With the average cost of a new car exceeding $50,000 in the United States, and waiting times on new car orders increasing, buying a used car is by far a more attractive option. Try something new when you next search for a used car – start your search with the minimum mileage of 100,000 miles and leave out the upper mileage limit. Sort the list by highest mileage first and see how many vehicles come up, you may be surprised by what models can achieve these miles, and also be surprised by what bargains you can find if the cars in question have been looked after. Read on to explore the pros and cons of buying a high-mileage car, the factors to consider, and a list of reliable cars to get you started.
Pros of High-Mileage Cars
One of the biggest advantages of buying a high-mileage car is the great purchase price. Used cars are generally cheaper than new cars (unless it’s a collectible classic), and with more miles on the odometer, the more affordable it typically is, and more likely to be in your budget range. But that’s not all. Unless you are buying a pimped-out old classic, used cars with higher mileage won’t cost much in insurance either.
Another advantage of buying a high-mileage car is slower depreciation. New cars lose a significant amount of value as soon as they are driven off the lot. In contrast, used cars have already experienced the initial depreciation, and high-mileage cars have already lost a significant portion of their value. This means that if you decide to sell your high-mileage car in a few years, you won’t lose as much money as you would with a low-mileage used car.
The variety of used cars with high mileage might surprise you in that there may be some rare models that are no longer manufactured or that were only produced in limited quantities. If mileage isn’t so much of a concern (within limits), and you want something different from the norm, you could walk away with a rare bargain.
A vehicle with high mileage can be a good thing if it has a clear history of routine maintenance. If the previous owner(s) kept up with regular oil changes, tune-ups, and other necessary maintenance, the car may be in good condition and have a longer lifespan. This is how cars get to the million-mile mark.
Modern Cars are Durable
Over the past 25 years, cars have become more advanced and are engineered to drive well past 100,000 miles, which means the thought of getting your dream car within your budget could be achieved. There have been a lot of cars around the 2005-2010 mark that have reached the golden million with regular care and proper driving habits.
Some high-mileage vehicles have had either a reconditioned engine or a new engine put in that has much lower mileage than the original odometer reading says. This can be a bonus as far as the engine is concerned, however, remember the rest of the car has still traveled the maximum mileage. If you are looking at such a car, see what else has been changed to improve the longevity of the car.
Cons of High-Mileage Cars
A high-mileage vehicle is going to have the odd rattle and squeak, and will more likely need some form of repair work. It will also need more regular checks (I recommend weekly checks) of oil and water levels, tire pressures, and a general sweep of the engine bay for any oil or coolant leaks. While cars are built to have an expanded life these days, they may be nearing major repair milestones, which can add to the cost of ownership.
The uncertainty about a vehicle’s history and actual condition can be the biggest drawback of buying a high-mileage car. While you can usually get vehicle history reports (and it may be a red flag if you can’t), even those may not be able to tell you the full story of the car. Did the driver love to slam on the brakes, race over speed humps, or go around corners at high speed? These things can cause damage to the car that is unseen and doesn’t show up in reports.
Factors of Buying a High-Mileage Car
Quality of Miles
The quality of miles is just as important as the quantity of miles when evaluating a car’s health. Short, stop-and-start trips around town will quickly place more wear and tear on the car affecting the brakes, the starter motor, the gears, dashboard lights, indicators, the engine, and the tires. In comparison, a vehicle traveling highway miles will have an engine that has driven at a constant level, with far less wear and tear, which is better for the car’s health.
When considering buying a high-mileage car, it’s important to consider models with a clear history of routine maintenance. If the previous owner(s) kept up with regular oil changes, tune-ups, and other necessary maintenance, the car may be in good condition and have a longer lifespan.
If you’re starting your own journey into the world of used cars, it is essential to check out the car makers that have the best reputation for reliability and for building long-lasting vehicles. The two most common car brands that everyone from car experts, mechanics, and the general public who own the cars are Toyota and Honda. However, there are many more out there if you do your research and look hard enough. Check out my list further down of reliable makes and models from around the world.
What to Look For When Inspecting a High-Mileage Car
Check the undercarriage for rust or damage. Rust is one of the most significant issues that high-mileage cars face, especially if they were driven in areas where roads are salted during the winter, or vehicles that have been used for regular fishing trips.
Check the tires for lack of tread or signs of uneven wear. This could indicate problems with the suspension or chassis, or it may only need a tire balance and alignment with a new set of tires.
Here’s a handy tip – Use a refrigerator magnet when checking the body panels to make sure they are actually metal and haven’t been re-built entirely of an automotive fiberglass filler. Check the paint color inside door frames and around the bonnet and trunk matches the rest of the exterior.
Check under the hood to make sure the engine compartment is tidy, free from rust, oil and water leaks, and tanks are full of clean fluids.
Doors, Trunk, and Hood
Make sure all openings such as the door jambs, trunk, and hood align properly when closed, and that there isn’t any rust or rust bubbling under paintwork.
High-mileage cars typically have rattles, squeals, or squeaks from high road usage, so be sure to find where they are coming from and ask your mechanic to investigate them when you get your pre-purchase inspection.
Maintenance and Care for a High-Mileage Car
Regular maintenance is essential to keep a high-mileage car on the road. As I mentioned earlier, I recommend a weekly check on oil and water levels, tire pressures, and any leaks. All car manufacturers have a service schedule when it comes to major maintenance services, so check out when the next one may be due. Unless a recent major service has been done on the car – with receipts, I recommend getting one done soon after the purchase. This will allow your mechanic to spot any problems as well as start your new life with your new car off to a good start with fresh oil and other parts.
Use high-quality parts and supplies, like high-mileage synthetic motor oil, for reliability, performance, efficiency, and lifespan.
Popular Makes and Models That Last the Distance
When it comes to longevity in the automotive world, several popular car makes and models have proven their mettle by lasting the distance. These vehicles are just some of the most reliable vehicles on the used car market, and are a testament to superior engineering and robust build quality.
The first is the Toyota Camry, a prime example of a car known for its unbeatable reliability and excellent fuel efficiency. The Camry has been a top choice among consumers for more than two and a half decades, and it’s not uncommon to see various models of the Camry on the road with hundreds of thousands of miles on the odometer, still running smoothly.
If you want a smaller hatchback, the Toyota Corolla has proven again and again over the decades it can outlast any rivals, and is a testament to its popularity.
Toyota yet again produced not one, but two reliable pickups in the 1990s – the Toyota Tacoma and the Toyota Tundra. Examples of these can easily drive more than 500,000 miles with regular maintenance. In fact, a 2007 Tundra reached its 1 million mile mark 9 years later in 2016, proving high mileage is possible.
Another vehicle known for its durability is the Honda Accord/Acura T or Acrua R range. This car is built to withstand the test of time, with many models reaching well over 200,000 miles. The Accord is praised for its low-cost maintenance and high resale value, making it a smart investment for those seeking longevity.
Again, like the Toyota Corolla, Honda also has the evergreen Civic hatchback, which has excellent reliability overall, and like the Corolla has good fuel economy.
If you’re after a pickup truck, Ford F-Series is a name synonymous with durability. This powerful pickup is available in various engine sizes including the F-150 and F-250, and in 1999 expanded its range to include the ‘Super-Duty’ series of trucks for people wanting larger and more capable trucks that could handle heavier payloads and towing performance. Often outliving its rivals in terms of mileage and performance, a prime example of a 2000 ‘Super Duty’ model hit 1.3 million miles with its original 7.3 liter V8 diesel engine.
Chevrolet Silverado has been a household name since it first graced the automotive world in 1975. Models especially from the mid 00s have proven to be exceedingly good in the reliability class. A Missouri resident reached over 2 million miles with his 2007 model in 2019, while a woman from Michigan reached over 1.2 million miles in her 2006 Silverado 3500 in just 7 years.
The Chrysler Town & Country people moving minivan is a popular model for carrying larger groups of people around. You should easily get 300,000 miles out of one if treated right.
Volkswagen has put out a couple of really good cars over the years. If you are after a sedan, then look no further than the Volkswagen Passat. Many of these top 300,000 miles with no major troubles. If you’re after a hatchback, then the Volkswagen Golf is a safe bet as long as it has been looked after.
For a sporty brand with luxury features, then Audi has some great models. The A4 and A6 have a solid record for reliability and endurance, as well as being popular cars around the world.
Volvo also has some impressive models including the V70 Cross Country, XC70, XC90, and the S60 sedan.
Today, many cars are built to last for potentially hundreds of thousands of miles. When considering buying a high-mileage car, it’s important to consider the quality of those miles driven, maintenance history, manufacturer, vehicle history, and future repair costs. With these factors in mind, you can make an informed decision and get a great deal on a reliable high-mileage car.