Does Mileage Matter? How Mileage Vs. Car Age Affects Car Buyer Choices

Marc Skirvin
Marc Skirvin

What's in this Article

Are you buying or selling a new vehicle? If so, you probably checked the Kelly Blue Book value, wondering at the factors which determine the price. For instance, why does mileage matter, and does age make a difference?

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t straightforward. Are you ready to learn what actually determines your car’s value? Then grab a drink, buckle in, and read on.

How an Experienced Car Buyer Approaches a Purchase

Experienced Automotive buyers follow a few guidelines whenever they shop for a used vehicle. It always begins with research.

Jump online and run a search on your vehicle’s model. Check out what other owners are saying. Cross-reference the results and look for trends.

Does the vehicle have any serious repetitive problems? Does the transmission drop? Can you find complaints about electrical problems or engine issues?

Now dig a little deeper. Most vehicle problems tend to happen with a certain amount of wear and tear. Usually, that’s measured in miles.

Check to see if those repair trends happen within a given mileage range. Afterward, look up the cost of repairing or replacing those parts. Keep a running list that includes its part, the mileage range, and the cost for repair.

When you finish, ask your dealer for the history of the vehicle. You want the following:

The general location of the previous owner may also be important. You can usually narrow this down by the location of the truck’s maintenance or service.

For instance, you might see that the truck was serviced in your town for the last year. But for the previous 5 years, it was serviced 100 miles away, over on the coast.

Some areas cause more wear and tear on a vehicle. Trucks located by salty water, for instance, rust quickly. Cars running in heavy stop-and-go traffic, like those in major cities, wear down their transmissions rapidly.

Use your critical thinking skills to evaluate your vehicle’s history.

What if You’re Buying Your Automobile Online?

If you purchase or sell a car online, use Carfax or AutoCheck to determine your vehicle’s history. In both cases, you’ll need the VIN number. The car report generally runs for about $40.

It’s well worth the cost if it saves you from buying a lemon. If you’re selling your car, you may find out some interesting things about your car’s sordid past. Keep that report and make it available to potential buyers to speed up the sales process.

Mileage Vs Age

Let’s look at a few examples to give you a better idea of how mileage stacks up against age.

Example 1: Let’s assume you need a new work truck. You hunt in a radius of 60 miles and find one with rock-bottom mileage. This thing has only seen 50,000 miles, and by the looks of things, they were all highway miles.

You know you’ve won the grand prize. Or have you? The vehicle is 10 years old.

You start wondering whether it’s priced correctly. How many hidden issues will you have to face because of that vehicle’s age?

Example 2: This time, you’re hunting for a used truck with adaptive cruise control and the latest Bluetooth technology. You also want an epic sound system to impress your friends.

You head down to your local dealer and ask him to show you what he has to offer. He’s got a 3-year old model that’s exactly what you want. Better yet, he has 2 in stock.

One of the trucks has about 40,000 miles which are considered average. Unfortunately, there’s no way you can afford the payments.

The other has 120,000 miles. The dealer quotes a price that’ll be manageable if you tighten your belt in the coming months. You really want that truck, but should you steer clear from a vehicle with so many miles?

Breaking Down the Examples

After you do your research, you realize that the older truck in example 1 spent most of its time in a snowy climate. With your research, you also not that components on the at vehicle commonly rust. Through a little bit of your own deduction, you also determine that salt used by melt snow in mountainous causes corrosion.

You head back to the vehicle and look at the underside. Sure enough, it’s rusted clean through. But you wouldn’t have seen it unless you knew where to look.

In example 2, your research turns up an interesting detail. These trucks are known to run forever without problems. 200,000 miles is when they first start showing their wear and tear.

It’s still a good deal, even with the extra miles.

Does Mileage Matter?

Which should you choose: a newer car with high mileage or an older car with low mileage? It all depends on the history of the vehicle and common problems with the model. Those factors will add weight to one side of the scale or the other.

If you’re still wondering why is mileage important? The answer is simple. Parts wear down with use.

You drive your car, run your heater, and pop your trunk often? Then you’ve diminished the lifespan of those parts.

Does Age Matter?

Of course, age matters. Some can keep some parts from degrading. Other parts disintegrate over time, even if the vehicle is stored in a garage and rarely sees the road. Rubber belts and radiator hoses are two examples. Corrosion also takes its toll on metal.

With older vehicles, it’s also more difficult to find replacement parts. The value of the car also drops. If you want to see the toll those factors may have on your vehicle purchase, check your car’s history.

Also, before you make a purchase, take one final step. Get the vehicle checked with a pre-purchase diagnostic from your mechanics.

You did the work and narrowed down your options. Let them reassure you before you buy it.

What’s Next?

So, does mileage matter? Yes, but other factors matter more. It all depends on the vehicle’s history: regular maintenance, new parts, road miles, and the environment.

Remember, vehicle price isn’t set in stone. It’s all about what the market is willing to pay. If you’re thinking of selling your used vehicle, get an offer online in under 2 minutes.

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About the Author


Marc is the Co-Founder of Cash Auto Salvage and Director of daily operations. He retired from a leading Internet Marketing company in 2013 and has been involved in the automotive industry ever since.

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