Mileage certainly matters in assessing a used car, and roughly 12,000 miles per year is considered normal, but there’s no magic number in determining a “good” mileage. What’s more important is how those miles were accrued, how well the vehicle was cared for over the course of those miles and how many miles you figure to get out of it going forward.
How Were the Miles Accrued?
If a car has traveled nearly 100,000 miles despite being only a couple of years old, you might want to avoid it because it’s had such high usage in a short period – and because the warranties are all long gone. On the other hand, you also should be skeptical of a vehicle that’s been around several years but has a low number of miles. It may not have been properly maintained due to its inactivity, or the odometer could be incorrect. Ask the seller for an explanation.
Additionally, used cars that have spent more of their lives on the highway tend to have a longer life span than vehicles that have mostly endured the perils of stop-and-go city traffic. The same goes for vehicles stored indoors versus outdoors.
How Well Was the Vehicle Cared For?
Vehicles that have undergone routine maintenance checks and had any necessary servicing completed will likely be more reliable than those that haven’t. Ask the seller about the condition of the vehicle, whether it’s been involved in an accident and about any service records he or she can show you to get as much information as you can about the quality of care it’s had.
You should also perform an inspection yourself to look for signs of negligence, then have a certified professional mechanic take a more in-depth look to see how well the vehicle has been preserved.
How Many More Miles Does the Vehicle Have Left?
Once you have a sense of how well the used car has been maintained, you can assess how much life it has left to help you decide whether it’s worth the cost.
Let’s put it this way: A well-kept, 8-year-old vehicle with 100,000 miles on it can possibly have more life left in it than a neglected, 4-year-old vehicle with 50,000 miles. A used car with a higher mileage can ultimately make for better deal than the same model with a lower mileage, so it’s important to vet the seller and understand the ins and outs of the car as best as possible.
A “good” mileage for a used car will depend mostly on how it’s been driven and how well it’s been maintained. There’s no set number to target, but there are signs from the vehicle’s condition and ownership history that can help you decide whether it has lasting potential.