, then, even with low mileage, its condition must be inspected.

Is high mileage worth the deal?

Naturally, there is nothing good about high mileage, but an old car is usually cheaper than a new one. So, the buyer should try to balance age, mileage, and condition with price. The best value for money is easiest to find in the age group of four to five years, and in general, the car can remain in fairly good condition for up to eight to ten years.