What is a good mileage for a used car?

What is a good mileage for a used car?

If you’re thinking of buying a used car, there are all sorts of things to take into account that might affect your decision. From engine type to colour, it can be a long list to tick off to find a car that’s right for you.

Something that is likely to be on your list is mileage. A car’s mileage can be a pretty good indication of its current condition and how much wear and tear it might have seen. We’re often told to try and find a car with low mileage, but how do we actually know what counts as low? Is low mileage even a good thing? Luckily for you, this blog answers both of those questions and more.

What is a good mileage for a used car?

We’re often told that the best used cars will be the ones with low mileage, but it can be hard to know what that actually means. Whether a car has ‘good’ mileage can really depend on what the car has been used for before you buy it, and what you plan to use it for yourself. Generally speaking though, looking for a car with low mileage is still a fairly good place to start.

What is low mileage?

When we talk about low mileage, we’re talking about a car that has driven fewer miles than the national average, relative to its age. This average does vary somewhat, particularly with COVID-19 lockdowns knocking down how much time people were spending on the roads. People have also been driving less and less over the last 20 years anyway. The national average was around 9,200 miles per year in 2002, but it has steadily dropped, reaching around 7,400 miles per year in 2021.

So, if you’re looking for a low mileage car that’s less than 20 years old, you might want to look at cars that have been driven less than an average of 7,000-9,000 miles per year. For example, a car that is 5 years old and has been driven for 35,000 miles or less would be considered as having low mileage.

If you’re thinking about buying a used car and you’re wondering how many owners it might have had before you, check out our blog ‘How many owners has my car had?’.

Should I buy a low mileage car?

It’s assumed that a car with low mileage probably hasn’t been used as much as other cars of its type and age might have been. It’s then assumed that this means it’s less likely to have as many potential problems that might come about from excessive use, like the engine burning out or the brakes being worn out. The paintwork and interior might also be in better condition.

A car with low mileage might still have some problems, though. Some car parts have both an age and a mileage limit, so a well-maintained car with high mileage can potentially still be a great option. We’ll go into that in more detail shortly.

What's high mileage for a car?

Technically, a car has high mileage if it’s been driven more than the average for its age. However, the used car industry sees any car that has 100,000 miles on the clock, regardless of its age, as high mileage. Traditionally, people have been warned away from cars with high mileage. However, there can be some advantages to them, and you might not want to run away from anyone trying to sell you one immediately.

Should I buy a high mileage car?

Cars with high mileage can be a great option for a number of reasons. First and foremost, they tend to be much cheaper than low-mileage cars. Because people believe that high-mileage cars are automatically more likely to break down, they are harder to sell and you might be able to get yourself a bargain.

If you’re thinking about buying a car with a high mileage, it’s a pretty good idea to look at the car’s service and MOT history in some detail. If the car has a long service history with lots of evidence, it can be a good sign that the car has been well looked after. It’s also worth looking into the type of car you’re considering buying, as it may be that the car you’re looking at was built to rack up the miles and could still be in great condition after 100,000 miles.

Petrol vs Diesel Cars

Petrol cars are far more suited to short distances than diesel cars, so tend to have a lower yearly average. A petrol car with an average of 9,000 miles a year could therefore be seen as having a fairly high mileage. That isn’t to say that a well-maintained petrol car can’t handle a high mileage, it’s just worth taking a close look at the service history.

Diesel cars tend to thrive on long-distance drives, and need to regularly have longer journeys so that they get hot enough for their particulate filters to work. Diesel cars with low mileage may have spent long periods of time not being used, which can cause them some internal problems.

If you would like to learn more about diesel cars, you can check out our blog ‘Should I buy a diesel car?’.

What should I look out for when buying a used car?

You shouldn’t just be looking out for mileage when you’re thinking about buying a used car, but it can be a good gateway to looking at other problems. Here are a few questions that might be worth asking:

How was the car driven?

Cars that have spent a lot of time on the motorway may have higher mileages, but may run better than cars driven in cities because parts like the clutch and brakes could be less worn.

Has the car been driven regularly?

Cars with low mileage may have spent long periods of time sitting without being used, particularly if they are older. Cars that have spent a lot of time not being driven can have all sorts of problems like bad batteries, brittle seals, and corroded brakes.

If you would like to learn more about battery drain, you can check out our blog ‘How long should a car battery last in the UK?’.

Does the car’s appearance match its mileage?

If the car looks well used but still has a low mileage, the seller may have used a mileage blocker to stop the car recording the miles, and you may be buying a car that is far more worn out than you would think. It’s not technically illegal to use a mileage blocker, but it is illegal to deceive a buyer, so it can be worth asking plenty of questions before you buy.

What will you use the car for?

If you’re going to be doing short journeys, you’re likely to maintain most of the car’s value. But, if you’re planning on driving a lot of miles and keeping the car for a while, it may make more sense to spend less money on a car with more miles and keeping it well maintained.

A few final tips…

If you’re thinking about buying a used car, finding one with good mileage is really about what works for you. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Cars with low mileage are generally agreed to be the best option, but a well-maintained car of any mileage is likely to serve you well
  • Petrol cars with high mileage may not be as much of a problem as you might think
  • Diesel cars and older cars with low mileage could cause you a problem if they haven’t been serviced regularly enough
  • If you think someone selling you a used car has used a mileage blocker, it might be better to walk away

Urban Jungle is not a financial advisor and information in this article should not be taken as advice or recommendation.