How Many Miles Are Too Many for a Used Car?

July 29th, 2022 by

When you prepare to buy a used car, you may consider factors about the vehicle’s history to determine whether you’re getting a good deal. These factors include the age of the vehicle, how many owners it’s had before, and the total number of miles it has. Many people use mileage to determine the quality of a used vehicle and predict potential challenges they may experience with it. Read more to learn if mileage is a good indicator of a vehicle’s performance and damage, or are there other ways you can decide if your used vehicle is in excellent condition?

What’s Good Mileage on a Used Car?

Car Speedometer

Image by Kyle Gordon is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0

While there are no hard and fast rules for determining whether a vehicle has a lot of miles on it, one general rule people use is assuming the average driver uses the car for about 12,000 miles per year. This means that for each year a driver has a car, starting with the new purchase, they put 12,000 miles on the car. To learn whether the car has good mileage, you can multiply the number of years by 12,000. For example, if a used car is three years old, you can multiply three by 12,000 to get 36,000 miles.

If you assume a three-year-old car’s good mileage is 36,000 miles, then you can use that number as a rough estimate of whether it has good or bad mileage. A number significantly less than 36,000 miles could show that the vehicle spent a lot of time not being used and might suggest that an owner wasn’t maintaining the vehicle properly. A number over 36,000 miles could indicate additional wear and tear from being used more than the average vehicle. Both numbers can show you the potential for more risk than one closer to the 36,000-mile average.

How Many Miles Are Too Many for a Used Car?

If you’re using only the mileage on a vehicle, then you can continue to use the 12,000 miles per year average to determine how many miles would be too many. For example, if you have a vehicle that’s five years old, it should have roughly 60,000 miles on it. If it’s only five years old and has 100,000 miles, consider getting a different vehicle because it has many more miles than average. More miles on a car indicate a higher risk of higher maintenance costs. 

Is Low Mileage Good?

As you prepare to buy a used car, you might think that low mileage is a good thing, and that’s true to a certain extent. If you consider a five-year-old car again, you might see by its mileage that it’s resting at 45,000 miles. That’s less than the 60,000-mile average you can assume from the vehicle, so it’s better. This means the vehicle has slightly less risk than others with more miles, which can help you save money. Less than 40,000 miles could show disuse from previous owners, suggesting some different challenges with the vehicle.

Is it Wise to Buy a Car with High Mileage?

A car with high mileage may have issues from being overused by its previous owners. While many locations don’t sell pre-owned vehicles with too many miles, it’s still important to understand how many miles are too many for a used car. When you have a vehicle with high mileage, it may be important to look at other options before you risk a purchase. If you’re given a choice between a vehicle with high mileage and one with lower mileage, comparing other factors can help you determine which vehicle is better for you in terms of risk.

Metrics for Cars with 50,000 Miles or Less

There are other factors to consider when you buy a used car. While mileage can show an average of the vehicle’s condition, other factors can help you make well-informed decisions about your next purchase. These other factors include:

  • The age of the vehicle: The age of the vehicle is part of the calculation for the vehicle’s mileage. For example, if you have a vehicle with less than 50,000 miles on it, but it’s 12 years old, it may show further issues than the mileage through lack of use.
  • The number of previous owners: An older car may have had several owners or just one, which can affect the vehicle’s mileage and condition. For example, if a 10-year-old car has 50,000 miles on it and only one owner, the previous owner may not have maintained the vehicle well.
  • Accident history: Accident history can help you decide if you might experience maintenance challenges with a vehicle and help you determine its value. For example, if a vehicle’s history lists an accident near a total loss and the vehicle looks good, it likely had extensive repairs.
  • Comparable vehicle values: When you consider a used car, comparing similar-aged vehicles to the one you want can help you determine whether the value of your car is good. For example, if a vehicle of a similar age and mileage is selling for significantly more than the one you want, analyze the vehicle’s accident history to see if other factors affect its value.

Is Mileage or Age More Important?

Both of these metrics are important when you consider buying a used vehicle. This is because they are both used in the same calculation to determine the average number of miles the used vehicle has. A newer car with high mileage can be just as risky as an older car with low mileage. When you compare the vehicles, make sure you pay attention to both measurements.

At North Coast Mitsubishi of Akron, you can find services and vehicles to meet your needs. Whether you’re looking for a certified pre-owned vehicle or parts and services for a car you own, we’re happy to help. Contact us today to talk with a representative and find what you need.