A car’s mileage not only reflects its past travels but can also hint at its overall condition and longevity. In the past, high mileage often meant a car was nearing the end of its usable life and wasn’t considered a wise investment. However, modern vehicles are built to endure higher mileage while maintaining reliability and performance. With the right knowledge, purchasing a high-mileage car could offer you a dependable vehicle at a discounted price. Let’s delve deeper into this topic.

Just a few decades ago, buying a high-mileage car was widely discouraged. Odometers rarely surpassed six figures, making the idea of driving beyond 100,000 miles almost unheard of. Modern cars, however, are engineered with significantly improved durability.

Determining what constitutes “good” mileage when purchasing a used car is not straightforward. Regular use helps keep car parts functioning and prevents rust. Therefore, when assessing a car’s mileage, it’s important to consider not only the quantity of miles but also the quality of those miles.

The odometer reading quantifies the number of miles a car has traveled, making it a prominent factor in assessing a vehicle’s condition. Yet, equally crucial is the quality of those miles. This encompasses several aspects, such as:

Highway driving tends to accumulate miles more rapidly than city driving, but it can actually benefit your car’s overall health. On highways, you maintain a steady speed, reducing the frequency of engine shifts and giving the transmission a break. Moreover, brakes endure less stress compared to stop-and-go city traffic where they are used more frequently. Additionally, highways generally have fewer potholes and road hazards than city streets, resulting in reduced wear on tires and suspension components.

At first glance, it might seem counterintuitive, but a car that is used daily could be in better condition than one that has been parked for years. Cars are designed to be driven regularly, which helps keep essential parts properly lubricated. Conversely, prolonged periods of inactivity can lead to these components starting to rust. Despite the lower mileage of a car that has been idle for years, it might require considerable maintenance to restore it to operational condition.

Vehicles that regularly carry heavy loads or tow significant weight impose greater strain on their suspension systems. As a result, these vehicles typically require more maintenance compared to those used exclusively for passenger transport.

As you’ve discovered, high mileage no longer carries the same stigma it once did when purchasing a used car. While mileage remains a useful factor in evaluating a prospective purchase, here are additional considerations you may want to take into account:

Before delving deeper, it’s crucial to conduct a basic visual inspection of the car’s interior and exterior. Verify that everything appears in its rightful place without any conspicuous leaks. Check if the doors, windows, trunk, and hood function smoothly and securely.

This initial evaluation can indicate whether it’s worthwhile to proceed with a thorough inspection by a mechanic. A well-kept interior often suggests that the rest of the vehicle has received similar care and maintenance over the years.

Understanding a vehicle’s history provides insights into its overall maintenance. Aside from checking for major accident reports, obtaining maintenance records, if possible, can reveal how consistently the car has been serviced.

Moreover, a vehicle history report indicates where the car has been driven, which is crucial for your decision-making process. For instance, a vehicle exposed to salty North Dakota roads during winters may show more undercarriage corrosion compared to one driven in a drier, warmer climate like Arizona.

Most cars have specific mileage milestones that trigger essential maintenance procedures, which can help prospective buyers estimate future repair costs.

For instance, manufacturers often recommend tire rotations every few thousand miles, while transmissions may need replacement after reaching a certain mileage threshold. These scheduled repairs allow potential buyers to anticipate the ongoing costs of owning the vehicle.

There’s no replacement for the assessment of a qualified expert. Having a trusted mechanic inspect any used car, regardless of its mileage, is essential practice. You can also request them to review the vehicle history records to obtain a reliable second opinion.

If everything checks out so far without any warning signs, it’s likely time to test-drive the car. Taking it for a spin allows you to get a sense of how it drives and handles. It’s also crucial for identifying any unusual noises like rattles, hums, hisses, squeaks, or leaks that may need attention before finalizing your purchase.

Like the many winding roads it has traversed, purchasing a high-mileage car comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Let’s delve into some of the most notable pros and cons:

  • Price: Due to lingering perceptions that high mileage equates to poor health, cars with higher mileage often sell for lower prices. Additionally, older and high-mileage cars depreciate at a slower rate than newer models. This can lead to a smaller percentage of depreciation over time, potentially resulting in a more stable resale value.
  • Uniqueness: Vintage or classic cars with higher mileage are typically more interesting to own because they have been on the road longer. Assuming they have been well-maintained and not left idle, these vehicles can be enjoyable to tinker with and draw attention when driven.
  • Uncertainty: One of the biggest concerns when buying a high-mileage car is the uncertainty surrounding its history and current condition. Despite being able to obtain vehicle history reports (and it’s concerning if you cannot), these reports may not reveal the full story. For instance, aggressive driving habits like hard braking or high-speed cornering could have caused hidden damage that isn’t documented in reports.
  • Future repair costs: While modern cars are engineered for durability, vehicles with higher mileage are more likely to require frequent repairs. Additionally, they may be approaching major repair milestones, increasing the overall cost of ownership.

Buying a high-mileage car was once unthinkable, but times have changed. Modern cars can often endure hundreds of thousands of miles. When contemplating a high-mileage purchase, it’s wise to assess the nature of those miles. Additionally, prospective buyers should delve into the vehicle’s history and secure a thorough inspection from a trusted mechanic.