High Highway Miles Vs Really Low City Miles

Which is a better buy/value in a used car purchase–a high mileage new model car or a old very low mileage vehicle? There are some 2003 model cars with 80k miles. However, don’t most people psychologically prefer low miles and automaticaly look past high miles in classified ads? And won’t this vehicle depreciate in value faster than a low mileage one and be harder to sell in the future and have more wear on the a/c? Some people though think these cars are good buys because of the “easy miles.”

Here’s the flip side to this. What about a 1990 Buick LeSabre with 50,000 miles? I see these low mileage cars advertised a lot and often sold by senior citizens who only drove them to church or the grocery store. People have said these cars are equally as bad as really high mileage cars because of all the short trips. Should cars like these be avoided? Often though, these low mileage cars are sold as a premium because of the miles. So where’s the sweet spot as far as age/mileage in buying a used car? a 1995 model car with 90,000 miles? Would appreciate thoughts on the issue. Thanks.

Those new cars with high mileage haven’t had the doors slammed a lot and the hinges are in better shape, they may have less body leakage, the battery is probably better and the brakes…

I would say it depends where the car “did its time,” so to speak. If it’s somewhere that they salt the roads in the winter, you’ll want to avoid the low mileage/older car like the plague. Where I live you’ll get 9 or 10 winters out of your metal brake lines and other thin-walled metal parts before you start having functional problems (leaks, etc) with them, even if the mileage is low. On the other hand, if you live somewhere relatively warm, this isn’t as great a concern.

I’d probably look for a compromise vehicle – something 2-4 years old with around 40 - 70K.


My wife has one of those- a 2003 Taurus with 81,000 miles. It is still show-room perfect mechanically and only has a couple parking lot dents. It’s been perfect so far.

She piled up the miles when it was new and she was finishing her degree at a school 50 miles from home, so every day she had class it was 100 miles on the car. She has slowed down some but still has a half hour commute to work.

I thought it needed suspension work at 70,000 miles, but we started by replacing the factory tires with performance tires and it feels better than ever.

I guess the point is that in my opinion the age of the car is more important than the number of miles. If you’re putting that many miles on, many of them are going to be easy freeway miles which induce very little wear and tear.

Unless the car is a northern rust belt car that has been eaten up by rust weevils, I prefer the older, lower miles car. A '90 LeSabre with 50k miles has been operated enough to keep oil circulating, etc. If the car has been sitting unused for 8 or 10 years that is a different story.

(Met an older gentleman (in his 80s) 2 weeks ago who was driving a 1971 Buick Skylark that he bought brand new back in 1970.
This car only has 34k actual miles on it and the guy said other than one tune-up, oil changes every 3k miles, and a number of batteries over the years it has had zero problems up to this point. Car still had the new car shine other than a couple of tiny rust pits on the rear bumper. Not a nick in the interior anywhere. Nice, and I would love to have that one.)

Good maintenance and lots of washing is key. I have no hesitation to buy an old, well maintained, low mileage car, but I check the brand’s history for body rust. The Buick Skylark was built before GM switched to water-based paint, and before the mark was put on the dismal front drive models.