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When you’re shopping for used SUVs, it can be overwhelming to sort through your options. Buying a used car involves so many comparisons; type, price, condition. Sometimes the best used SUVs have a ton of miles. So how do you know when a used SUV has too many miles? And is there a range considered the best mileage for used SUVs? Consumer Reports weighs in.

A silver 2016 Lexus RX parked in a parking garage.
2016 Lexus RX | Lexus

What is considered high mileage on a used SUV or car?

It isn’t easy to determine what high mileage on a used SUV or car is, but there are guidelines you can follow to try to come up with a range. If you go under the assumption that the average driver travels 12,000 miles per year in their car, you can then figure out what the average mileage on the age of the car you’re looking at should be. Now, 12,000 miles is just a guideline, and is by no means a hard and fast rule. 

Consumer Reports’ associate director of the auto test program Gabe Shenhar shares his thoughts. “There isn’t really a hard-and-fast rule here. You have to really scrutinize the car that you’re considering purchasing. Look at the maintenance and repair records to see whether it’s been well-maintained.” 

Can a used SUV have too few miles? 

Although it might seem counterintuitive, a used SUV or car with way fewer miles than you’d expect can also be a red flag. Shenhar advises that “if the mileage is unusually low, you want to really look it over because you don’t want a car that’s been sitting for a long time.”

Still, a car with a ton of miles may end up costing you in repairs and part replacements. If too few is a problem and too many is a problem, then what else should you take into consideration?

What condition is the SUV in?

Sure, getting an SUV with a Goldilocks amount of miles on it would be ideal, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. To have a better understanding of the SUV you’re buying, you want to get the clearest picture you can about what it’s been through. Car history reports can help you do this. Getting a report from Carfax can help you determine if the SUV has been in any car accidents or has any recalls. You can also check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to learn more about recalls, as well as read common customer complaints about the vehicle you’re considering purchasing. 

It’s also a good idea to have an independent mechanic check the SUV out. This allows you to have the car inspected by an unbiased third party that can tell you about any hidden problems or report to you about anything that may need to be repaired or replaced in the near future. 

When you’re buying a used SUV, it’s no surprise that you’ll have to shell out some cash for maintenance, and probably a lot sooner than you would if the vehicle was new. Yet the savings you may receive when you first purchase the vehicle combined with the comfort you may get in knowing the reliability of that vehicle may make it worth it for you to travel down this road. Just remember that multiplying the age of the car by 12,000 will give you an idea of the best mileage for a used SUV, but it won’t really tell you if it’s a good car.


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