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Buying a Used Car: How Many Miles Are Too Many for a Used Car?

by | Jan 22, 2024 | buy car, how to sell your car, offermore, sell my car | 0 comments

Buying a used car can be a fantastic way of getting a great deal on a reliable vehicle. However, it is essential to be prepared and research to avoid potential pitfalls. It’s important to understand how to navigate the process of finding the perfect used car for you.  Along these same lines, much of the information we cover will also help those considering selling their car, truck or SUV.

Before You Start Your Used Car Buying or Selling Process:

  • Set a Budget: You must know how much you can comfortably spend on the car, including potential repairs and maintenance. Consider pre-approval for a loan from your bank or credit union to avoid dealer financing with higher interest rates.
  • Research Your Options: Look online at websites like Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book, and Autotrader to compare prices and features of different models and years. Consider factors like fuel efficiency, safety ratings, and reliability.
  • Think Florida-Specific: Choose a car that suits Florida’s climate and driving conditions. Consider features like air conditioning, rain-sensing wipers, flood-resistant interiors, and good fuel economy for highway driving.

Tips for Buying a Used Car with Significant Mileage

Aside from not being brand new, there are certain risks involved when buying a used car. Here are some tips to help you make an informed decision:

Consider the average mileage for the car’s age.

A general rule of thumb is that a car should have been driven around 12,000 miles per year. So, a 5-year-old car should have about 60,000 miles on it. However, this is just a guideline, and many factors can affect how many miles a vehicle is driven, such as the type of car, the owner’s driving habits, and the car’s history.  Higher mileage on newer vehicles indicates the vehicle was likely used for long-distance travel. If this is the case those higher miles should be considered as slightly less damaging to the overall condition of the engine and car.  Thus, you might be able to get a good deal on a higher mileage, newer vehicle in the event you find one that may seem otherwise overpriced.

Get a vehicle history report.

A vehicle history report will tell you if the car has been in any accidents if it has any outstanding recalls, and if it has ever been titled as a salvage vehicle. This will help you avoid cars with hidden problems.

Have the car inspected by a mechanic.

Even if the car looks good on paper, it’s essential to have it inspected by a mechanic before you buy it. This will give you peace of mind, knowing that the car is in good condition and that you won’t be facing any significant repairs in the near future.

Negotiate the price.

The asking price of a used car is just a starting point. Be bold, talk to the seller, and try to negotiate the price. You may get a good deal if you’re willing to walk away.

Be prepared for some maintenance costs.

Even if you buy a car with low mileage, you’ll still need to budget for maintenance costs. Be sure to factor in the cost of oil changes, tire rotations, and brake pads.

How Many Miles Are Too Many When Buying a Used Car?

Determining how many miles are “too many” for a used car is tricky, as it depends on several factors beyond the odometer reading. While a high mileage number might raise some red flags, it’s not always an automatic dealbreaker.

Here’s a breakdown to help you navigate the used car market with confidence:

Mileage Ranges and General Guidelines:

  • Low Mileage (Under 50,000 miles): Generally considered the sweet spot for used cars, offering lower risk of major repairs and potentially higher resale value. However, these cars often come with a premium price tag.
  • Moderate Mileage (50,000 – 100,000 miles): A good balance between affordability and reliability. Many well-maintained cars in this range can still have plenty of life left.
  • High Mileage (Over 100,000 miles): Traditionally considered riskier, but not necessarily a wrong choice. Modern cars are built to last longer, and with proper maintenance, a high-mileage car can be a reliable and affordable option.

Beyond Mileage: What Else Matters?

  • Maintenance records: Regular oil changes, tune-ups, and other preventative maintenance are essential for any car’s longevity. Look for a car with a documented history of proper care.
  • Vehicle condition: Inspect the car thoroughly for cosmetic damage, rust, leaks, or unusual noises. Going for a test drive to assess its performance and handling should be a good idea.
  • Model reputation: Research the vehicle make and model you’re interested in. Some cars are known for their reliability, while others have a higher risk of problems.

Mileage Thresholds by Car Type:

  • Luxury cars: Due to their premium components and complex systems, luxury cars might need more attention at higher mileages compared to budget-friendly vehicles. Aim for under 75,000 miles if possible.
  • Trucks and SUVs: These workhorses are typically built to handle higher mileage, and well-maintained trucks and SUVs can be reliable, well past 100,000 miles.
  • Hybrid and electric cars: Electric batteries degrade over time, so lower mileage is generally preferred for these vehicles. Consider models under 50,000 miles.
  • Remember: Mileage is just one factor to consider when buying a used car. A well-maintained vehicle with high mileage can be better than a neglected car with low mileage. By researching, getting a vehicle history report, and carefully inspecting the car, you can find a reliable car that suits your budget and needs.

Bonus Tip: Consult with a trusted mechanic before finalizing your purchase. They can give you a professional assessment of the car’s condition and potential repair needs.

Other Things to Consider

Checking the mileage of a used car is a crucial step in the buying process, but it’s not the only factor to consider. 

Visual Inspection:

  • Odometer: This is the most obvious check. Look for any signs of tampering, like scratches, misalignments, or inconsistencies in the font or spacing of the numbers. 
  • Trip odometer: Compare the trip odometer reading to the car’s overall mileage. A significant discrepancy could indicate manipulation.
  • Wear and tear: Check for excessive wear and tear on the interior and exterior, which might not align with the odometer reading. Look for worn-out tires, faded paint, cracked leather seats, or loose steering wheel.


  • Registration documents: Compare the mileage listed on the car’s registration documents to the odometer reading.

Advanced methods:

  • Diagnostic tools: Some mechanics can use diagnostic tools to access the car’s computer system and check for stored mileage data. This can be helpful if the odometer has been physically tampered with.
  • Paint depth gauge: A paint depth gauge can help detect inconsistencies in the paintwork, indicating repairs or replacements that might not be reflected in the odometer reading.


Following the tips above can help protect yourself from mileage fraud and ensure you’re buying a used car with an accurate mileage history. You should also get a pre-purchase inspection from a professional mechanic. An expert can assess the car’s condition, including potential mileage discrepancies.

On the other hand, if you want to dispose of your old vehicle to purchase another, you can always come to OfferMORE. We are one of the most trusted used car buyers servicing St. Petersburg, Seminole, Largo, Pinellas Park, and the surrounding Pinellas County. Call us if you don’t have the patience to go through the process of selling your old car yourself. Bring us an appraisal from another dealership, and we will beat any other dealer’s offer!


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