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How many miles is too many for used car?

How to Know When Your Car Has Too Many Miles

Is your vehicle’s mileage too high for its age? Mileage affects a car’s value significantly. Learn exactly what standard expectations are here.

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When buying a used car, the attribute you’re most likely to hyperfocus on is the car’s mileage. A vehicle’s odometer can often make or break a sale, which is why it’s crucial to know what constitutes a “good mileage” on a used car.

What Is Good Mileage On A Used Car?

vehicle odometer

The rule of thumb about cars and their mileage is to assume the average car owner puts 12,000 miles on their vehicle yearly. This means in order to figure out whether a car has a reasonable amount of miles on it, all you have to do is multiply the age of the vehicle by 12,000. [Vehicle Age] x [12,000mi] = Acceptable Mileage With this equation, you could estimate acceptable mileage on a five year old car to be around 60,000mi. Anything significantly greater than or less than that amount could be a clear indication that there may be an issue. With that in mind, mileage can also be misleading. The number of previous owners has to be factored in. A ten year-old car with 90,000mi on it is a pretty good deal. However, if it’s had three or four owners over those ten years, it’s highly likely one of them didn’t maintain the vehicle properly. On the flip side, a ten year-old car with 30,000mi on it is likely to have only had one previous owner and be in great condition. Those types of cars have likely sat in a garage and been maintained with utmost care AKA a great deal!

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How Many Miles Is Too Many On A Used Car?

Stick to the formula above. How many years has the car been around? Compare that to the reading on the odometer. If it comes out to being significantly greater than 12,000 miles per year, then it’s probably in your best bet to pass over that particular car.

Can There Be Too Little Miles On A Used Car?

This is a question that doesn’t have a definitive answer. Usually, a used car with low mileage is a definite buy — even when unusually low. Take special care to ensure the odometer reading is an accurate reading though; rolling back the odometer is an underhanded, but possible tactic employed by unethical used car sellers. Review the vehicle history report and have the car undergo inspection by a professional mechanic. This will expose any tell-tale signs of use that the low mileage on the odometer doesn’t match up with. I t’s also important to make sure that all the parts are still in working order after the car has been sitting for a long time.

Is Age or Mileage More Important In A Used Car?

happy client on computer

The short answer: If the vehicle is in working condition, then its age is not a factor. Mileage is the standard indicator of wear and tear on any vehicle. That said, age is just a number. That vehicle could be ten years old, but has spent the majority of its time in a garage being maintained meticulously.

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CarBrain Buys Used Cars With High Mileage

Used cars, whether they have a ton of mileage or not, always have a home with CarBrain. CarBrain provides an online platform with a focus on less-than-perfect cars. Once you’ve been connected with one of our associate buyers, you’ll receive a quote for your car. There’s ZERO obligation and your offer is valid for up to seven days. However, if time is of the essence, then our associate will immediately connect you with one of our local service providers. Service providers will schedule a tow at your convenience, with 24-28 hours being the earliest. They will send a tow truck, FREE of charge, to haul your vehicle away. In exchange, they hand over the amount you were quoted — no haggles, no hassle!

What is Too Much Mileage on a Used Car?

A question you’ll hear quite often, «how much km is too much for a used car?» The answer to this question is — there is no upper limit figure. In times long since past, 100,000-miles (yes, miles — that’s how far back we’re going) was assumed to be a safe upper limit for the mileage on a used car. Equivalent to 160,000km, it was generally thought that by the time you were into six-figure mileages, the car’s major components would be worn out and would need expensive replacement.

That simply isn’t the case anymore. Cars, as a whole, are vastly more reliable now than they once were. This isn’t a recent phenomenon — as far back as the late 1990s, the hugely influential US publication Consumer Reports was noting in its research that vehicle reliability across the board improved dramatically throughout that decade.

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Since then, we’ve seen the growth of much more precise tools for vehicle design, which allows car makers to carefully judge just how long a component will last. For the most part, the major components of a car are ‘lifed’ for around 300,000km — that’s the big stuff, such as the engine head, block, injection system, valves and camshafts, alternator and so on. (Mind you, that 300,000km figure is an industry average — Volvo always boasted that it lifed its major components for more than 400,000km, and those were Swedish winter kilometres…) Lesser components will still generally make it past 160,000km before needing to be replaced. The only truly fragile (so to speak) parts of most cars these days are the brake pads and discs, tyres, filters, and wipers. Even lightbulbs are becoming more reliable — modern LED lights are generally reckoned to only need replacing if they’ve been damaged in an impact. Otherwise, they should last the whole lifetime of the car.

So how much mileage is too much?

None of which really answers our initial question — how much mileage is too much? Well, the short answer is that there is no upper figure. After all, a high-mileage car is often likely to have been better cared for. There are a handful of cars known to have passed the one-million-kilometer mark (even the one-million-mile mark) and these are now, in general, considered to be cherished classics. The first car that’s reckoned to have hit the magic 1,000,000 mark was — almost inevitably —a Volvo; a 1966 P1800 coupe (similar to the one Roger Moore drove in classic episodes of TV series The Saint). The car was owned, from new, by an American Volvo customer by the name of Irv Gordon. Now sadly passed away, Irv hit the million-mile record in the early nineties, and actually put a grand total of 3.2-million miles on the clock. That’s the equivalent of seven trips to the Moon and back.

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That’s a literally astronomical mileage, yet no-one would have flinched at buying the car from Irv — he’d kept it in perfect condition, and it was no ‘Triggers Broom’ either. Although major components had of course been repaired and replaced the P1800’s body was all-original, and it still had the original engine block and gearbox. The car is now part of Volvo USA’s heritage collection.

Conversely, a car that might only be one or two years old, and have less than average mileage on the clock (Irish drivers currently cover and average of 16,000km per year) might be in far worse condition than the 3.2-million mile Volvo, simply because the owner has not bothered to keep it serviced properly, and has treated the car as a ‘use and abuse’ product.

It is all about condition

So, the critical question is not mileage, it’s condition. It’s care. It’s history. It’s how well a car has been looked after. A car with low miles but sketchy history is to be avoided. A car with high miles but a service book full of stamps and a sheaf of receipts for work carried out is to be leapt upon and cherished.

So ignore any second hand adverts that trumpet low mileage figures. That’s almost totally irrelevant. Indeed, the only thing the mileage figure is good for is for checking the honesty of the vendor — a car with purported low miles but worn-smooth steering wheel, scuffed seats, and obvious signs of serious wear and tear tells you you’re dealing with a dodge seller. (Don’t forget to check a car’s history on for more telltale signs…)

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What counts is not mileage, but how well the car has been looked after. Beyond that, mileage — like human age — is just a number.

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