Here’s How Long a Used Car Can Really ‘Last’
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Like almost every consumer good, the used car market has been bonkers over the last few years. While used vehicle prices are still up significantly, both prices and demand appear to be dropping slightly, and if you’re considering purchasing a used car, you may want to know how to weigh current mileage against the asking price and value.
A whole host of variables influence how long a high-mileage car will run well, including the car’s make, model, and year, its current condition, and its maintenance and drive history. Here’s what to consider when buying a used car.
How many miles will a car last?
According to J.D. Power, cars made in recent years—with modern powertrains and advanced technology—are capable of reaching 200,000 miles or more if they are well-maintained. If you’re buying a used vehicle with 100,000 miles on it, and you drive the typical 10,000–12,000 miles per year, that means you could get another eight to 10 years of life out of that car.
That said, vehicles that have clocked over 100,000 miles deserve a bit more scrutiny, as some parts begin to wear out around this point, and lack of regular maintenance during the car’s early years and mileage could result in major issues and significant costs past this point.
In addition, a vehicle with 150,000 miles that was carefully driven and well cared for might be “younger” than a car with 100,000 miles that missed maintenance milestones.
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Old, rare, and vintage cars may not follow this guidance, so if you’re thinking about buying a pre-2000s high-mileage car as your primary vehicle, you’ll definitely want to get it checked out by a professional mechanic.
What to consider when buying a high-mileage used car
You’ll want to look into how well a vehicle was cared for, as well as a handful of environmental factors before purchasing. It’s also a good idea to have a professional mechanic do a full inspection.
Regular service history
Most vehicles require regular oil changes, about every 10,000–15,000 miles, or once per year. Regular service and component checks are also important and vary based on the make and model. Ideally, you’ll be able to review the service records for the vehicle to ensure proper care.
You should also find out how many people have owned your car previously. If you buy from the original owner, you’re likely to get more complete records and history than cars that have been passed around.
Major maintenance history
Car parts don’t last forever, even if they are well-maintained. For example, timing belts may need replacement at 60,000–100,000 miles, brake pads anywhere from 30,000 to 70,000 miles, and brake discs at 120,000 miles. Transmissions can go for 150,000 miles or more if serviced regularly.
Location and drive history
The climate in which vehicles are driven may also play a role in longevity. Cars with rust from salt and sand, as well as wear and tear from winter weather may necessitate more care than those that exist in mild weather. It may sound counterintuitive, but cars that have spent more time in storage may also be in worse shape than those driven regularly. You should also check the vehicle’s accident history (a VIN check or CARFAX report, for example).
Make and model
Again, while you can expect most modern vehicles to last for a long time, it’s worth researching the make, model, and year of high-mileage cars for major maintenance trends, recalls, and driver feedback. Electric vehicles are also capable of living well past the 100,000-mile mark, but you’ll want to get the battery and electrical system checked out.
If the vehicle manufacturer warranties their cars up to 100,000 miles, you can feel fairly confident about a vehicle’s lifespan—though as we’ve pointed out, 100,000 miles is actually relatively low for modern cars. While factory warranties usually don’t last longer than this, you can get third-party warranties for high-mileage vehicles (these are likely to be expensive).
Finally, a major downside to driving a high-mileage car is that repairs can eventually become more costly than the resale value, and you may end up sinking a lot of money into a vehicle that doesn’t have much life left. That’s why knowing the maintenance history is important.
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