It’s one of the most commonly asked questions whenever someone is searching for a second-hand set of wheels. As an important indicator of how intensively a car has been used – and how much longer it’s likely to last before significant maintenance work must be undertaken – used car mileage is a key consideration for any buyer.
However, it shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all when it comes to deciding whether or not to splash out on a used car. The age of the car, its service history and its current condition are all equally as indicative of a car’s likely longevity. With that in mind, weighing up all those factors is crucial to arriving at a balanced decision.
Age: just a number?
While most buyers will regard mileage as the chief concern when it comes to weighing up a car’s merits, its age can actually be just as influential on how much it could cost you further down the line. That’s because manufacturers are now offering longer warranties with their vehicles. This means that a younger car has a good chance of remaining eligible, while an older one could be discounted on those grounds before any other issues are taken into account.
For example, Kia has set the standard for others to follow when it comes to extended warranties, offering seven years on all of its models. Hyundai, Toyota, Mitsubishi and Subaru are not far behind, with five years of warranty provided for most of their vehicles. What’s more, Renault offer four years for the majority of their models. Remember, of course, that there is often a mileage ceiling for warranties as well – but that age is generally the first factor which will preclude a car from coverage.
Condition is key
Besides used car mileage and age, condition is another incredibly important factor to consider when buying a second-hand car. After all, a 10-year-old vehicle that has covered over 100,000 miles but has been driven sensibly, serviced on time and generally well cared for is a great proposition. In comparison, a car half its age, with a fraction of the mileage, driven recklessly and maintained on a shoestring budget is less so!
The cosmetic appearance of the car is the first thing you’ll notice about it, so pay attention to any dents, scrapes or bumps that haven’t been treated by its previous owners. This will give you an indication of their overall attitude towards the vehicle and will likely reflect how the car has been treated on the whole. The same goes for uneven paint jobs, rusting and discolouration. In addition, any grinding, juddering or unpleasant noises during a test drive are major red flags that shouldn’t be ignored.
As well as subjecting the car to a thorough examination and a test drive, it’s also essential that you cast an eye over the paperwork. Ask to see its complete service history – if one isn’t provided, steer clear straight away – and check for major surgery. In particular, look out for big ticket operations like cam belt replacement, which can affect many other components of the car. This could result in a hefty bill if the work needs to be carried out under your ownership.
How much mileage is good for a used car?
Having said all that, many buyers are still keen to have a ballpark figure in their head when it comes to considering used car mileage. As a general rule of thumb, a car is expected to cover an average of between 10,000 and 12,000 miles per year. With that in mind, it’s simply a case of doing the sums and checking to see whether your prospective new motor has been under or over-performing during its lifespan to date.
For those buyers who wish to take advantage of car financing to fund their purchase, it should be remembered that most lenders will put a cap on the number of miles a vehicle has driven to be approved for a deal. That exact figure will vary from lender to lender and can change depending on the unique circumstances of the arrangement. However, it’s normally around 100,000 miles. Bear that in mind if you wish to obtain a PCP, PCH or HP deal when buying a used car.
Of course, the above ballpark is meant merely as a guideline that can help influence your decision. There are also exceptions to the rule which can mean that a higher mileage isn’t necessarily indicative of a problem. For example, if the vehicle has been used as part of a professional fleet, it could easily cover upwards of 30,000 miles a year, which sounds like a lot of tarmac under its belt.
However, company cars often spend much more time driving in motorway conditions as opposed to urban metropoles. This can mean that the steady nature of coasting is far less taxing than the stop-start rhythms of a busy city centre. What’s more, a company-owned vehicle is almost certainly going to have been serviced regularly and cared for with a professional approach, meaning it’s less likely to suffer from serious issues under the bonnet.
Trust your instincts
When approaching a potential automotive transaction, thinking about how much mileage is good for a used car is a solid starting point, as is factoring in its age, track record and current condition. However, there’s simply no substitute for your own judgement when it comes to these matters. Buy with your head (and not with your heart) and you’ll find that your own instincts will often alert you to whether a deal is a sound investment or not.
Thankfully, much of your homework can be done in advance of an in-person inspection. With a wide variety of car buying sites available online, you can research different makes and models, ask questions of dealers and see 360° photos of the vehicles in question. You can even use a car finance calculator to ascertain how much the car will set you back in the long run through used car finance! Trust your gut, then reinforce that decision by doing your due diligence and you won’t go far wrong. Happy trails!
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