Why Buying a Used Car With High Mileage From City Driving Is a Huge Mistake

The things people focus on most when purchasing used cars are price and financing terms. After all, most people choose to buy a pre-owned vehicle to save money. However, you’ll end up spending a lot more cash in the long run if you ignore this single most important thing: high mileage from lots of city driving. Other than that, buying a used vehicle can be a wise investment. As more consumers begin purchasing new vehicles as the economy rises, those who know how to get a good deal on a used vehicle tend to have more alternatives.

Some major things to look out for when buying a used car

An overhead shot of cars lined up in a used car lot
Used Car Lot | Valery SharifulinTASS via Getty Images

It goes without saying that you should inspect a prospective used vehicle both inside and out. While looking for scratches and dents are common concerns, rust is more critical. Scratches and dents can be fixed easily, but more comprehensive bodywork is usually required to stem its spread when rust sets in. Significant damage should also be a cause for concern, as it’s likely a sign that the vehicle has been involved in a serious accident. Damage includes uneven body panels due to a bent frame or shoddy body repair work.

Another sign that a vehicle has possibly been involved in a serious accident is the vehicle’s doors, hood, and trunk not aligning when closed. Additionally, checking for this issue will allow you to see how easily they open and close. While testing the doors, hood, and trunk, look for overspray or parts that are a different color. Overspray or mismatched parts usually means that the original parts have either been repaired or replaced. If something happened to the vehicle bad enough for such serious repairs or replacement, there is no telling what hidden problems haven’t been addressed.

City mileage versus highway and rural mileage

Even if a used vehicle looks good and drives well during your initial test drive, mileage shouldn’t be taken lightly. But one should keep in mind that there is a difference between city mileage and highway/rural mileage.

As pointed out by AutoTrader, “There’s no question that highway and city miles affect a car in different ways. In city driving, for instance, vehicles are constantly stopping and starting, which means they use more fuel. City driving typically involves rough roads and potholes, giving a car’s suspension more of a workout. On the highway, roads are smoother, but speeds are higher, which means the engine is constantly working and never at rest.”

How to tell highway mileage vehicles from city mileage vehicles

For those readers who grew up during the 1980s and were fans of the cartoon G.I. Joe, you might remember this quote: “Knowing is half the battle.” Well, knowing that highway driving is better on a vehicle, the natural question would be: “How do I tell a highway mileage vehicle from a city mileage vehicle?” When you look at the odometer, 100,000 miles is 100,000 miles. The good news is, there are several ways to differentiate between the two.

First, the primary way to recognize a highway vehicle versus a city vehicle is by comparing the number on the odometer to the vehicle’s age. While not always the case, newer vehicles with remarkably high mileage on the odometer are typically highway vehicles.

AutoTrader put it like this: “For instance, a 1-year-old car with 50,000 miles on it probably spent the vast majority of those miles on the highway. Few drivers can travel 50,000 miles in one year solely within stop-and-go traffic unless they’re driving a taxi cab or a police vehicle.” The author continues to explain that high-mileage vehicles with few dents and scrapes that are in fairly good shape are likely highway vehicles. On the other hand, high-mileage city vehicles suffer parking lot accidents, are used to check the status of curbs, and are used to assist tailgaters in checking their brakes, among other things indicative of a city-dwelling vehicle.

Nevertheless, to be completely sure that a vehicle you’re interested in has mostly cruised the highways, have a mechanic you trust look it over. If anyone knows what to look for in a highway mileage vehicle, it’s a knowledgeable and trustworthy mechanic. They will inspect a vehicle’s suspension and other components not only to ascertain wear-and-tear but the specific kind of wear-and-tear. They can tell you definitively whether it’s a highway or city vehicle if they know their stuff.

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