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How important is mileage when buying a used car?

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How important is mileage when buying a used car?

Old 29th Nov 2010, 19:20
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How important is mileage when buying a used car?

How important is it these days to consider mileage when buying a used car? Do car engines get more reliable as time goes on?

Hypothetically, lets say I am looking at a BMW 3-Series or Audi A4. I find a 2007 or 2008 model with 70,000 miles on the clock. It has been well maintained with full service history available and not involved in any major accidents. Given that it is at least a grand or two cheaper than a low-mileage model, should I be overly concerned about the 70K?
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Old 29th Nov 2010, 19:38
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I bought a one-owner high mileage diesel high-spec estate car that had been supplied on a lease (and therefore regularly serviced 'with no expense spared').
The worn tyres were evenly worn (so indicating motorway mileage rather than country lanes).

If you find a low-mileage (ie below-average per year) then you should ask the question "Why?". It might be that the owner/driver had bad health, - or it might be that it has spent periods 'off the road' waiting for repairs for recurrent faults. Have these been solved?

On the other hand, a high average mileage vehicle has proved itself to be reliable (and may have been (like mine) predominantly used on motorways.

Just my opinion . . .
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Old 29th Nov 2010, 19:49
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2 or 3 years old - mileage is not that important.
5 or 7 years old - mileage IS important.
10 + years old - mileage is not that important.

This is because the middle "5 to 7" bracket is when expensive failures will happen early with hard used cars. Before then they are new enough to take the abuse. After then, you can expect failures in any case.
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Old 29th Nov 2010, 19:52
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No mileage doesn't matter a bit, by and large. If you're going to do lots of miles in the vehicle yourself, it makes even more sense not to pay over the odds for a low mileage car which soon won't be. The engine and gearbox of a well maintained modern car should be good for quarter of a million miles.

Of course, a higher mileage car may need semi-consumable parts replacing during your ownership, such as brake discs, dampers, wheel bearings etc, that you may get away with not replacing on a lower mileage one. On the flip side, some may have already been replaced and hence not need doing again as soon as the original parts on a car with 20K less on the clock.

I'd say that a more thorough inspection of a higher mileage car should highlight most worn components though, so you can buy in an informed manner. About the only thing you might want to factor in is the cost of a possible clutch replacement, as this is one thing you can't assess but which could be close to due on a 70K car which has been driven by a clutch abuser. Also, beware cambelt replacements becoming due on many vehicles approaching the 70K/5 year old mark.
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Old 29th Nov 2010, 19:55
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About as important as hours on an airframe or tits on a bull.
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Old 29th Nov 2010, 19:57
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70K is getting towards a major service. Cam belt change being a big part of it.

A 2 year old car is quite likely to be under manufactures warranty but you need a service history. A Mazda dealer quoted just over £1K for the service and replacemen of the beltt. If you are going to buy something with that milage, I would make sure you don't catch that bill.
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Old 29th Nov 2010, 19:59
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Cars these days aren't the lucky dip crap boxes they were twenty years ago. Having said that all motors will have their faults that recur on a particular model. If it were me, I'd check out the forums for the model and there are always forums for the enthusiasts.

An Audi A4 you say? a 2007 would be an A4 B7 model. You can expect to find anti roll bar problems, oil pump failures, dual mas flywheels, radiator damage - it's a myth that German cars are higher reliability than anythig else. Having said that, if I were spending my own money, I would opt for a ex. company motor with an impeccable service history - motors that live motorway lives are far more likely to have less stress on brakes, clutches, gearboxes & suspension than something that's been to town every day through the traffic & not allowed to warm up properly.
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Old 29th Nov 2010, 20:04
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always factor in the cost of a cam belt change on purchase of any used car. its cheaper to do before a failure than the results of a failure.

high mileage depends on the car type. a nissan micra will fare worse with higher milage than say a 7 series.

one of the cars i have, from a known manufacturer in stuttgart, has a potential problem with a bearing, which is prone to failure on lower mileage cars, at around the 50k mark. if the bearing lets go, the engine will hand grenade and its good night and farewell. however if the car makes higher mileage, the bearing will more than likely last. its best to change it when the clutch gets done and the box is separated from the block and change the seal, bearing and clutch in one hit.

it also depends on what you will use the car for. if you do high mileage, then is there much point in throwing the money into a car with lower mileage, just to crank it up. more likely it would be better off buying a high miler and just adding to the numbers.

depending on the car its worth doing some research on the model, there are forums, just like this dedicated to car types with more info than you can shake a stick at. find out what the common problems are, when they are likely to occur and what are the key things to look out for at particular age intervals.

good luck
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Old 29th Nov 2010, 20:07
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Extremely low mileage older cars can come with their own problems. A friend of my oldest son bought a 1993 Cadillac El Dorado that only had about 2,000 miles on it two years ago. It had always been kept in a garage and it looked like it had just rolled off the showroom floor. Had a problem though.

That one problem lead to many, many more. That one problem was that the car had not been driven for nearly twelve years. The guy ended up spending a ton of money on it. He had to completely overhaul the engine, replace the shocks, tires, brakes, overhaul the transmission, replace all the fuel lines and water lines, replace the radiator and replace all the electrical window motors. Every seal on the car had dried up and cracked.
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Old 29th Nov 2010, 20:31
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Bought a 5 year old diesel car with 15k miles on clock that was almost like new, details in glove department showed owner in mid 60's and car was in pristine condition with a full tank of fuel.

Have driven it for 5 months and it was a bargain. Reckon will drive it to at least 120,000 or more.
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Old 29th Nov 2010, 20:38
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Also, beware cambelt replacements becoming due on many vehicles approaching the 70K/5 year old mark.
always factor in the cost of a cam belt change on purchase of any used car. its cheaper to do before a failure than the results of a failure.
70K is getting towards a major service. Cam belt change being a big part of it.
Generally good advice.

But BMW 3 series engines don't have cam belts, they have chains which last a lot longer, provided that the car has been fully maintained.
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Old 29th Nov 2010, 21:32
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It's not the miles, it's how the miles have been accumalated and what servicing has been carried out. Any modern car will run happily to 100+K, but check the service record. Previous posters have mentioned cam belts which is important unless it's something like most BMWs and all SaaBs which have chain driven cams.
A two years old rep's car with 50,000 motorway miles is a better proposition than a two year old town car with 8,000 miles.
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Old 29th Nov 2010, 22:29
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When I emigrated to NZ, I immediately bought a cheap car to start getting around.

Although the car test drove OK, I was uneasy about the low mileage, around 75K, Km. but the 'story' seemed to fit.

When it reached 100K, the speedo wheels started to turn, then the leftmost one stuck, halfway between a painted out 1 and a clear 2 !!! Bastard.

I then realised what my unease had been, new cars come with speedos showing 6 zeros, not 6 blank spaces, and the significance of the left most black patch had eluded me.

We have a free ( until 1.1.11 ) car mileage site to now check such things, and my present 214K Km. car had 800 Km wound off it around 2003, but as we have to undergo a 6 monthly warrant of fitness ( MoT ) I can see that at one such check the mileage was recorded as 141,800, but on the same date it had been re-recorded again as 141,000, so I'm happy that the mechanic might have noted a zero as an eight, then had his attention drawn to his error by the collecting owner - maybe. History now anyway, 'cept that this car now has a highlighted note to the effect that it has a dodgy speedo !

You canna be tooo carrrreful - Caveat Emptor.

Last edited by ExSp33db1rd; 30th Nov 2010 at 20:30.
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Old 29th Nov 2010, 22:31
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Agreeing with Parapunter

A couple of years ago my other half got a 5 year old ex-lease A4 Avant 1.9TDi, with 105k miles on it, for an absolute song. A typical upmarket rep-mobile with some nice extras on it. Especially the 6 speeed manual box and sport suspension so it goes round corners on rails

I can't remember exactly how much it was but the high mileage knocked £000s off the price. It came with full main dealer service history showing consistent annual mileage, and pages and pages of servicing detail / invoicing so we could see exactly what had been done, right down to the mileage when tyres had been replaced etc etc.

The bodywork was 'very good' but not 'immaculate' which we reckoned meant it hadn't been 'done up to be sold' by some spiv and the 'Eurocamp GB sticker' on the bumper, together with some wear in the boot area, suggested it was also a family car i.e. probably not driven by some loony young idiot thrashing the life out of it.

And so far it has proved to be a really good buy

Work that's needing doing in the two years and 25k miles since was kind of what you'd expect: new cambelt, new discs and pads and one front lower wishbone thingy needed replacing. Audi main dealer price £LOTS, our friendly local garage about £half the Audi price.

The only 'nasty' was when I drove through a torrential downpour / lake on the road which flooded the engine compartment. I got home fine but when I turned off the engine all sorts of funny things started happening

It turned out the rubber seal on the ECU had corroded and water got in, shorting out some of the relays so it was a £450 Audi main dealer job to fix it. Bless them though, when I asked if they could do it pronto as I needed the car urgently to move a dog for a dog rescue that I help, not only did they do it the next day but they also gave me a discount off the quoted price as well

Good luck with your purchase Stu and please let us know how you get on!

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Old 30th Nov 2010, 00:34
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Cars need regular overhauls, just like aeroplanes. At 70,000 miles, I'd be very wary. There could be a lot of things coming up for replacement. Unless the owner/seller can provide a verifiable list of recent replacements, you will get the bill for them instead.
Tyres are the obvious one, but the less-obvious ones are... brakes, clutch (if it's a manual), cooling system, belts... these are the kind of thing that need regular rebuild/replacement, and which run into money.

There are several things I check out on used cars. First up, is cooling system. Without a doubt, the most neglected, and the most costly item in a car. A neglected cooling system results in severe engine damage in a very short time.

Ensure that the coolant has been maintained by regular coolant changes, and that no internal corrosion is evident. Corrosion problems can be quickly ascertained by inspecting hose connection points. Any sign of nasty "growths" by way of build-up where the hose meets the fitting, means trouble.

Inspect the radiator core where the tanks join. Modern radiators are plastic tanks crimped to aluminium cores. Developing corrosion (as indicated by "growths") will make the core and tank part company, when under pressure with high operating temperatures (modern cars run at operating temps of 200°F or more).
The result of the tank and core parting company? The entire cooling system contents spread over 200 metres of hwy in 10 seconds, and a ruined engine. Temperature sensors don't work in the absence of coolant...

It also makes sense to discreetly inquire as to the health of the 18 yr son of the owner. When the answer comes back, that there IS no 18 yr old son... you are guaranteed a car that hasn't been mistreated...

A car with 70,000 miles and a verifiable list of recent component repairs, along with a perfectly maintained, clean-as-a-whistle, cooling system, will be a good buy if the price is right.
Remember that cars with high mileage are a dime a dozen, the car yards are full of them.
Try and sell a high mileage car and see how much interest you get. Very little, and there's a good reason for that.
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Old 30th Nov 2010, 01:33
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Originally Posted by onetrack View Post
It also makes sense to discreetly inquire as to the health of the 18 yr son of the owner. When the answer comes back, that there IS no 18 yr old son... you are guaranteed a car that hasn't been mistreated...
Err no you're not. When I was a 25 yr old rep with a company car and a potential wife to impress, I used to do terrible things to the poor old girl

Edit: the car that is, not the lady
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Old 30th Nov 2010, 03:01
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Edit: the car that is, not the lady
Got your priorities wrong then, didn't you ?
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Old 30th Nov 2010, 04:42
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Talked a lot about this thing. 25k and looked like new. Never have I had a car that I trusted less. Never will I trust big name manufacturers again. Couldn't get in it and turn the key without something scaring the willies out of me. Just the dirty brake fluid grounded the car - huge red warning and a no go, until I opened the door. Then it shut up and let me take it for a $295 fluid change. Warranty prohibited me touching it. $20k in 3 years on repairs.

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Old 30th Nov 2010, 05:39
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There's always the risk with a higher mileage car that it's been used for private hire.

And confirm those miles haven't been 'clocked' - contrary to popular belief, very easy to perform even on a digital gauge.

You can check here:

Motoring : Directgov - MOT status check request

Car at 85,000-95,000ish miles is a safer bet than 70,000 for reasons mentioned above.

Checking for equal tread wear is good advice, but not very useful if the previous owner was 'smart' and rotated their tyres reguarly.

If the car has alloys, pay particular attention to the condition they're in - this is usually a fair representation of the amount of care/pride the owner had for it. Alloys, of course, can be refurbished, but unfortunately all these little tips are only useful as rough guidelines - there are a million and one ways of spicing up even the most decrepit old banger for sale!

Best bit of advice above is to check the motoring/owner's club forum for the particular model you are interested in. Do a search for the usual 'I'm thinking of buying, what do I look for?' threads, and try to get as intimate as you can with the pros/cons/problems/things to look for on that car.

Always try to get 10% off the price of a 2nd hand car you're interested in as well, they're marked up more than that if from a trade seller!

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Old 30th Nov 2010, 06:23
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Bought a 4 year old car with 78k miles in July this year. Knew that most of the miles were motorway. Fantastic car, absolutely nothing wrong with it.

Also went to see an earlier model (7 years old) with 50k miles town driving. All sorts of problems, so didn't buy that one
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