How Important Are The Miles When Buying a Used Car?

When buying a used car, arguably the two most factors that most influence purchase decision are age and mileage. Drive Auto, a top retailer of used cars near Madison, looks at just how important these factors are, and the relationship between the two.


Let’s begin by establishing some easily agreeable parameters. In terms of age, an eight-year-old car is usually cheaper than a two-year-old car. In terms of miles, a car with 100,000 miles is often cheaper than a car with 20,000 miles. But here’s a curveball: what about an eight-year-old car with 20,000 miles versus a two-year-old car with 100,000 miles? Which one is the better buy? We’ll break it down.


Similar to how a calendar measures a person’s age in years, an odometer tracks a car’s age in miles. Thus mileage is hugely important when evaluating which used car to buy, because a car (and everything else, for that matter) only has a finite amount of time before it expires. Also, cars are comprised of countless mechanical parts and different exterior/interior materials, all of which have a shelf-life. Since you’re not just putting miles on the car, but also on the engine, transmission, drivetrain, etc., it’s easy to see why a car with 60,000 miles on it is worth much more than a car with 160,000 miles.

Here’s the rub: it’s also important to understand the way in which miles have accrued on the vehicles at our used car dealership. The easiest way to evaluate this is by comparing city miles to highway miles. A car driven mostly in the city will have endured a lot more wear and tear than one that has seen highways for the majority of its days. Another aspect to consider is the care given to the car by its previous owner. If the person was diligent about regular maintenance and replacing worn-out parts promptly, it’s very likely that his car will last longer than an owner who did the bare minimum. In fact, the better-maintained car, even it has more miles, is still the better buy.


A car’s age can be a big deal, too – and in certain cases it’s more important the mileage. For example, let’s say you find a used car that’s 13 years old but only has 35,000 miles on it. Sounds like a good deal, right? But what if in addition to not spending much time behind the wheel during those 13 years, the owner has ignored all of its maintenance needs? In this case, the car’s age plus the owner’s negligence have rendered it akin to a house of cards waiting to collapse.

On a similar tack, some car components need to be “exercised” in order to stay in shape – especially rubber parts, and other components with elasticity. In this scenario, a six-year-old car that has sat inert for most of that time is a more dubious choice than an 11-year-old car that’s regularly driven and well maintained.

In Sum

Age and miles are both important, but the care a car has received should be given just as much attention. It all comes down to the type of vehicle, the owner’s mindset, and the type of maintenance performed. Our local car dealership looks forward to discussing this topic further with you and introducing you to our big inventory of used automobiles.