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When Is Buying a High-Mileage Car a Bad Idea?

Closeup of car odometer with high mileage to illustrate when is buying a high-mileage car a bad idea.

You notice a red coupe on the dealer lot and it’s love at first sight. Or, is it? A quick glance at the odometer and now you’re not so sure. Your potential dream car has over 120,000 miles on it and that could be a deal breaker. After all, your original intent was to get a low mileage used car. You wonder, “Is it wise to buy a car with high mileage?” and “What will my auto insurance company say?”

Actually, what your insurance company thinks or says is really of little consequence. What you have to convince yourself of is if it makes sense to buy a vehicle with such high mileage. Keep its age in mind and check its history, if available, including maintenance records, accident reports, and how many owners its had. 

What to Consider When Buying a High-Mileage Vehicle

So, is high-mileage bad? Before you walk away – consider this: As opposed to 20 years ago, most of today’s late-model vehicles are engineered to run well past 100,000 miles. And with proper maintenance and care they should be able to give you double that number of usable miles. In other words, the age of the vehicle and odometer reading, while important, may not be as significant as it once was. It all comes down to how well the car has been taken care of and that – more than anything – will determine when buying a high-mileage used automobile is or isn’t a fool-hearty idea.

A 100,000 hard-driven miles might as well be 300,000 – no matter how good the automobile looks. Don’t ignore which state the vehicle originally came from, even if it’s currently residing on a California used car lot or a private party’s driveway. A car that’s been through multiple severe winters in Buffalo or Chicago is probably not going to last long and you may want to shop for another “dream” car.

Get a Fair Price

Buying a high-mileage vehicle can be a great way to save money, but it’s important to be careful when looking at the price. One of the first things to consider is its overall condition. Take a close look at the exterior and interior of the vehicle to check for any signs of wear and tear, such as dents, scratches, or tears in the upholstery. You’ll also want to check under the hood for any leaks or signs of mechanical problems. Additionally, it’s a good idea to ask for a maintenance history report to see if the car has had any major repairs or replacements in the past. All of these factors can affect its value and should be taken into account when determining a fair price.

Another big detail when buying a high-mileage car is the resale value. While you may be able to get a good deal on the initial purchase, it’s good to think of its long-term value. High-mileage vehicles typically have lower resale values, so take into account how long you plan on keeping the car and what your future plans for it are. 

If you want to sell it in the near future, you should probably opt for a lower mileage car with a higher resale value. On the other hand, if you plan on keeping it for a while, the lower initial price may be a more cost-effective option in the long run. In the end, what you pay should be based on a combination of the car’s condition, maintenance history, and resale value.

Test Drive If Possible

Buying a high-mileage car can be a great way to save money, but it’s important to do your due diligence to make sure you’re getting a good deal. A thorough inspection of its mechanical and structural components can give you a good idea of its overall health. You should also ask for its maintenance history, including any major repairs that have been done, to determine how well it has been cared for. 

Check the tires, suspension, brakes, and safety features, as they should be subject to extra special scrutiny. Uneven tire wear, front or back, could be your first clue the suspension or frame may have an issue.

You should also consider the type of driving the automobile has been used for. A car that has mostly been used for long highway drives may be in better shape than one that has been driven mostly in stop-and-go city traffic. Ultimately, taking the time to carefully evaluate its condition before buying it can help you make an informed decision and avoid expensive repairs down the road.

Test driving a high-mileage car is an essential step in the buying process. During the test drive, you should pay close attention to how it handles, accelerates, and brakes. Any unusual noises or vibrations could be a sign of underlying mechanical problems. You should also test its features, such as the air conditioning, heating, and stereo system, to make sure they are working properly. While it’s normal for a high-mileage vehicle to have some wear and tear, if you notice any significant issues it may be a red flag that the investment is not worth it. 

Taking the automobile to a trusted mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection can also give you added peace of mind before making a final decision. If the seller is insistent on not allowing one, it’d be wise to consider it a red flag.

Interior and Exterior of The Car

Carefully inspect both the interior and exterior of the vehicle. On the interior, take note of any signs of excessive wear and tear, such as ripped upholstery, cracked dashboards, or stained carpets. These issues can be costly to repair or replace, so it’s necessary to factor them into your decision-making process. Look for any signs of water damage or musty odors, as these can be indicative of leaks or other issues that may require repairs.

On the exterior, pay close attention to the condition of the paint and body. If there’s rust or corrosion, it can be difficult and expensive to repair. Check for dents, scratches, and other cosmetic damage as well. Make sure all of the lights and signals are functioning properly, and inspect the tires for signs of overuse. Keep in mind that cosmetic issues may not affect the car’s performance, but they can impact its resale value and overall aesthetic appeal. 

Going back to the vehicle’s history report, look out for any major repairs or replacements, such as a new engine or transmission. These may indicate underlying issues you shouldn’t ignore. 

What Mileage is Best for Car Insurance?

The mileage that is best for car insurance depends on several factors. Typically, drivers who travel fewer miles per year are considered to be at lower risk of getting into accidents, and therefore may be eligible for lower auto insurance rates. However, the exact mileage threshold varies by insurance company and the type of policy you have. Some insurers may offer discounts for drivers who drive less than a certain number of miles annually. Ultimately, it is important to shop around and compare policies to find the best coverage and rates for your individual driving habits and needs.

In the end, whether you purchase the vehicle or not is entirely up to you. But, just remember – without a factory warranty you will be paying all repairs out of pocket. Know what you’re possibly getting yourself into before you decide to drop a healthy chunk of change on a possible nightmare. That said – the red coupe that caught your eye could be a diamond in the rough that will faithfully give you another 100,000 or more virtually trouble-free miles. It is possible.

When it comes to auto insurance – you have to have it. But, nothing says you have to pay ridiculously high rates. So, if you’re looking for the best auto insurance rates possible, call Freeway Insurance today at (800) 777-5620 or get a free auto insurance quote online. You can also visit any of our local offices.

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