What’s a Good Mileage for a Used Car? [12K Miles Rule Explained]

Shopping for a used car can be exhausting. Finding the perfect vehicle that has not been damaged or driven into the ground seems nearly impossible. One of the most important things to look for in a reliable used car is the amount of mileage on the vehicle. To make your used car shopping trouble-free, we researched this topic to provide you with a detailed car mileage guide. 

To determine if a used car has good mileage, use the rule of 12,000 miles per year since the original purchase of the vehicle. If a car has 12,000 miles or less per year since its release date, the vehicle has an acceptable level of miles on it. 

A Honda Type R moving on the road, What's a Good Mileage for a Used Car? [12K Miles Rule Explained]

We know that longevity is your main concern when purchasing a used car. To give yourself the best chances of a successful purchase, read further to learn what mileage is acceptable when buying a used car. 

A gray Tesla Model S parked on a park

What’s a Good Mileage for a Used Car?

When shopping for a used car, your top priority is buying a vehicle that will last you for years after the purchase. The most common indicator of the condition of the car is what reads on the odometer. The number of miles is the perfect way to determine how much stress the car’s engine has already been through, and how long it will typically last in the future. In today’s modern vehicles, you can expect with proper maintenance that your car will last an average of 200,000 miles. 

Auto insurance companies and car buyers have determined that the best mileage that a used car should have is approximately 12,000 miles per year or less. This number of miles proves to the car buyer that the owner hasn’t driven it too hard, and there are plenty of miles left in the car.

However, if you are looking for a cheaper option, high-mileage cars are always less expensive than a car with low mileage. Do not go into buying a high-mileage car with the intent to drive it for many years; you may be left disappointed. There are a few exceptions to this rule, such as a Toyota Camry or Honda Accord, as these models can last for a very long time. These cars bought with 100,000 miles on it have the potential for another 100,000 miles. 

While the ideal amount of miles is 12,000 per year, car shoppers can still consider a vehicle if the driver averaged up to 20,000-miles per year. 20,000-miles per year is considered high-mileage by auto insurance companies, and this high number of miles can take a toll on the car’s engine faster.

More Than Just Mileage

The 12,000 miles per year rule works in most cases. But there is one situation that may occur during your used car shopping that is the exception to the rule. An older model car may have been sitting in someone’s yard for an extended time. The car’s odometer may have low mileage, but the car’s weathering and damage make it a dangerous purchase.

A car’s mileage doesn’t tell the whole story. It would be best if you also inspect the vehicle to ensure there are no other defects or possible repairs needed for the car. Taking the used car to the mechanic before you purchase it will be your best option to ensure your car is functioning correctly. A car may have good mileage on the odometer, but has oil leaks and other mechanical problems. Any vehicle can experience a malfunction, no matter the year or amount of miles it has on it.

As a car gathers miles, its components start to become worn and require replacement. Below we are some common issues and when they are likely to happen. 

150,000 Miles

One main problem of an aging car engine with over 150,000-miles is its piston ring seals become weaker, resulting in burning oil that can cause engine failure. Replacing piston rings is a labor-intensive and costly job that you should stay far away from.

100,000 Miles

Used cars that reach 100,000 miles have an increased likelihood of transmission failure and can fail sooner without proper maintenance. If your vehicle experiences a transmission failure, in most cases, it will require a replacement transmission, which can cost several thousand dollars. Check for the signs of transmission problems when shopping for a used car. 

50,000 Miles

Along with these major repairs, cars with more than 50,000-miles are also susceptible to broken timing belts, water pump leaks, and worn brake pads. 

How Many Miles on a Used Car is Too Much?

When purchasing a used car, there are a few factors to consider if the mileage is too much. The brand of the vehicle is a crucial factor for what the typical longevity is for the car. Car models made by reliable brands are built to last, able to reach the 200,000-mile mark and beyond in many cases. However, if you are looking for a reliable marker for when the mileage is too much, 135,000 or more miles on the odometer is when you should start to be cautious.

Cars with 135,000 or more miles on average have only a few years’ worth of life left—at best. If you want a used car that will last you for several years, purchasing a vehicle with lower mileage gives you more potential for a longer life for the vehicle. 

Another factor to consider is the year of the car. A car made in 2018 with 50,000 miles has been driven hard and possibly been pushed to its limits already. A newer car with an excessive amount of miles is worth less than a slightly older car with an average amount of miles on the odometer. 

What is a Low Mileage For a Used Car?

A used car that has low mileage is one that has less than 12,000 miles per year driven. A used car that is seven years old would need to have less than 84,000 miles to be considered low mileage. A car with low mileage will generally command a higher price; this is because the car has been driven lightly and will most likely last longer.

Is 40,000 Miles a Lot For a Used Car?

A used car that is four years or older with 40,000 would be an excellent purchase for a used car. The only instance where 40,000-miles would be considered too much for a used car would be if the vehicle were a newer model. The latest year that you should consider a vehicle with 40,000-miles is if the car was two years old. 18,000 to 20,000 miles per year is deemed to be high-mileage. 

Is 60,000 Miles a Lot For a Used Car?

Used cars that are five years or older with 60,000 make an excellent choice as a used car purchase. The owner has not driven the vehicle excessively and has maintained a steady pace of low-mileage years throughout the ownership. If a used car has 60,000-miles, there should be no less than 3-years since the original purchase.

At What Mileage Should I Not Buy a Car?

When you are used car shopping, if the car has more than 20,000 miles per year—you should be very careful. A car with that high of mileage can quickly start to have mechanical problems. And a car you should not buy would be a car that was made in 2015 but already has over 155,000-miles on it. The mileage that high means the driver was using it for long trips daily. 

Odometer showing 99999 miles on its gauge

Is Mileage or Age of a Car More Important?

Both mileage and the age of the car are significant factors when purchasing a used car. In most cases, the newer car will be a better option than buying an older car with fewer miles.

The reasoning behind this is that the parts of an older car will start to corrode over time. Deterioration of the rubber components in a car can quickly lead to problems(and expensive repairs.) However, if a car is less than 10-years old, you can consider it more than the newer car with a lot of miles. 

How Many Years Should you Keep a Car?

The amount of time you keep your car is entirely up to you—or your vehicle. The average car owner will own their used vehicle for five years before selling it. If you are happy with your car, there is no need to sell it. You can keep your vehicle as long as you want.  The only instance where you should consider moving on from your car is if the repairs will cost more than the estimated worth of the vehicle.

If the car needs extensive repairs, you will need to choose between repairing the vehicle or buying a new one. Speak to a mechanic you trust about the options you have for repairing your car. While purchasing another used car might seem like a good idea, there is no guarantee that your new car will not need repairs as well. 

Conclusion

Mileage is significant when purchasing a used car. The fundamental formula to remember is 12,000 miles per year or less. The mileage that is in this range will give you the best chance for successfully purchasing a used car. 

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