The smart way to get your money’s worth when buying a car is to buy used. New cars depreciate immensely, Buying a car that already has over 150,000 miles or even 200,000 miles won’t depreciate more than a few thousand dollars and it will be depreciating to its salvage value. Overall, buying a used vehicle instead of a new one is the best way to stretch your dollars.
If you are looking for an older vehicle, you are likely wondering at what point a vehicle has “too many” miles. The answer is that it varies from make and model of car and from case to case. In most instances, a vehicle should be judged on how it was cared for and driven instead of how many miles it has. A car may have 75,000 miles on it but if those 75,000 miles included heavy acceleration, fast braking, off roading, driving through mud without being properly cared for the car isn’t going to make it as far as a vehicle that was consciously driven and meticulously maintained.
So at what point should you walk away? At what point in time is a car considered high mileage?
High Mileage Is More Than 10k Miles Per Year Of Age
The term high mileage is relative. A car can be one year old with 25,000 miles and be considered high mileage where as a ten year old vehicle with 90,000 miles isn’t. A vehicle should have 10,000 miles put on it per year on average so any vehicle with less than 10,000 x Years = X is considered low mileage.
Another standard of mileage is a car with over 100,000 miles is considered high mileage. While it is true that a used car purchase of a vehicle with over 100,00 miles is riskier, if you make a smart investment in the brand of car as well as the car model you choose and have the car looked over thoroughly by a mechanic you’ll likely be making a smarter decision than going with a newer vehicle.
A Higher Mileage Vehicle Is A Smart Purchase
Again, judging a vehicle by its mileage is a bad idea. There are so many reasons that a vehicle may last or may break down after you buy it and the sheer statistic of mileage alone will not tell you what you need to know. Sure an older vehicle is going to need more maintenance and older parts will need to be replaced at some point, however how a car was driven and maintained is far more important than how many miles the car has.
You should always ask to see the maintenance records for a vehicle. If they don’t have them, the vehicle is automatically worth less. You should also see major car repairs detailed in a vehicle history report like Carfax. Things to look for in the maintenance records includes what major repairs have been made and how well the previous owner has followed the maintenance routines of a vehicle.
Mileage can tell you a lot about a vehicle and it is an important stat to look at, just keep in mind it isn’t everything. If you do plan on buying a higher mileage vehicle, I recommend not planning to spend a lot and having a budget prepared of a few thousand dollars to buy a different car when the time comes or be prepared to repair yours. In many cases these higher mileage vehicles will surprise you and will be well worth the money that you paid for them.
If you are going to buy high mileage, you should opt to buy a newer car or a brand known for its reliability in high mileage cars. Newer vehicles have newer technology and they do statistically get to higher mileage counts than their older counterparts. If you are curious, there are vehicles that are smarter purchases than others when it comes to buying high mileage.
Best High Mileage Vehicles To Buy
The best way to stretch your money is to buy a higher mileage used car and keep it well maintained. There are costs of getting and selling cars quickly including tag, title and taxes, so keeping your car for a long time will also help to keep costs of transportation low. When buying used vehicles, some brands are a great option and others are money pits. Do your research and talk to a mechanic you trust when considering a make and model to find out what are common issues they see with each car you are considering.
Check out these used cars recommended by usedcars.com
- Toyota Camry
- Honda Accord
- Lexus ES 350
- Buick Verano
- Toyota Avalon
- Honda Civic
- Toyota Corolla
- Hyundai Sonata
- Toyota Prius
- Buick Lacrosse
The Japanese car brands do exceptionally well on this list which comes as zero surprise as they are known for their reliability. Personally I bought a Honda SUV that had 180,000 miles and I’ve had no problems with it in the last 6 months. The insurance is cheap, it runs great, and I paid under $4000 cash for the vehicle. No car payment NO PROBLEMS.
High Mileage Vehicle Issues
High mileage vehicles are notorious for certain parts breaking and certain issues arising. Usually this is because parts wear out and these parts are wearing out in a timeframe that is to be expected. If you don’t have an extended warranty on your vehicle these parts can be expensive to repair, which is why having a warranty after a dealership warranty wears out is ALWAYS a good idea. I have yet to have any issues with my high mileage vehicle, but it helps me sleep better at night knowing if my car does have an unexpected break down that those repairs won’t be coming out of my pocket.
There are certain issues that are predictable and we see a lot in older or high mileage cars. Here they are:
Transmission: Transmissions don’t have a set number of years or miles that they hold up for because it all depends how the car has been driven. There is a correlation between cars reaching 100,000 miles and the transmission wearing out. Replacing the transmission is one of the top 15 most expensive repairs that you can make on a car and in most cases replacing the transmission is more expensive than buying your car again. When this happens, the car is considered totalled.
Battery: A less expensive fix, you can expect to replace the battery in your vehicle every 4 years no matter how many miles or starts the car has seen. You can check the battery using a battery tester, and when your mechanic inspects your vehicle you can ask them to check the volts left in your battery. A new battery wont cost you more than $500
Brake Pads: Brake pads of the vehicle are an important safety feature which do need to be replaced at semi frequent intervals. If you feel the stopping power of the car is reduced or the brakes are starting to squeak it is likely time for this maintenance item to be performed. If you accelerate hard and brake fast, you’ll definitely have to replace your brake pads more frequently. On average brake pads will see you through about 40,000 miles, however aggressive driving can cut that time frame in half.
Tires: Similarly to your brake pads, tires also last longer if you drive more conservatively. You should check the tread to ensure your tires are getting you safely from point A to point B.
Over time, the tough rubber that your tires are built out of will wear away against the pavement. Tread is measured in the United States to the 1/32nd of an inch. New tires will offer tread depths between 9/32 and 11/32 of an inch. Tires are considered unsafe when they reach 2/32 of an inch but it’s best to replace tires before it gets close to that tread depth. On average tires last between 60,000 and 75,000 miles.
Fuel Pump: Keeping your gas tank on F will help you when it comes to preventing this very expensive repair, unfortunately it won’t eliminate the threat completely. If you drive with low fuel levels frequently it will overwork the fuel pump and cause fuel pump failure prematurely. In many cases the fuel pump will last the life of the vehicle, but be sure to drive with appropriate gas levels and get your fuel filter replaced using your suggested maintenance schedule included in the owner’s manual.
Water Pump: The water pump will begin to leak coolant when it is beginning to fail, this is bad for the environment and bad for any animals that make the mistake of drinking the leaked coolant. Be sure to get this issue fixed because besides these reasons a vehicle will also overheat without proper coolant levels. Replacing the water pump is expensive because it is a difficult part to access. If your car has a timing belt, consider replacing the two items at the same time as they are closely located. The water pump will need to be replaced every 60,000 to 90,000 miles.
Timing Belt: If you have a timing belt which is usually true with older models (newer vehicles have replaced the timing belt with a timing chain which is far more reliable and lasts the lifetime of the car), and you allow the timing belt to go out, the sheer force will likely break other engine components and total your vehicle. It is for this reason that timing belt replacement is suggested every 60,000 to 90,000 miles and replaced when the water pump needs maintenance.
Know the Risks Of Buying High Mileage
You aren’t going to have all of the information when you decide to buy a high mileage vehicle and unfortunately you won’t ever be sure how long these vehicles are going to last. If you know the previous owner then you have a decent idea of how they drive the car. If you don’t know how the car was driven it can be more of a gamble. You can ask to do a ride along with them and see their driving style but keep in mind they are likely not the only owner in the vehicle’s history.
A good thing to ask for are maintenance records because otherwise you are going in blind about how the car was maintained. If the car was a rental car or a fleet vehicle early on in it’s life then you can be sure the car was well maintained during those years. These are all details you can find in a vehicle history report like Carfax.
Things You Want Before Agreeing To Buy A High Mileage Vehicle
Here you’ll find a list of things you should probably get before signing for a vehicle.
- Maintenance records
- A carfax or some form of records based upon the car’s VIN
- Knowledge on the car’s history and how many owners it has had
- A title with the vehicle owner’s (who is also the person selling you the car) name on it
- A clean title
Car Purchase Checklist
- Check the value of the car using a blue book service before reaching out to the seller to establish what a fair price for the car is
- Get the current mileage of the car
- Ask for the VIN so that you can run a thorough check on the vehicle before going out to see it.
- Ask for service records and verify they match the records on the carfax report you ran. Just know that work done outside of a dealership will not be reported to the carfax so take that into account
- Ensure the title is in the person’s name who is selling the car. If there are multiple names on the title you’ll want to make sure they will all be present for the sale of the vehicle.
- Try to purchase from a local person
- Check for recalls
- Test drive the vehicle being sure to get it up to highway speed
- Bring a friend or family member for safety
- Find a seller who will agree to meet in a public location
- Find out if the car is still under warranty if it is within the years and mileage of the standard warranty. If it isn’t still being covered, find out why that is. This can be a red flag that the car hasn’t been maintained well.
- Be sure to check out the car when it is light out or in a well lit garage. If you meet at night you could miss a glaring issue covered by darkness.
- Trust your gut instinct on the person selling you the car and on the vehicle itself
- Go to the seller’s mechanic, be sure to pick a mechanic you trust or is highly reviewed (positively) on google.
- Let a seller rush you through a sale.
- Send money to hold the car. If someone asks you for a cash deposit to be wired to them then this is likely a scam!
- Buy a car with a salvage, or lemon title
- Buy a car if the person selling isn’t on the title or if the car has a lien
- Pay for the car before you’ve seen it, test driven it and have the keys, title and bill of sale in hand.
Questions To Ask The Owner
- How many owners has the vehicle had?
- Has the car ever been in an accident to your knowledge?
- Is the title clean?
- Is your name on the title?
- Is the car paid off or is there a lien on the title?
- Why are you getting rid of the car?
- What parts of the vehicle have been replaced?
- What mechanic do you typically take the car to?
- Do you have maintenance records?
- Can you provide the VIN or a carfax report?
- Are there any mechanical issues?
- Ask about features you are interested in
- Ask about the items on the common issues list you compiled in your research
- How much do you want for the car?
- Have the airbags ever been deployed?
- Who drives the car and what do they use it for?
The Importance Of Test Driving A Used Vehicle
You should drive any car you are interested in before you buy it. This is especially important when buying a used car. If you are buying a higher mileage vehicle there are two things that you’ll want to do, test drive and take the car to a mechanic that you trust.
Be sure to check off all of the items on this list when checking over the vehicle during the test drive:
- How the car starts
- Air conditioning
- Windshield wipers
- All windows and door locks
- All signals and lights including
- Brake lights
- Turn signals
- Emergency lights
- Internal lights
- Brights and fog lights
- Stop and go
- How the car takes turns
- Suspension give
- Cruise control
- High speed performance (get the car up over 65mph)
When you are looking over the vehicle you’ll also want to take a peek at the brake pads and tires to see how much life is left in them. Adjust the price you are willing to pay for the car accordingly. Next you’re going to want to have the entire vehicle evaluated by a mechanic.
Get The Car Inspected Prior To Purchasing
If you have test driven the car and everything else about the title of the vehicle has checked out, it is a very good idea to have the car inspected by a mechanic before you buy it. A mechanic (assuming you are not well versed in the under the hood workings of a vehicle) will have a much better idea of what the status of the car is and can advise you if the car is or isn’t a smart purchase.
There are quite a few things that a mechanical inspection will cover including:
- Body Condition
- Computerized Engine Check
How To Make A High Mileage Vehicle Last
Whether you absolutely love your current car, or can’t afford a new one for the time being, you want your car to run for a long time. Not only do you need to get around, but if a high mileage vehicle is in good working order then some of it’s value can still be recouped at the end of it’s time with you if you do decide to sell or trade it in. While it won’t last forever, there are steps you can take to keep your car going for as long as possible. Be sure to Make repairs immediately: When something breaks, repair it as quickly as possible and do not drive the car until the problem has been resolved. Your problem is unlikely to go away and will likely just get worse and may lead to other more severe issues. As soon as your check engine light comes on or you start hearing some unusual sounds coming from under the hood, take your car to a mechanic to get it checked out and repaired.
- Follow the owners manual when it comes to maintenance: No one knows how to care for your vehicle and maintain it better than the people who built the dang thing. The owner’s manual should be your bible to what routine maintenance will need to be completed over the many years and miles that you spend with your car. From what type of coolant and fluids the car takes to the appropriate time frame for oil changes, let your owner’s manual guide you to a long happy life with your vehicle. Neglect these maintenance items at any point in the life cycle and your car’s usable life will be cut shorter than necessary.
- Don’t use cheaply made replacement parts: When repairs need to be made on your vehicle, you want to make sure that you’re putting the best parts in. When it comes to auto parts, you typically get what you pay for and while a new part may be expensive upfront, it will save you a whole lot of cash and frustration down the road. So if you want to keep your car in optimal safe driving condition, put the parts in your vehicle that your mechanic recommends.
- Drive well: If you beat the heck out of your vehicle every time you get behind the wheel, your car probably won’t last as long as it could. There is something to be said for conservative driving and it does in fact correlate with the lifespan of your car. Don’t speed up and slow down quickly, take turns reasonably and at a good speed, and avoid bad roads to help your car last as long as possible.
- Prevent salt damage: keep your car clean if you live near the beach or in an area where it snows. Salt water is highly corrosive and should be kept away from your vehicle whenever possible. If your car is exposed to snow that has been treated with salt or was driven on the beach you should care for it by washing it. Especially the undercarriage of the vehicle which is especially susceptible to rust and corrosion.
- Consider an extended warranty: there are tons of third party companies that offer extended warranties for higher mileage vehicles. These can be a great option especially if you fall on hard times and your car suffers a mechanical break. The peace of mind alone knowing that your car’s repairs are paid for is incredibly valuable for some. Check out Protect My Car’s Extended Warranty Options below.
Protect My Car Can Help You Afford The Expense Of Repairing A High Mileage Vehicle
We offer three levels of extended vehicle protection to meet consumer’s needs. These plans are for consumers with vehicles that are less than 10 years of age and less than 125,000 miles. With one of these policies, you pay a $100 deductible and we pay the rest.
Protect My Car’s Driveline policy provides protection for vehicles that are 4 to 10 years of age with more than 80,000 miles. Driveline customers get a full 5 years and/or 125,000 miles of warranty coverage against unexpected mechanical failures.
Protect My Car’s Select policy is the best option for level of coverage on vehicles with more than 50,000 miles. Our Select policy provides complete protection for those vehicles that are just outside of the requirements for the Supreme policy.
Protect My Car’s Supreme policy is very similar to the manufacturer’s new car warranty and is designed for consumers who need additional coverage because you plan to keep your new vehicle for longer than the manufacturer warranty terms.
Need Help Fixing Your Repairs?
As you probably noticed, Protect My Car covers a ton of major repairs for your suspension and steering wheel and many other vehicle components.
In fact, suspension repairs are some of the most common repairs you’ll deal with on a regular basis, due in part to the declining quality of US roads.
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- A/C and Heating
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We hope this article has answered all of your questions regarding new car smell, and that you feel more prepared to take control of the scent of your vehicle both now and in the future. Consider protecting your vehicle with an extended warranty plan from Protect My Car. In addition to warranties, Protect My Car also offers insurance and maintenance plans and can negotiate the best prices on repairs with mechanics.