What is a Good Mileage for a Used Car? Understanding Mileage on Used Cars
What is a Good Mileage for a Used Car? Understanding Mileage on Used Cars
There is an old rule of thumb that dictates that the average driver does 12,000 miles per year, so the average mileage of a used car should be 12,000 x the age of the vehicle. For example, a two-year car should have 24,000 miles on it on average, and a five-year-old car 60,000 miles.
This calculation is also used at 8,000 miles per year by some, 10,000 miles by others, and even over 15,000 per year by a small number of people, making it an all but useless calculation.
In this post, we share the information you need to know when determining what mileage you should find acceptable on a used car, and what to look out for to make sure you get a car that has plenty of mileage to go.
Understanding Used Car Mileage
When looking for a used car you may find adverts for ‘low mileage’ cars, but what constitutes a low mileage car, and is that a sign of quality?
What is considered ‘low mileage’ is in the eye of the beholder and there are no hard and fast rules on what low mileage means exactly?
Engine type and vehicle mileage
Typically diesel engine cars will cover more miles than petrol cars. Diesel cars are generally purchased by people doing over 20,000 miles per year, including lots of motorway miles. This is because, over longer journeys such as motorway miles, diesel cars offer better fuel economy. Electric cars generally do the least miles of all engine types.
This means diesel cars in the used car sales market will typically be higher mileage than their petrol-based cousins, and a ‘good mileage’ will be different for each fuel type.
Previous use and vehicle mileage
A fixation on mileage is not a good way to decide which used car to buy. It is one of a large number of factors to consider, and how mileage should be viewed depends partly on the previous use of the car.
For example, you may find two cars you are interested in. One has lower miles, is privately owned, and has partial service history. The other has more miles but is an ex-company car.
Ex-fleet cars will almost always have complete service and repair histories as the drivers are compelled to ensure regular servicing, and with repairs included in their hire agreement, they will ensure everything that needs fixing gets fixed. Which car looks more interesting now?
Service history and vehicle mileage
Following on from the last section, the service history of any used car is key in ascertaining how well it has been looked after. A car with low mileage but little to no service history is likely to be a greater risk than a high mileage vehicle with all or most of its history available.
Marque and vehicle mileage
Some car marques (brands) have developed a reputation for robust, reliable cars which can survive the seemingly impossible. Take the three-part series it took for Top Gear to destroy a Toyota Hilux, we won’t spoil the ending but it is worth a few minutes of your time.
What is ‘high mileage’ for one car is not necessarily for another.
Body style and vehicle mileage
Think for a moment about a small practical car, the sort which a person might buy solely to go to the shops once a week and occasionally visit friends. This vehicle is likely to have exceptionally low mileage.
Now think about a vehicle designed to take four kids and the dog to school, after-school activities, weekends away, frequent pit stops drop-offs, and collections of various family members, as well as being used to commute to the next city by a working parent. This car is likely to have much higher mileage than the previous example, but that does not mean it is ‘high mileage’.
Each body type has its own range of what is considered to be low and what is high, and they will not be the same. For example, the average mileage across cars for sale in the first example given may have an average of 6,000 miles per year. The average for the larger car may be upward of 15,000 miles per year. These two vehicles are designed differently and are tailored to two different audiences. The difference in mileage is relative.
Type of driving and vehicle mileage
Another key content for vehicle mileage is the type of miles the car has driven. Going back to the two examples in the previous section, the small, practical car is likely to have sat idly for large spaces of time, then driven stop/start short journeys, barely warming up before being shut off again. This increases the likelihood of wear and tear on vital components which could be costly in the future.
The second car will be used almost every single day, spending many miles on roads and motorways, getting warmed up properly, and cruising along in 5th or 6th gear for long periods of time. This type of driving causes less stress and reduces wear and tear on the engine, showing that mileage is not everything.
COVID and vehicle mileage
Since the COVID pandemic began many people have driven fewer miles than in previous years due to lockdown and the increase in people working from home. This has brought average miles per year down in the UK, meaning the term ‘low mileage’ needs to be adjusted accordingly.
Vehicle Mileage vs Vehicle Age
Another common question from used car buyers is which is more important – the age of the vehicle or the number of miles it has driven? The perceived value of a used car largely lies in these two factors, though as we have shown above, there is much more to it and context is everything.
Most cars suffer a reduction in value every year, due to another year’s worth of use, miles, and increased likelihood of repairs being required. Every time a new model or facelift comes out, the previous model decreases that bit more. In this respect, a car with fewer years on it might be a better buy than an older car.
However, the number of miles a car has driven also contributes to its deprecation, and potential increased wear and tear.
Both of these elements must be considered when looking at which used car to buy, but it is important to keep in mind a range of other important elements such as the availability of the car you want, driving position and comfort, boot space, optional extras, and the history of the car.
What mileage is good for a used car?
As we hope to have explained, a ‘good’ mileage on a car is perceived value; there is no finite answer.
Most well-maintained modern cars can do 150,000 miles before they cost more to fix than they are worth, some brands, notably some Japanese, Swedish, and German manufacturers may cross the 200,000-mile line and still be going strong.
According to Nimble Fins, the average mileage for a car in the UK in 2020 was just 6,800 miles.
How many miles is too many for a used car?
Just as ‘low mileage’ is relative, so is ‘high mileage’. The style of driving, engine size, fuel type, and many other factors play into what is or is not a good mileage for a used car. That said, we do not suggest you buy a car with exceptionally high mileage such as 180,000 miles no matter the age, as it is likely to need repair or give up fairly soon.
High mileage on a reasonably young car, say 60,000 miles on a three-year-old car can be off-putting, and bear in mind most manufacturer warranties will not cover a car beyond this age and/or mileage – whichever comes first. If you find a used car with low age but high mileage, it is still worth considering if the price is right and you are covered by a used car warranty and quality assurance from the seller.
Buying a Used Car from DCC
Please speak to the sales team at DCC about any car in our live used car stocklist at any time to get a competitive price and low finance deals.
You can start your car buying journey with DCC online or pop into one of our showrooms.
Every used car from DCC comes with:
- 128-point AA-approved inspection check
- Minimum 6-month MOT
- Minimum 6 month/6,000 miles before next service
- 12-month AA breakdown cover
- 6-month warranty with lifetime warranty available
- All tyres under 3mm replaced before sale
- All brakes over 70% worn replaced before the sale
Browse DCC's current stock and buy used cars online or at one of our three south coast showrooms
View the full range of cars available at DCC’s three Hampshire used car sites. View finance examples for every car we sell and arrange a walkaround on any vehicle which takes your interest. Our sales team is available to answer any questions you have about buying a used car online, contact our used car sales team today.