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High mileage one owner vs. lower mileage dealer

Hi, In considering buying a used car, how much weight do you give having all the service records? I’m looking at two Sienna mini-vans, one has high mileage (120k) and is being sold by the original owner who has every service record. The other van has lower mileage (56k) but is being sold by a car dealer and has no service records. Price difference is about 2k more for the low mileage one. So is the knowledge and proof the car has been taken exceptional care of worth the “higher mileage risk”, and the 2k savings? Or are lower miles and uncertain service history worth the extra 2k? Thanks for your thoughts!

What model year are the vans?

I’d ordinarily say definitely go for the private party with service records, but with this particular vehicle (well, and most minivans) you really have to worry about the transmission as they get into higher mileage ranges and though regular transmission maintenance is a very good thing, it’s not necessarily a guarantee that the transmission isn’t going to go out some time in the future.

However, I’d say that with the $2k price difference, I’d go with the private party. After all $2K will pay for most of the transmission replacement which you might not even ever end up needing. Also, if the transmission on the 56k van hasn’t been serviced, it might be just as likely to go out as the well-serviced 120k one!

I’d check each one of them out mechanically or have someone do it for you. After you score them base on a good, unbiased assessment, you should be able to declare a clear winner. I would lean towards the high milege one, because you have smoe idea on its history. That doesn’t mean the low milege one is a bad deal, just that is is taking a higher risk. So it gets down to: Can you, or do you want to afford to take that risk?

Unless a good mechanic inspection uncovers a problem, I think the $2K buys 60K miles, so I would choose the lower mileage one. I would also ask the salesman where they got the van from (trade, or what), and allow that answer to possibly influence my decision. Most of the vehicles I have purchased over the years came with few maintenance records. Most of them performed well and created no overwhelming problems for me.

Thanks so much for the replies. One van is a 2000 and the other is a 2001.

When you say “has all the service records” you mean it has had all the fluids changed per the manufactures schedule.

Have you looked over the dates and mileage and nothing was missed or a interval extended?

This is good… but, the car can still have a major component fail, or more likely failures that come with mileage (windows,AC,interior,exaust,oil leaks,etc.

What I am getting at is Oil changes are good but they don’t provide a “blanket” protecting the car, don’t forget the inspection

To answer your question, if the lower mileage is certain and a mechanic can detect no “trickery” I go with the lower mileage,but certainly try to get that 2K down

It’s hard to say anything about the prices. You don’t tell us which one is the higher mileage Sienna, you don’t tell us what model they are, or what options they have. The newer one could be worth $2000 more if it were the lower mileage van. Edmunds quotes the mileage premium at about +$1000 if the 2001 has 56,000 miles, and the decrease at $500 if the 2000 is the high mileage one. Options, condition, and the base model could easily account for the extra $500. Tell us a little more about your choices and we’ll help you evaluate them.

Hi, Thanks for the feedback. Some more details as requested. “All the records” shows sure all the oil changes, but also when the timing belt and water pump (and hoses etc.) were replaced and all the other Toyota recommended maintenance by a reputable local shop. The two models are

(1) 2001 LE Sienna w/ 52,000 miles, no service records at a local used car lot $7900 asking price
(2) 2000 XLE Sienna w/ 130,000 miles, all service records by owner $6000 asking price

The XLE has all the bells and whistles, but we are mostly keen on reliable transportation.

We have a great local mechanic who will certainly inspect anything before we buy. I’m just trying to assess the risks with buying either car. The Sienna’s are well liked and don’t seem to have major issues, and the asking prices are spot on with edmunds, kbb, etc. I’m very interested in people’s instinct on the value of knowing a cars maintenance history vs. non knowing the history, but the vehicle having a lot fewer miles. Thanks so much for your comments and I hope everyone has a great weekend.

If those are the only criteria: always buy the one with the lower mileage. If you had to trade it for some reason, you would do better with the “newer” one. Some places will refuse to give you anything for a car with 120,000 miles.

Dealer retail on a stripped 2001 LE is $9000 with a $1000 premium for low mileage. A private party sale for the XLE could be about $6400 if it has the usual options. Remember that private party sales are always less than dealer sales. A dealer is better equipped to find and correct problems. And if you have vehicle inspection requirements prior to registration, that is already taken care of at a dealer. Both are pretty god deals for here ( about a million miles from the action). Choose whether low mileage is worth it to you. If you put 15,000 miles on it each year, it will take 4 years for the LE to catch up with the XLE mileage today.