Purchasing Decisions: Determining Best Used Car Mileage & Age

Purchasing Decisions: Determining Best Used Car Mileage & Age

Buying a used car? Get the best bang for your buck.

If you’re in the market to buy a used car, you’re not alone. In the past few months, used car sales have skyrocketed. It’s all thanks to effects of the coronavirus pandemic—those who usually took public transportation want to avoid close contact with others, and those who are looking for a different car are opting to save money by buying used. In June, American used car sales were up 22% compared to the previous year. But sales aren’t the only thing seeing an increase. The value of used cars has also been on the rise, increasing by more than 16% in July alone.

Used car mileage and age are two important factors to consider during your used car search. To help make your decision easier, we have broken down each of these critical factors to help you get a better understanding of the best mileage and age for a used car.

Best mileage vs. best age: Which should be your used car priority?

Car mileage and age. Which factor is more important? Ultimately, the answer is that it depends. Automatically relying on a vehicle’s mileage or age to get an overall idea of the car’s condition and lifespan may seem like an easy way to conduct a quick and easy appraisal; however, it’s worth your while to do more homework.

Considering used car mileage among other factors

If you’re comparing two used cars, one with 50,000 miles and the other with 150,000 miles, it may be reasonable to assume that the lower mileage vehicle is the best option for purchase. However, it’s not always that simple. For example, cars with miles accumulated from almost all highway driving may be in better shape than a vehicle with fewer miles that were gained city driving or hardly being driven at all.

If the car has been well maintained, a high number of miles may not be as scary as it seems. If the vehicle has 100,000 miles but has had only one owner who can provide service records, it will most likely be a better buy than a car with fewer miles, several owners and no service records. When it comes to the lifespan of a car, maintenance is key and should be considered when calculating how many years of use a car may have.

The 15,000-mile rule

Unsure of where to draw the line when it comes to the best mileage to buy a used car? The average number of miles per year put on by cars is 15,000 miles. So, if you’re looking at a used car that’s 10 years old, it’s not unusual or unreasonable for it to have 100,000 to 150,000 miles on it. If the car has a lot more or a lot less, it would be worth the time to do a further investigation to find out why.

Best age for a used car to ensure safety and reliability

Along with mileage, age is another important factor to consider during your used car search. Similar to understanding the amount of mileage on a car, a vehicle’s age and maintenance go hand in hand. A 5- to 7-year-old car that’s been sitting undriven for a while may be more of a concern than a 10-year-old car that’s been regularly driven and well maintained.

Of course, the older you’re willing to buy, the less features (safety and technology) the car will have. If safety and reliability are your top priorities, there are some things you should keep in mind.

Safety features weren’t always around

The newer the car, the more likely it is to come with modern safety features. For example, dual airbags weren’t federally mandated until 1998 and anti-lock brakes and side airbags didn’t become widespread until early 2000s.  If safety is one of your top priorities, car models from 2012 and newer are your best bet.

Reliability fades with age

Even when mileage is low, the older a car gets, the less reliable it becomes. Modern cars are much more reliable, even as they age. Five-year-old cars record what is considered a major problem every three years, while 10-year-old cars are more likely to face a problem every 18 to 20 months. Once a car is 20 years old, replacement parts will become harder to find and likely much more expensive.

Factor in more than used care mileage and age

There’s no short answer when it comes to the best age or mileage for a used car. From maintenance to how the car has been driven throughout the years come into play when deciding which type of used car is the best purchase. If you’re looking for standard to follow, consider this: If a used vehicle has more than 150,000 miles on it, do not go older than a 2000 model.  Make sure to inspect the car before you purchase through maintenance records and/or vehicle reports. Have a trusted mechanic look it over, too. (Get other used car buying tips in our blog.)

When you’re ready to buy, call us

When you’ve weighed your options and find yourself in the driver seat toward your final decision, Greater Alliance Federal Credit Union is here to help with reliable auto loan options. Contact us to learn more about our current rates and how to apply. Our bilingual staff is ready to help—schedule in-branch appointment today.