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Buying A High Mileage Car: Your Go-To Guide

An odometer with 200,000 miles. Buying a high-mileage car shouldn't be scary. Here are things to look out for when buying a vehicle with over 100,000 kilometers.

Sure, that new-car smell is great — but what if you don’t want a new car, plus the depreciation that incessantly gnaws at its value? Used cars offer great value, less depreciation and are still reliable, especially with a warranty. There’s much to be said about six-figure cars, but not dollar signs. What about buying a high mileage car, whose odometer has passed the magical and mystical 99,999-mile marker?

With the average American car pushing 11.8 years and 159,000 miles, there’s nothing to fear as the odometer rolls another digit. There are plenty of older cars pushing well over 300,000 miles, on their way back from the moon. Still, there are a few things to keep in mind if you are considering buying a high mileage car.

Buying a High Mileage Car: Pros and Cons

  • Depreciation – For some, this is the best reason to consider a six-figure mileage car. Like all cars, high mileage cars depreciate, but not as hard and fast as new cars or low mileage used cars. A new car might lose 30% in the first year and a low mileage used car might lose 20%, but a high mileage car might lose just 10%.
  • Buying a high mileage car might be the only way to get your dream car.Unique – Maybe you’re looking for a specific model. Take, for example, a car that only seems to appear every few decades, the Subaru BRAT (1978-1994) and then the Subaru Baja (2003-2006). How about going really rare like a Delorean DMC-12 (1981-1983)? Unless forgotten in a barn — more on that in a second — a BRAT, Baja, or even DMC-12 is likely to be higher mileage.
  • Years vs. Mileage – This can be the most difficult to sort out, offering no guarantees. Taking two 10-year-old cars, one with 5,000 miles and the other with 150,000 miles, the 5,000-mile car may be in worse shape. Cars are built to be driven, but cars that sit tend to rot simply for exposure to oxygen. For example, rubber seals dry out and crack, so both cars may have bushing issues, but the 5,000-mile car may burn or drip oil for lack of regular oil circulation.
  • Maintenance – Perhaps the most important factor separating good high mileage cars from bad is maintenance. Considering our 10-year-olds, with 5,000 miles, the oil should have been changed annually, brake fluid every couple of years, and tires and brake services at least every five years. Driven more often, the 150,000-mile car likely has been serviced more often. Still, confirm maintenance records, vehicle history report, and pre-purchase inspection.

The Importance of a Used Car Pre-Purchase Inspection

This cannot be stressed enough: Pay for a used car pre-purchase inspection. A couple of hours of an experienced mechanic’s time could pay for itself if they find some glaring fault. When inspecting a high mileage car, there may be faults, but knowledge is power — and this knowledge can help you negotiate the deal and keeps surprises to a minimum. Even with a freak major failure, the high mileage car could still be a better deal.

There are risks, but the benefits of buying a high mileage car are real. If buying a high mileage car, maintain regularly with high-quality parts and supplies, like high mileage synthetic motor oil, for reliability, performance, efficiency and lifespan.

Check out all the maintenance parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on buying a high mileage car, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Image via Pixabay.


Benjamin Jerew View All

Ben has been taking things apart since he was 5, and putting them back together again since he was 8. After dabbling in DIY repairs at home and on the farm, he found his calling in the CGCC Automobile Repair program. After he held his ASE CMAT for 10 years, Ben decided he needed a change. Now, he writes on automotive topics across the web and around the world, including new automotive technology, transportation legislation, emissions, fuel economy and auto repair.

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