What to Consider About Mileage When Buying a Used Auto

Mercedes-Benz used car

New cars lose about one-third of their value the minute they’re driven away from the lot, and because of this, many people prefer to buy a used auto to get a better deal. However, choosing a second-hand vehicle is somewhat more complicated than buying new, as you have to assess its condition before deciding to buy. It seems good sense to prefer a car with a low mileage, but is this always the case?

Mileage Versus Age

At first glance, a low mileage count would seem to be an indication that the car is in good condition and hasn’t been overworked. However, the picture isn’t quite so simple. The type of miles driven are as important as the number. A vehicle that has been mainly used for city driving, with constant stopping and starting, could easily have been subject to higher levels of wear and tear than one which has clocked up a high figure mainly through cruising on the highway.

Secondly, a car with suspiciously low mileage for its age could have been sitting unused in the elements for long periods of time. This can come with all the problems of corrosion that such inactivity implies. For both these reasons, it’s an excellent idea when evaluating a vehicle to find out precisely how the mileage figure has been built up.

Service History

Even if you’re satisfied that a low mileage doesn’t suggest neglect or heavy city use, it’s essential to receive a full service history for the car. A vehicle that’s been properly maintained yet has a high mileage will usually be a better buy than one with low miles but a patchy service history.

Resale Value

All else being equal, a car with a lower mileage will usually have a higher resale value, and this is an important point to bear in mind, unless you plan to run the car for the rest of its life. If you’re paying a premium for a low-mileage vehicle, but are probably going to add a significant number of miles to the meter, then this could be a waste of money. It may be more cost-effective to choose an auto with a higher mileage, so that the depreciation isn’t as significant when you come to sell it on.

Repair Costs

Lastly, older vehicles may be more difficult and expensive to repair, owing to a shortage of parts. Even if the car has been lightly used and properly serviced, mechanical problems are inevitable at some point. A newer vehicle with a higher mileage may in fact turn out to be cheaper to maintain and repair than a more carefully looked-after older model.

The ideal used car would feature low mileage, an immaculate service history, and an attractive price, but life is rarely so simple. However, simply comparing vehicles on the basis of how many miles they’ve been driven may give a misleading picture.


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