Buying a Used Car With High Mileage Guide

A well-maintained car remains useful well beyond 100,000 miles and may have some life left in it for local driving even at 200,000 miles. Buying a used car with high mileage can give you a great deal on price, but is also a tricky matter. A car of relatively recent manufacture that’s seen heavy use, such as a retired rental car, almost invariably has fewer problems than one whose mileage accrued over several decades, with the inevitable rust and long-term materials fatigue.

Modern electronic records and vehicle histories available online reduce the risk of an odometer rollback. Once quite frequent as a form of used car fraud, rollback is much rarer because potential cheaters know there’s a high probability they’ll be caught and lose the sale. Nevertheless, if possible, you should retrieve available electronic vehicle histories online to confirm what the odometer is telling you.

What Is Mileage On A Car?

The mileage on a car refers to how many miles a car was able to run in total in petrol. This shows just how efficient the vehicle is and why it takes so much gasoline to drive it. Furthermore, it can also show when a car needs to be recharged. The mileage won’t get worse the longer it is driven, but if a car’s mileage goes down, that shows that the fuel efficiency of the vehicle is decreasing.

The mileage of a used car will vary from vehicle to vehicle, depending on how much work has been done to it in terms of the parts that are still good. This means that the vehicle will have had some major repairs that were done in its short lifetime, which will lower the total mileage of the vehicle.

Checking Over a High Mileage Car

While high mileage should prompt you to be careful and thorough in your assessment of a potential used car purchase, it is not the primary factor you should use in judging the vehicle. Age is a much bigger concern. An older car has more rust and more failing parts than a frequently driven automobile that’s years younger.

Some of the most important things to examine a high mileage car before deciding whether or not to buy it include:

  • Check for rust. Large amounts of rust, especially in the floor pans, can equal structural weakness and ongoing problems. Large amounts of rust on a car with low to middle mileage can also be a cue that the odometer is rolled back.
  • Look for bubbled paint, which is probably hiding a rust problem. A newly repainted car may also have large amounts of lurking oxidation.
  • If possible, give the engine a compression test. No cylinder should have less than 100 psi, and the difference in pressure between the individual cylinders shouldn’t exceed 10%. An engine that doesn’t meet these parameters will probably fail soon.
  • Check the brakes and steering. Power steering problems quickly grow into an obnoxious money sink. If the steering feels heavy or you need to exert yourself to turn, power steering fluid is leaking and the problem will only worsen.
  • Pay attention to the condition of the oil system. Look for a car with a history of regular oil changes and that doesn’t seem to be burning oil rapidly.

High Mileage Luxury Cars

Some of the best deals you may encounter in terms of reliability per dollar spent are provided by high mileage luxury cars. People who buy luxury cars, to begin with, are likely to sell them off for reasons of fashion rather than because the car is actually worn out, making it far less probable that you will inherit a previous driver’s headaches.

Furthermore, companies build luxury cars to higher standards than regular vehicles, knowing that their customers expect to receive their money’s worth. A luxury car driven for 100,000 miles will be in far better condition than a bare-bones, base trim vehicle with the same odometer reading, simply due to superior materials and engineering. Finding a used luxury car for sale can give you exceptionally rugged transport at a bargain price.

A Special Note on Older Low-Mileage Cars

Sometimes you’ll encounter an ad for a used car that is a decade or older but has a very low odometer reading, not because of rollback but due to being driven very little. The car seller often tries to describe this as a positive (and likely genuinely believes that it is), using phrases such as “gently used” or “driven sparingly.” However, low mileage may well have the opposite effect.

An older car with low mileage may actually have more problems and less remaining useful lifespan than one with medium to high mileage. Driving a vehicle regularly keeps its drivetrain in condition by bathing the surfaces in hot lubricants and other fluids while ensuring those fluids don’t congeal into gunk. Additionally, rubber and plastic parts such as gaskets and seals get hard and crumbly if they aren’t warmed up and “worked” by the flexing and vibration of the vehicle in motion daily or several times a week.

Importance Of Checking VIN

When you go to a used car dealership, the first thing that they’ll ask you to do is to check the VIN (vehicle identification number) for used cars. 

Here are the benefits of checking VIN for used cars:

  • It’ll reveal any repairs that the vehicle has had since you bought it from them. 
  • After you’ve done this, you can go to a website where you’ll be able to look up any used cars for sale on the internet.
  • There are a few sites online that’ll actually be able to check VIN for used cars for sale. You’ll have to pay a fee for their service. However, you’ll get a complete report on the vehicle. This will include the miles that the engine has gone over as well as the details about any repairs that have been made on the vehicle.
  • You’ll be able to see what mileage the engine has gone over, which is the number of miles that you’ll have to travel before the engine will start to break down. This is the reason why people are so happy about the fuel economy of a car that runs on gas.

Conclusion

Age is a better indicator of reliability than mileage alone. A slightly newer, heavily driven car will probably outlast the “lightly used” retirement car of someone’s grandparents. Old, low mileage cars are a bad deal due to the high risk of extremely expensive – or even irreparable – breakdown. Look for a newer car even if its mileage is far higher, or a regularly used car of the same age, if you want several more years of dependable driving.