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High-Mileage Cars: Are They A Risk Or A Bargain?

High-Mileage Cars


Buying high-mileage cars has always been a controversial subject amongst automobile lovers. Some are up for it while the rest are against it. Unfortunately, there’s no precise answer when it comes to this topic. The reason being there are a number of factors to consider when making a decision on whether to buy a high-mileage car and we’re going to make sure we encompass all of them for the purpose of making the process easier for you.

The Mileage on the Odometer

High-Mileage Cars


Before you even think of buying a high-mileage car, make sure that the high mileage appearing on the odometer is not even higher. In an attempt to increase the value of the cars they’re selling, the owners tend to tamper with the mileage displayed on the odometer, so that it appears lower than it actually is.

There are people representing the stand that digital odometers have reduced the risk of odometer rollback, but not even technological breakthroughs, such as the aforementioned one, are not a foolproof protection. That’s why it’s important that the owner of the car you’re interested in buying has all the required papers, such as a service book, with which you can establish the car’s mileage, based on the car’s service intervals.

The bad news is that not even a service book signifies a 100% guarantee, seeing it as it can be falsified as well. This is a common occurrence at car lots, which import used cars. Still, the more papers, the better.

The Car’s History

The thing you always need to be aware of, regardless of whether you’re buying a high-mileage or a low-mileage car, is that the car has spent a significant portion of time being owned by another driver, meaning it’s very important for you to try to find out as much as you can about their driving and maintenance habits.

Why is this relevant? Picture the following 2 examples…We have a car A, whose mileage is 100.000 km, which has been driven by a lady living in retirement, who has acted in accordance with all the traffic regulations and service intervals and has changed oil on a regular basis. Next to it is a car B, whose mileage is 50.000 km, which has been driven by a young guy with a heavy foot, who has skipped regular service and oil intervals. Which of the 2 cars would you rather buy?

Naturally, if you’re in a position to choose between 2 cars with an equally respectable driving and maintenance history, it’s only logical that your vote goes to the lower-mileage car. This is why it’s advisable to have the owner of the car you’d like to buy show you the car’s service book, as well as the list of the car’s previous owners. Yes, the smaller the number of people who have driven the car, the better are the chances that it’s been maintained and used properly, plus it’s easier to acquire information involving its history. All in all, buying a car which has had more than one owner is not recommendable.




High-mileage cars have spent more time on the road, meaning the odds of them being exposed to unfavorable weather conditions for longer periods of time are greater, which makes them subjectable to rust. Not only is repairing a car’s rust-infested parts an expensive process, but if not attended to, rust continues to eat away at your car, causing additional expenses.

If a car has its original paint, then rust will show itself in the form or bubbles, just under the surface, or in the form of complete perforation. This is why it’s recommendable to go for cars with their original paint on them, because some salesmen resort to the process of repainting cars in order to hide away their rusty parts. However, uneven shades of paint are usually a giveaway, so don’t be hesitant to inspect the car thoroughly. As a matter of fact, feel free to bring a trustworthy mechanic with you, who will check the car’s underbody and paint for rust.

What if the car has been repainted flawlessly? The experts agree that, if a used car looks like it’s just come out of a store for new cars, that is, if it looks too good to be true, then, in most cases, it probably isn’t true.

The Condition of the Engine

Performing a check on a high-mileage car’s engine requires the services of a mechanic, who, with the help of compression tests, estimates whether the engine is working properly, as well as whether everything is alright internally. The aforementioned tests are performed with the mechanic placing a compression gauge in place of a spark plug, when it comes to cars with a gasoline engine, or in place of a heater, when it comes to cars with a diesel engine, and then cranking over the engine until it does 5 revolutions. This is followed by the mechanic recording the compression gauge’s reading, before moving on to the next cylinder for the purpose of establishing the level of consistency between the cylinders. The variations between cylinders shouldn’t be bigger than 0.5 bars.

The Condition of the Clutch in a Manual Transmission Car

Less responsible and experienced drivers tend to rest their foot on the clutch pedal instead on the resting place next to it. In doing so they put pressure on the mechanical parts of the gearbox, that is, the gear change puts pressure on the engine. This is why you should never forget to establish whether the clutch pedal is worn out by thoroughly examining its left side.

The Condition of the Tires

What does every car use for moving? Wheels. What are the wheels covered with? Tires. So, the more you drive your car, the more worn out your tires become. That’s a good enough reason for you to pay attention to the amount of thread left and to look for any cracks in the sidewall. This particularly applies to low rolling resistance tires, as well as high-performance models, which don’t offer a lot of thread depth to begin with.

Remember, tires which are 6 + years old should be replaced!

Exhaust Smoke

Exhaust Smoke


Exhaust smoke, no matter what its color is, is no good news for a potential car buyer. Blue smoke indicates excessive oil burning, which further means there is a problem with the engine. Black smoke signifies a problem with the fuel system, which is producing excessive unburned fuel. White smoke comes as a consequence of burning antifreeze, which indicates a head gasket failure.

If you notice any of the aforementioned occurrences, request a thorough car check-up at a trustworthy car service.

Other Factors

Additional things to consider when buying a high-mileage car are its interior, based on which you can tell a lot about the car’s maintenance history, and brakes and suspensions, whose condition is best checked at a trustworthy car service.

The things you need to pay attention to when buying a used car were explored in more detail in the first and second part of this topic.

Is There Such a Thing as a too Low Mileage?

Contrary to the popular belief, driving your car (properly) contributes to its health, that is, it makes it work properly. What does that mean? Well, if we take into consideration that the average annual mileage per car in Serbia is between 10.000 km and 15.000 km, then a 5-year old car needs to have somewhere between 50.000 km and 75.000 km appearing on its odometer. In other words, driving your car too rarely is just as bad as driving your car too frequently.

You’re probably wondering how that’s possible. Here’s how…For example, due to constant “sitting” around in a garage or in a front yard, your car becomes subjectable to rotting, your car’s tires to cracking and your car’s underbody to rust, which all come as a consequence of your car not being cleaned often enough after being exposed to salty roads at wintertime. Unfortunately, problems don’t end there. Long periods of inactivity cause battery emptying and gas pump (especially if it’s an electric one) malfunctions. Furthermore, the engine and the transmission come next.

The moral of the story is: if you come across an excessively low-mileage car, try to find out from its owner why that’s the situation and make sure you ask for the car’s service record.

Are Certain Car Models a Safer Choice than Others?

Although there are car models, such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Toyota, Honda, Acura and Lexus, which are associated with the concept of longevity, the final choice when buying a high-mileage car, as you’ve had the opportunity to read, depends on a multitude of factors, with regular and proper maintenance by the previous owner being the most important of them. Have in mind that, thanks to significant technological improvements, most modern cars are design to cover at least 500.000 km.