So, you’re in the market for a new ride – but want to go bargain hunting for a good used car. You’ve found the model you want – and one listed at a great price – but then you look at the mileage and ask yourself: does this used car have too many miles on it?
The answer is a complicated one – sure, that sounds like a cop-out for us to say, but it’s true – since not all cars are created the same. But let’s look first at just pure mileage: the average person drives about 12,000 miles per year. If you see a used car that’s just two years old and has 40,000 or 50,000 on the odometer already, that’s a bit of a red flag, as it shows that the car has been driven far more than other examples in the same year, make and model.
That said, the 12,000 figure, while a good rule of thumb, isn’t infallible. If you’re in a part of the country that’s very far spread out, the average mileage per year for most drivers may be quite a bit higher than that 12,000 figure. Climate can also dramatically change the impact of those 12,000 miles.
A car driven 9,000 miles per year in, say, northern Michigan, with bitter cold, pot holes and road salt likely has more wear and tear on it than a car driven 15,000 mostly-highway miles in a warmer Texas climate. See how that “is this a high mileage used car” question may be a bit, too narrow now?
But all of that is also before considering another big factor: make and model. Cars like the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord tend to last for a long time and a lot of miles, and are popular cars everywhere that can get serviced without costing an arm and a leg. If you want a luxury used car like a BMW or Mercedes, remember that the individual components are more expensive and those brands don’t have the same reliable reputations of a Honda or Toyota.
In other words, if a warning light comes on, you’ll want to know you can get it repaired without draining your life savings.
All that said, the most important factor for any used car isn’t the mileage, it’s the previous owner(s). Vehicle history can show you if the car has any previous issues with accidents, maintenance or anything else. And in most cases, modifications can be a huge red flag. Do you really want to trust a previous owner you’ve never met with an ECU tune on a car you’re buying? Or buy a used sports car like a Subaru WRX from someone who thrashed it around? Nope.
So, while that 12,000 miles per year marker is a pretty good start to determining if a used car has too much mileage, there are plenty of other factors you should check in on before making your purchase decision.
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