Is it bad to buy high-mileage used cars?

Here’s how a high-mileage vehicle could save you money AND be reliable

In the dealership world, one of the most common things our sales people hear is “I want a car with less than (insert number here) miles”. Of course our sales staff will honor the requests of customers, but in reality, you could be costing yourself money by limiting your selection.

Long ago when engines didn’t have computers to adjust, correct and optimize performance, they had somewhat limited lives. That was even more true for older vehicles that weren’t serviced properly. Everything, no matter what it is, will eventually wear out and engines are no exception. As a general rule, vehicles made before the 1990s tended to have lived their best days by the time they reached 100,000 miles, or were in need of expensive repairs by that time.

Today’s vehicles now use powerful on-board computers (ECUs) that perform diagnostics and adjustments continually. Before ECUs, air-fuel mixture, ignition timing, and idle speed were mechanically set and dynamically controlled by mechanical and pneumatic means. With ECUs now performing these adjustments automatically, engines have not only become more efficient, but their expected life spans have increased as well. With that being said, you may wonder if a modern vehicle with 100,000 miles will last another 100,000 miles. Unfortunately, it varies from vehicle to vehicle and it will take some research on your part to figure that out.

Here’s the facts. Even with ECUs, today’s vehicles still need regular, routine maintenance. A vehicle with 75,000 miles on it that has had the scheduled maintenance performed as required (and had it documented) could be more reliable than a 50,000 mile vehicle that’s been neglected. When an owner has been diligent about having the required, regular maintenance performed by certified professionals, a vehicle with 100,000 miles on it could easily travel another 100,000 miles (with continued proper maintenance).

When searching for a pre-owned vehicle, instead of limiting your selection to a specific number of miles, ask your salesperson if they have the maintenance records for the vehicle you’re interested in. The average American puts 12,000 miles on their vehicle per year. However, if a person travels a lot for their job they may blow by 12,000 in a few months. As long as they have been ensuring that the proper maintenance has been performed, the higher miles shouldn’t affect the vehicle’s reliability.

Because vehicle pricing is affected by the number of miles on a vehicle, the higher mileage vehicles will cost less. If the vehicle has been maintained on schedule, its reliability can be just as good as a car with fewer miles, but cost significantly less. The key is to ask for the vehicle’s service records. As long as the service records are in order, you could save thousands of dollars by buying a well-maintained 70,000 vehicle instead of a neglected 30,000 vehicle and end up with the same reliability.

What to look for

Each manufacturer has their own schedule of when specific types of maintenance should be performed. As a general rule, a well-maintained vehicle will have had a professional inspection at the following intervals:

  • At 3,000 miles
  • At 6,000 miles
  • At 12,000 miles
  • At 15,000 miles
  • At 30,000 miles
  • At 45,000 miles
  • At 60,000 miles
  • At 100,000 miles

Let’s say you find a vehicle that has 42,000 miles on it. Look at the owner’s manual for that model. If it calls for service/maintenance at 45,000 miles, know that in the span of approximately 3 months, it will need to go to service. This could be costly depending on what is recommended at the 45,000 mile mark. Often, when dealerships receive trade-ins that are close to needing a scheduled service, the dealership will have their service department perform the maintenance before putting it on the lot. The key to getting a great pre-owned higher-mileage vehicle is to be sure to ask for maintenance records. You could literally save thousands of  dollars and have an extremely reliable vehicle that will last for many years down the road.

If you’re in the market for a pre-owned vehicle, check out SVG Urbana’s inventory. It’s full of clean vehicles that are priced well. Our sales staff will be happy to take you for a test drive and answer any questions you have to help make sure you get the right vehicle to meet your needs.


Categories: Pre-Owned Inventory