A Guide to Buying a Car with High Mileage

April 8th, 2022 by

If you’re in the market for a used car, one of the questions you ask might relate to its total mileage. Typically, the higher the mileage on the car, the lower its price. But would it be a wise purchase? Let’s look at some of the important factors to consider when you’re looking at a high-mileage vehicle.

What Qualifies as High Mileage on a Car?

red speedometer and odometer in a car sweeney cars youngstown ohio

Image via Flickr via Rich Moffitt

Whether a car has high mileage depends not only on the number on its odometer but also on the vehicle’s age. The rule of thumb says that the average amount of use a car receives in a year is 12,000 to 15,000 miles. To determine whether it’s a low-, average-, or high-mileage car, you’d multiply that base number by how old the car is. If you’re looking at a five-year-old sedan with 72,000 miles on it, that would be within the range of average mileage. If it had 80,000 miles, however, that’d be considered high-mileage territory.

Another rule of thumb says that any car with over 100,000 miles on it is automatically a high-mileage vehicle, but that’s not necessarily the case. Particularly with modern cars of certain makes and models, the 100,000-mile marker isn’t an accurate indicator of deterioration or unreliability. In fact, with proper maintenance, many cars can last several hundred thousand miles before you begin to notice anything wrong with how they drive. If you bought a car that has 100,000 miles on it today, you could realistically drive it for another 10 years without significant problems.

Benefits of Buying a Car With High Mileage

Buying a high-mileage car can provide you with a couple of key benefits, in terms of both practical considerations and driving performance. These include:


If you’re trying to sell a car, depreciation works against you. If you’re buying one, it can be a benefit. First, it can create a lower price tag for you. Cars typically lose about 60% of their original value within the first five years, and the depreciation is generally higher for vehicles with more mileage. Therefore, if you buy a five-year-old car with 100,000 miles on it, you stand to buy it at a significant bargain.

That’s not all. For vehicles, the rate of depreciation flattens out after a particular amount of time and number of miles. An older car with more miles depreciates more slowly than a younger car with fewer miles, so it can help you save money on vehicle ownership in the long term. 

Take, for example, two versions of the same make and model except that one has 80,000 miles, and the other has 150,000 miles. The first vehicle would cost a little more, and after you drove it for 30,000 miles, it may lose about another 20% of its value. However, the second vehicle would cost less to begin with and lose only about 15% percent of its total value. The money you put into the second vehicle would be lower both in amount and in proportion.

Reliability and Performance

The fact that a car is still running even after many years and many thousands of miles suggests that it’s in good shape. If it weren’t, you’d be able to see, hear, feel, and smell its problems. Often, this is because high-mileage cars have owners who’ve actively maintained the vehicle, performing regular tune-ups and oil changes and performing upkeep as needed. 

A well-driven car may even perform better than its low-mileage counterparts. Imagine that you’re looking at two five-year-old cars, one with 50,000 miles and the other with 100,000 miles. The lower mileage on the former may suggest that its primary use has been in stop-and-go settings such as cities and residential areas, which are harsher on the vehicle’s components, such as its brake pads. The higher mileage on the latter would suggest that it has seen most of its use across long, uninterrupted distances such as highways, which help to preserve important components.

Keep in mind that frequent, consistent use of a vehicle helps with lubrication and the burning off of carbon buildup. Lubrication helps prevent deterioration of the engine and gearbox, and burning off carbon deposits improves airflow and engine efficiency. This being the case, you can look at a car’s high mileage as an indicator of health.

What to Look for in High-Mileage Cars

Though a high-mileage car can be more valuable in the long run, it’s still a good idea to be mindful of certain concerns before making a purchase. To help ensure you’re getting a solid vehicle, look for:

  • Vehicle history report: The vehicle history report is a vital part of the research you should conduct for any used car, as it provides you with information relating to previous owners, repairs, accidents, damage, odometer readings, and maintenance.
  • Age: As mentioned, a car’s age factors into whether its mileage could be a serious problem. Compare the vehicle’s age with its mileage to determine whether the ratio is within reason, and apply this knowledge during your test drive.
  • Physical signs: When you inspect the vehicle, look for physical signs that point to its overall condition. Check to see whether there’s uneven wear on the tires, rust on the undercarriage or in the engine compartment, and proper alignment of the hinged components.

How to Make Your High-Mileage Car Last

Here are some steps you can take to get the most use and value out of a high-mileage car:

  • Immediately address mechanical issues. Ignoring a problem will only exacerbate the problem and decrease the life span of the vehicle.
  • As with any car, stay on top of the maintenance. Regularly change the oil, rotate the tires, check the tire pressure, and perform other activities as needed to ensure your car stays in good condition.
  • For replacement parts, don’t skimp on quality. Conduct research to determine what replacements are likely to provide the highest quality, and be willing to choose high-end options. 
  • Treat it right. The car is likely to stay in good shape for longer if you drive sensibly, which means gentle braking and turning and avoiding hazardous road conditions.

If you have any questions or want to discuss our inventory of used vehicles, feel free to send us a message. You’re also welcome anytime to visit us to take an in-person look at what we have to offer. We always want to help our customers drive away happy.

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