Skip to main content

Buying used cars can be a great way to save money, but at the same time, used car shopping is a different experience than buying a brand-new car. One of the main considerations when drivers look at used cars has to do with their reliability. Used cars can have more reliability info available than brand-new cars. One indicator of reliability info that car shoppers look at for used cars is their mileage.

This can be an easy way to estimate how much life the car has left, but in reality, there’s no “sweet spot” as far as used car mileage goes.

Rows of used cars parked at a dealership.
Used cars | Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A recap of what iSeeCars had to say on used car mileage

iSeeCars published an article about the best amount of mileage to find on a used car, and overall, it dispelled some common misconceptions about used car mileage. It may seem rational for drivers to assume that the fewer miles are on a car’s odometer, the longer of a life that car will have. But there is a simple problem with that idea. Not all drivers are the same, and not all drivers will treat their car the same way.

Some drivers are meticulous and keep their car maintained, while others may not even bother with routine maintenance. Despite having the same number of miles on the odometer, those two cars, which have had different maintenance histories, will likely have very different lives down the road. This is not the only wrinkle in the old idea that fewer miles are always better.

There just isn’t a ‘sweet spot’ for used car mileage

Typically speaking, the average American commuter drives somewhere between 12,000 to 15,000 miles a year. That’s the average for someone who commutes though, and it’s entirely possible for used cars to come from owners who simply didn’t drive that much. Those owners could’ve stored their car for a long time over the winter, or they may not even drive often as they work from home or live in a densely populated urban area.

Where the car was driven is another wrinkle to the idea. Urban driving is an entirely different experience than highway driving. Cities may have more potholes, drivers may push their car to their limits just to beat a spotlight, etc. In comparison, used cars that were mostly driven on highways may have more miles on the odometer, but those miles were likely less rough than the miles of a car that’s spent its life in the city. 

That being said, this doesn’t mean that drivers should completely ignore used car mileage. The idea that a used car with more miles on its odometer is going to be unreliable can be the case as well. This is especially true if the car’s average annual mileage exceeds the average annual American commuter mileage. That’s often a sign that the car has been overused by the prior owner, and that it has some maintenance issues that will show up soon.

What used car shoppers should look for in a used car

As such, since there are so many different variables to look at, used car shoppers should not simply look at the car’s mileage and base their decision off of that. Instead, used car shoppers should look at their options holistically. This means looking at the mileage, but also take into consideration the car’s maintenance history, accident history, and its usage history.

By taking all of those factors into consideration, drivers can find the used car that is the most likely to last the longest time. It also means that the best used car may not be the one with the lowest mileage, but sometimes that can be the case.


Why You May Want to Consider a Reliable Cheap Used Sports Car While Car Shopping