What Is Good Mileage When Buying a Used Car?

Lucy Lazarony
December 31, 2020

Got your eye on a used car? Be sure to check the mileage. The average car owner puts 12,000 miles on a car each year. So a typical three-year-old car would have around 36,000 miles and a typical four-year car would have around 48,000 miles Looking for an older used car? A 10-year-old used car would have around 120,000 miles. If the mileage is much higher than 12,000 a year, you may want to think about the condition of the car. Was the car well-maintained or did the previous owner rack up the miles without putting in the proper maintenance?

If the mileage is low, you may have found a bargain in the used car lot. A used car with low miles and good condition is what every used car shopper is looking for. If you find such a car, consider yourself lucky. But you’ve got some research to do. Check the vehicle history report. If the car has three or four or more owners, there’s a good chance one or more of them didn’t do proper maintenance on the car. So even with fairly low miles, having multiple owners is a warning sign. In contrast, with a single car owner chances improve that the car was well-maintained.

In addition, many used car shoppers are looking for a single owner vehicle that was kept in a garage. How can you tell if a car was kept in a garage? If the car’s exterior is immaculate, there is a good chance the car was kept in a garage and away from harsher elements. Because it is such a strong selling point, some private sellers may even say in their car ads that the car was garaged.

Age and Mileage Go Together

When considering the condition of a used car, the age of the car and its mileage go together. Say there’s a four-year-old car but it only has 24,000 miles on it. That is low mileage for the age of the car. A typical car of that age would have mileage of 48,000. So this car’s low mileage versus its age makes it stand out. Let’s say a car has 100,000 miles on it. But it is a 10-year-old car. The mileage is actually a little low since a typical 10- year-old car would have 120,000 miles on it. So this is actually a pretty good deal. And finally let’s say there is a three-year-old car but it already has 60,000 miles on in it. This is well above the typical mileage of 36,000 for a three-year-old car. You may want to pass on this car because of all the mileage already on the car. Consider Your Driving Habits

When shopping for a used car, you’ll want to think about your own driving habits. How many miles per year are you likely to put on the car? Will that used car you are thinking about buying last six or seven years with your current driving habits or even longer?

How Long Will the Car Last?

How many miles can you expect to get out of a used car if the car is well-maintained? Is the number 100,000 miles or is it 200,000 miles? Research the make and model of the car and find out. How long do you plan on keeping the car? If it is five or more years, you should be sure to research the longevity of the model you are buying.

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Condition of the Car

In addition to age and mileage, you’ll want to look at the condition of the car’s interior and exterior. The easiest way to do that is during a test drive. So whether you are buying a car from a private seller or buying a car from a used car dealer, take the car for a short test drive. You’ll see how the car looks inside and out and you’ll get a feel for how it handles and drives. Here are the steps to take for a good test drive.

Walk around the car and take a close look at the car’s exterior. Are there scratches and bumps? How does the bumper look? Is it clean or has the driver been bumping into quite a few things? Look at the tires. Are they new? Has the tread worn evenly? Will you need to put a new set of tires on your to-do list if you should buy the car? Don’t forget to check underneath the car for any leaks.

Get in the car and start it up. Did it hesitate or did it start right up? Take the car for a short test drive. How is the steering handling? How are the brakes? How does the car accelerate? Next, turn on the air conditioning. How fast does the car cool down? You can test out the heater as well. How quickly does the car’s temperature change? You’ll want to know come winter or summer. Test turn signals and test power windows and power door locks. Is everything working properly?

Take Car to a Mechanic

If you take a car on a test drive and it seems to be running just fine, it is still a good idea to take the car to a mechanic. The inspection will cost between $100 and $200 and is well worth the money. You are paying a professional for specific advice about the car you are looking to buy. Better to know of any problems before you agree to buy the car.

Do Plenty of Research

Just starting your used car search? Be prepared to do a lot of research. Sites such as Cars.com, AutoTrader.com and Carfax make it easy to find used cars near you. Individual dealers have websites as well. Start by checking a car’s age and mileage. You’re looking for a car with low mileage for its age that is in good condition. Good luck used car shopping. The used car bargains are out there. It just takes some research to find them.

Getting Insured

Don’t settle on your previous insurance company. When you’re ready to drive the car home, do a three-minute application with SmartFinancial and you’ll get the best rates for the best coverage from over 200 insurers.

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