How Important Is Mileage?

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Used Car Mileage

Mileage is an important factor when buying a used car, but it is easy to overlook. You can get swept away in best mpg cars, or other measures of efficiency.

Low or high mileage affects the value of the car at purchase and sale, as well as likely cost of maintenance and servicing.

The average annual mileage is 12,000, so if a car has mileage somewhat less than 60,000 after five years it would be considered low. If it’s much more, it would be classed as high.

Car valuation websites do not always provide mileage adjusted prices as part of their free service. Read more about car valuation websites, and how to use them here.

How it’s worked out

Mileage is considered high or low relative to the car’s age. If you drive well below the average mileage each year, then although the car may be above average at purchase, it could be considered below average at sale. That means the opposite is also true.

There is generally less wear and tear with low mileage cars, as long as the car has been cared for properly. This means key car components can expect to enjoy a longer life, as depending on the vehicle, once a certain mileage has been reached a part is likely to need replacing.

Key car parts will need replacing every so many miles, typical examples are:

  • Brake pads every 20,000 miles: cost £80-150
  • Brake discs every 40,000 miles: cost £80-120
  • Tyres every 20,000 miles: cost £350-500
  • Timing belt and water pump – check the manufacturer’s guidance – often around 70,000 miles: cost £300-350
  • Clutch and flywheel every 100,000 miles: cost £800-900

These are approximate values for standard vehicles. More luxurious and larger cars tend to have more expensive parts. Always check the service history to find out what parts have been changed and what parts are likely to need changing soon and budget accordingly.

Those looking to buy a used car with low mileage should always question why it is lower than average, and also be wary of clocking in the used car market. The car condition should be consistent with the mileage, if you notice excessive wear on a low mileage car be suspicious.

High Mileage Cars

Cars with high mileage can save you a lot of money up front. They are considerably cheaper than low mileage cars, and depreciation is typically lower. This means that the money you save on the initial payment can be used for any potential damage. Of course, repair costs can be a can of worms in the used car market as cars are becoming less and less economical to repair. This is mostly due to the complexity of the on board computers and technology.

Items that can prove expensive to repair include the gearbox and suspension. Try to find out the reason for selling and check the car as thoroughly as you can including a test drive, or ask a mechanic to carry out a pre-purchase inspection. See our tips for what to look for in a used car.

Cars with around 100,000 mileage will already have had to repair key parts such as brake pads, clutch and tyres, so check with the seller when the work was completed and how much it cost (if available).

Larger Engines

Cars with larger engines can withstand more miles. The Volkswagen Passat with a 2.0-litre diesel would deal with higher mileage better than a smaller engine equivalent.

If you are using finance for your used car, you should be aware that most finance providers will have a maximum mileage for their cars at the start of the agreement. Cars with over 100,000 miles have limited access to finance.

How the high mileage is achieved also matters . . .

The way the car has earned its miles is important. High mileage cars have often been driven long distance on motorways, meaning brakes, clutch, gears etc. suffer less wear and tear compared to a car that has recorded the same mileage with shorter journeys. Short distances can be a particular problem for diesel engines as they lead to a shorter life for the diesel particular filter (DPF). Changing your car’s DPF can be an expensive job typically costing £1000 or more.

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