It’s natural to wonder how much mileage is good for a used car whenever you’re shopping for pre-owned vehicles. No matter how hard we try to deny it, mileage is still one of the important factors. It affects the value of the used car and, along with other constituents, determines how much you’ll pay.

That’s why we can’t ignore the mileage when we’re shopping for used vehicles. Even though it’s impossible to talk about the exact numbers, it’s feasible to determine general guidelines.

How many miles should a used car have? – we shall see below.

What makes mileage so important?

It could indicate the condition of the vehicle. It’s not a bulletproof way to tell whether a used car is worth your money or not, but it does give us some important information.

Before we discuss how many miles is a lot on a car, you should understand why those numbers matter.

I’m not one of those people who put mileage on top of the list. I always say that we should take it with a grain of salt. However, I’m not denying the fact that it has a certain role that we should keep in mind before making the purchase.

You see, the parts of your vehicle have different lifespans. Some of them last till the end, while others need to be changed after a while.

For example, original tires and brake pads usually last for around 20,000 – 50,000 miles, while an electronic engine control module or an air conditioning compressor needs to be changed every 80,000 – 100,000 miles.

In other words, a car that shows 70,000 miles on the odometer, won’t have original tires, brake pads, clutch, engine belts, or a thermostat.

The fact that those parts are replaced doesn’t mean that we should throw the car into the dumpster, but it’s still worth considering before making the final decision.  

Understanding such peculiarities will help you set the right expectations. It will make mileage less scary as you’ll know exactly what difference it makes.

How much mileage is good for a used car?

It depends on its age. We can calculate “optimal” mileage with a simple formula, and, therefore, determine how many miles on a used car is too much. An average car drives around 10,000 – 12,000 miles per year. We should multiply that number by the age of the vehicle.

For example, if the car is 10-year-old, it will probably show 100,000 – 120,000 miles on the odometer. A 5-year-old vehicle, on the other hand, will have 50,000 – 60,000 miles on the clock.

If you do a little bit of math every time you visit the dealership, you’ll be able to understand the abuse of the vehicle to a certain extent.

Generally, 50,000 – 60,000-mile  is a sweet spot. Some of the parts might not be original anymore, but it’s not the red flag. More expensive components will still have many years left to live, which means you won’t be losing anything if you invest in such a used car.

But it’s crucial to add maintenance records into the equation. If the previous owner doesn’t even know what that document means, then small mileage won’t save such a vehicle. Due to poor maintenance, the parts of the car might be in horrible condition regardless of the lower mileage.

You can use the formula I provided as a general guideline or the first step – it could easily let you filter out “bad” cars. For example, if you see a 5-year-old car with 100,000 miles, it’s probably better to continue your search.

Unusually low mileage is the cause for concern as well. If the vehicle isn’t driven enough, some of its parts will start to degrade over time. Tires might develop unrepairable dents. Internal components might become rusty.

Knowing the formula for optimal mileage lets us calculate quickly how many miles on a used car is too much (or too little).

How many miles is a lot on a car?

Anything above 200,000 miles. It hugely depends on the manufacturer and the model of the vehicle, but generally, this is the number that tells us when the car dies.

When the automotive industry wasn’t developed as much as it is today, 100,000 miles were the final point for any vehicle. But as time went by, manufacturers managed to increase the number to 250,000 – 300,000 miles.

Once again, it depends on the particular model and brand. Ford, Toyota, Lexus, Subaru, etc. are the brands that create durable cars. Some are better than others, bus, as a rule, their vehicles can easily surpass the 200,000-mile margin.

If you are the owner yourself who is looking to sell a used car profitably, I’d suggest selling it when it’s still below that number. You already know how much mileage is good for a used car, therefore, you know when is the best time to sell it.

If you’re willing to buy a used car, then we should look at your budget first. If it’s really tight, then you’ll certainly have to go for an older vehicle with higher mileage. If it was well-maintained, you won’t have any problems with it. You might have to change a part or two, but that is something we should expect anyway with pre-owned vehicles.

But if you can afford to spend more, I’d suggest investing in something that’s slightly younger. That way, you’ll avoid additional costs and drive your car safely until you’re bored with it.

Is mileage the only factor you should consider while shopping for used cars?

Certainly not. Mileage is important as long as you take other factors into consideration.

It’s easy to figure out how many miles is good for a used car. But buying a pre-owned vehicle is a difficult task. You have to analyze a lot of information before you make the final decision.

I’ve already mentioned that a km isn’t the only thing that matters. Maintenance plays an equally important role. If you want to get a good deal, then you must examine whether the vehicle was maintained regularly or not.

The climate is another factor that affects the durability of the car. Vehicles from colder countries are exposed to salt during winters, which makes their components susceptible to erosion. Too much heat isn’t such good news either.

This means that a vehicle from California with 100,000 miles might be in better condition than a car from Alaska with 60,000 miles.

Previous accidents affect the condition of the car as well. If you find a car that has attractive mileage yet was abused like hell by a previous owner, then it’s better to look somewhere else.

Frequent stops and daily commuting can degrade the condition of the vehicle. In this case, higher mileage through highway driving could be a better choice.

What I’m trying to say is that mileage should be analyzed along with other factors. You should examine all those details carefully and make a final decision accordingly. It might seem like too much of a headache, but it will be worth it in the long run.

Final tips

Now that you know how many miles is good for a used car, it’s time to finalize our discussion. Here are some tips that will simplify the whole process quite a bit.

  • Set your budget before you visit the dealership;
  • Do your research and explore all the options you have within that budget. By doing so, you’ll also understand what mileage you can expect within a certain price range;
  • Check the durability score of the models you’ve selected;
  • Find a private seller or a dealership;
  • Check the VINs, Carfax report, and maintenance records. Make sure to collect all the necessary information beforehand;
  • Don’t take mileage as a number one guide – explore well-maintained vehicles with higher mileage, as well;
  • Don’t fall for fraud – small mileage might indicate that the odometer was rolled back

We can spend all day discussing how many miles can you put on a car, but at the end of the day, we should look at the bigger picture. You won’t find the perfect used vehicle, but you can certainly find a durable model.

How many miles on a car is bad? – as much as it takes for it to break down. It could be 250,000 or 100,000 miles. Judge each vehicle on an individual basis – that’s the only way to know for sure.

Careful inspection is the key to finding the used car that will last you through a lifetime. You simply need to have the patience to explore everything meticulously. Good luck!