Don't Let Anyone Fool You: Here's a Guide on What's a Good Mileage for a Used Car

Don't Let Anyone Fool You: Here's a Guide on What's a Good Mileage for a Used Car

Several factors come into play before deciding on the exact make and model of the used vehicle you prefer. Do you want a car, truck, or SUV? Automatic or manual transmission? Two doors or four? What about the color? 

Then, once you begin your search, you may find just what you're looking for. It may be in excellent shape with a full vehicle history report and just one owner. Things may be looking good, but then you see the mileage on the odometer. What if it has more than 100,000 miles? Is that too many? 

It can be tricky determining a good mileage for a used vehicle. A used car with high mileage – 150,000 miles, for example – could be a well-cared-for vehicle that's a steal. Or it could be a vehicle that's endured harsh road conditions and wasn't maintained properly. 

In most cases, you don't know until you delve deeper into the details. 

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How important is used car mileage?

The odometer gives you an indication of how far a used vehicle has traveled over its lifetime. While mileage is undeniably an important factor, it's best not to rely on this alone in determining a used car's condition.

More significant is knowing how well the previous owner or owners maintained the vehicle over the years. Be it a car, truck, or SUV, today's vehicles require regular servicing to stay in top working condition. 

Tires need to be rotated or changed for the best handling. Brake pads and rotors need replacing for optimum stopping power. And once the odometer hits 100,000 miles, other engine parts like timing belts, spark plugs, and air filters start to wain, too. 

You can get this information by asking the seller for service records, or you can obtain a vehicle history report. Vehicle history reports like Carfax and AutoCheck list service visits for oil changes, transmission service, or brake rotor replacement.

Another consideration is the number of past owners. Generally speaking, it's best to avoid vehicles with multiple owners and more than 100,000 miles on the odometer. With numerous owners, obtaining prior service records can be a difficult task. And with a car that's gone from driver to driver, how can you know it's been well cared for? Unfortunately, some drivers don't maintain their vehicles properly. You'll want to stay away from those at all costs.

Choosing to buy a used car from Shift can make the shopping process easy. Certified mechanics inspect every vehicle before it joins Shift's virtual showroom. Shift also provides free vehicle history reports, so you know from the get-go you're getting a quality vehicle that will last. 

Average mileage per year

The average car travels 12,000 miles per year. So if you're looking at a 10-year-old vehicle, around 120,000 miles on the odometer is typical. 

But some vehicles travel more, and some travel less. And there are ones that are a good choice and others of which you should steer clear. An important thing to consider is how the previous owner drove it. 

A car with more than average mileage – say 20,000 miles a year instead of 12,000 – may be an excellent value. If the odometer reading is mostly highway miles, wear and tear will likely be less because of the smooth surface, even speeds, and infrequent stops. If a car belonged to a traveling professional, it's probably been well-maintained because it's been counted on for someone to make a living.

Cars like these are an excellent value because you're getting a vehicle that has many years and many miles ahead of reliable driving. But with the negative connotation of higher mileage vehicles, the price will be lower. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum are cars that have less than average mileage for their age. While the low reading on the odometer may tempt you, it can be deceptive when considering the vehicle's overall condition.

A low mileage vehicle like this may mean the previous owner used it for short trips around town, like grocery runs. On short trips, an engine doesn't reach its ideal operating temperature. Consequently, the oil doesn't achieve the viscosity needed to protect an engine fully. And bumpy city streets, along with frequent stopping and starting, will lead to more wear and tear all around. 

Shift can take the hassle out of buying a used car with their in-house financing and their seven-day, no-questions-asked refund policy. Once you get your vehicle home, you're able to return it for any reason within seven days and receive a full refund. 

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How many miles on a used car is too much?

Cars of the modern era are built to go the distance. Advances in technology and manufacturing have led to high-quality vehicles that can stand the test of time. In the past, the common belief that it's best to avoid cars with high mileage held some truth. But today, other factors carry more weight than the number of miles a particular vehicle has traveled.

Taking a test drive and getting a feel for a used car is an excellent method to determine its condition. 

Does the engine start and idle without drama? Does it shift gears smoothly? Are the brakes and suspension in good condition?

Even if a car has more than 100,000 miles, it can be a great value and reliable transportation if it drives nicely and has a satisfactory history report.

Talking to the seller and asking questions can also benefit you in your used car search. Find out why they're selling and ask them about the car's service history. How – or, more specifically, for what reason – did the previous owner use the car? Has it withstood harsh climates or traveled frequently over rough roads?

If you're comfortable with the seller and trust what they tell you, a car can be a solid purchase, even with high mileage. 

Shift's easy-to-use website has a wide selection of pre-owned cars for every taste and budget. If you want to take a test drive, in some markets, Shift will drive a vehicle to your door so that you can get a feel for its performance and handling. This service is free with no obligation, just another reason choosing Shift is a great option for buying a used car.

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Used car mileage: summing it all up

Finding and purchasing a used car can be a complicated task. When you take into account a used car's mileage, it can get even more difficult. 

But with advances in vehicle quality and research tools, today's used cars with high mileage can be a great deal and make for reliable transportation.

The key to finding a good used car, no matter the mileage, is to view its vehicle history report, check its maintenance records, and take a test drive, if possible. 

If you go with Shift for your used car purchase, you'll be assured of getting a quality vehicle, no matter the mileage. Shift's certified mechanics perform 150-point inspections on all of their cars. And Shift offers best-in-industry service contracts, so your vehicle will be running strong year after year. 

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Author
Shift Editorial Team