When shopping for a used car, it’s commonplace to pay special attention to the condition of the vehicle, in addition to the vehicle’s mileage. Of course, while buying a used car with low miles has its obvious benefits, it shouldn’t necessarily be the deciding factor when comparing a few vehicles that you have your eye on. Some makes and models of cars perform better than others even with high mileage, so you need to consider the brand and overall performance ratings in order to make a sound decision. Below, we’ve compiled a few important things to consider when reviewing the mileage on used cars:

Why Mileage Matters

In most cases, the first service for a used car is usually between 30,000 and 40,000 miles; by the 70,000-mile mark, the service visit is usually more expensive and might require more work, such as changing the timing belt, according to Edmunds. By the time you hit 100,000 miles, the car may be less reliable even though it’s still driveable.

If you’re finding cheaper vehicles that have more than 155,000 miles, you may want to put the brakes on a potential purchase, despite the savings. By that stage, the car is at a higher risk of breakdowns, which means costly repairs and frequent inconveniences, according to Samarins.

When Mileage Doesn’t Matter

While you want a car with low mileage so it lasts as long as possible, you also need to factor in the car’s age. An older car with very low miles may not be able to perform at the level you need and could be costly to repair. If it’s an unreliable brand in general, you may end up paying more for mechanical repairs and for extra parts that are now difficult to find when the car breaks down, or if you are involved in an accident. You can determine whether the car is easy to maintain by asking the original owner for a history of repair work, as well as an estimate of how much they spend on repairs each year.

Another important item to consider is how the car has been maintained. If it has served as a recreational car for the majority of its lifespan and kept in the garage for most of its life, it will likely be in great shape for you to drive. If it’s been used as a commuter vehicle for several years and has had multiple tire replacements or some body work done, you may end up paying extra to maintain the car as it gets older.

Ideally, you will want to choose something under 80,000 miles and take reliability into account. For example, a reliable vehicle like a Honda Civic with 50,000 miles may be a better purchase than a Ford Taurus with 30,000 miles of the same year or age.

Managing Mileage with Your Used Car Purchase

Many used car owners choose to buy a car with high miles knowing that they will get a few years of life out of the car as long as they practice good driving habits. If you have a tendency to skip oil changes or drive at lower speeds — lower than 35 to 45 miles per hour —consistently, you could be putting more miles on your car. You’ll need to take your driving habits and your lifestyle into account so you aren’t choosing a vehicle that will end up having a very short life. For reference, here are some other habits that can add wear and tear to your vehicle, according to Car and Driver:

  • Neglecting to use cruise control
  • Skipping gears or shifting gears too quickly
  • Idling for long periods of time
  • Carrying extra weight on top of the car
  • Hauling heavy items such as tools, bowling balls around

Checking the mileage of a used car is an important step in your shopping process, but it shouldn’t be the only criteria for making your decision when comparing two similar vehicles. Be sure to also factor in the car’s age, performance ratings, and overall condition to make the most informed decision possible.

Looking for your next vehicle? Search our inventory of thousands!