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How do you gauge mileage on a used car

When looking at buying a used car, what kind of per year milage on a car is good? If the car is say 10 years old, is 100,000-120,000 a reasonable amount? What is a reasonable miles per year on a car?

15k /yr is considered average. So 150k on a 10 year old only tells you that the owner drove it an average total distance.

The maintenance history and overall condition of the car is far more important, however.

In my line of work (hotel valet) I’ve seen a car (SUV) with over 400,000 miles and still in excellent condition, and i’ve seen others with 80,000 or so that were about ready for the junk yard.

I would not buy a 10 year old used car unless I had at least some documentation that it was maintained properly. Hope that helps.

For your auto auction market segment I wouldn’t spend any time at all thinking about this. Very low miles could indicate a lot of short trip driving & sitting which is bad. But from other posts you should already be looking for signs of serious abuse & neglect.

That mileage is about average. How good or bad it is depends a lot more on the maintenance than miles.

12-15K miles per year is considered “normal.”

But the number of miles is only part of the story.

Are they “highway miles” or “city miles?” How often was the oil changed? In what climate was the car driven? Who drove it? There are LOTS of factors to consider. Total miles is just one.

When I would look at used cars, I would ignore the odometer reading until I had checked the car out. Dealers used to reset odometers. I bought a 1968 6 cylinder AMC Javelin from a used car dealer in May of 1971. The odometer read 33,000 miles and the dealer wanted $1650 and my worn out 1961 Corvair. I took the car for a test drive and when we got back to our apartment, I thoroughly checked out the car. I checked the book price and the car was worth $1695 retail and $1200 wholesale. In checking out the car, I found the state inspection record in the glove compartment. It had been inspected in February of 1971 and it had 55,000 miles. From February to May the car lost 22,000 miles. I went back to the dealer and when he asked me what I thought, I told him that the car seemed o.k. but I wouldn’t pay him a low mileage price for a high mileage car. I showed him the inspection record. He called me every name in the book and told me that he didn’t need hippy types like me from the University calling him a crook. When he finally wound down, I said calmly, “Sir, I didn’t say that you wound the odometer back. I just pointed out that someone did”. He then said, “What will you give me for the car?” I thought about the book prices and offered him $1200 and the Corvair. He snatched his dealer plate off the car and stalked off saying that he had to check his books. He went into his “office” and just as we were ready to leave, he asked us to come in. He had a bill of sale drawn up and the title. We had purchased the car. I glanced at my watch and it was 11:50 a.m. I knew the bank closed at noon, so I raced to the bank. They were locking the main door and sent me to the walk-up window. I had my savings account book and asked for a cashier’s check for $1200. The teller told me to come back Monday (this was Saturday). I asked for the money in cash. She gave me the money in tens and twenties and I put it in a paper bag. I returned to to dealer and gave him the bag of cash. His eyes lit up and he started to ask me about the money. “Sir”, I said. “I won’t ask any more questions about the car if you don’t ask me where I got the money”. “Fair enough”, he replied. “I needed another sale this month to stay in business”.
Something else that I found out when rooting through the glove compartment was that the previous owner lived in a small down and commuted to work at a plant in a large city. The parking sticker for the place of employment was still on the windshield. I figured that many of the miles on the car were road miles.
The Javelin turned out to be a wonderful car. I put 100,000 miles on top of the mileage on the car and sold it 6 years later for $600. A month later, the dealer from whom I bought the car was no longer in business. If you have ever seen the movie “Breaking Away”, the same used car lot was in the film. The father of the hero was a used car dealer and the producers of the film used this same car lot.

Not going auction this time, going with used car lot. Found a car which is a 2002 and from checking it out seems to be in good condition and has 134,000 miles on it. that figures out to about 15,000 miles a year. It’s a mini van, so i gotta think most of it is in town driving. Given this is a small town car lot, they probably got it at auction as it was a trade in.

Yes, that is a reasonable amount.

In addition to checking everything I can check, like fluid levels and condition, tire condition and wear, the condition of the belts and filters, checking for evidence of an accident, etc., I also look to see if the overall wear is reasoanbly consistant with the mileage indicated. I once looked at a vehicle with an alleged 58,000 miles and the pedals were worn out, the texture on the steering wheel and the shifter were completely worn off in areas, the seat was well broke in, and things like armrests had severe wear. Clearlt the odometer was incorrect.

I also take the vehicle on the highway and “push it”. You can learn a lot oding that. A hard stop from highway speeds, a rapid lane change, hard acceleration, all of these can be “telling”.

Then and only then to I schedule an appointment on the rack. You can see a whole lot from underneath that you can’t see with the car on the ground.

unfortunetly getting it up on a rack isn’t an option. My mechanic is to far away from where I am looking at buying my car. I did take it out onto the highway and got it up to 70, did hard braking, lane changes and such. Got a side road and put it into reverse and took off. Van had no issue shifting gear. Only transmission issue is i believe it’s a sealed trasmission as i could find no dipstick so no way to check fluid color on this model.

It sounds like you’ve done everything possible. If the price is good and the car seems good to you, proceed. The only other thing sI’d suggest is checking carefully for rust in the key areas, like the rocker panels, the bottom door edges, and fender wells, etc. Excessive rust is always a deal killer. You realize that any 10 year old car comes with unknowns no matter what you do.

the only rust I could find is right under the lip of the hood. I figure I could sand it out, spray it with some primer and base black (color of van) and be good to go since you can’t see it unless you open the hood.

Just a thought here. If you’re going to buy from a “corner lot”, or, as they often get referred to here, a “lemon lot”, you might be just as well to buy from the auction. As you pointed out, they most likely got it at auction. There is a dealer near me which only advertises down payments, as in “$1500 down” “$2000 down”. It was when I attended some of these auctions a few years ago that I put 2 and 2 together. The down payment is what they paid for the vehicle at auction. So someone who buys the vehicle covers the dealers cost with the down payment, and the payments are all profit! And if the buyer defaults, they repo the car and sell it all over again. What a profitable business model. But I digress.

My point being, if they bought the vehicle at auction they don’t know anymore about the vehicle’s history than you do. All they really do is clean up the cosmetics of the vehicle so it looks pretty on the lot, and tell you what you want to hear so you will feel confident about buying from them. You could save a lot of money by cutting out the middleman (dealer). Of course, I realize it can be more convenient at the dealer, because you can test drive different vehicles, which you can’t really do at an auction.

Probably the best way to go is to buy from a private owner, where you can maybe get some service records. However, I know this can be very time intensive, and you may not have that kind of time. I am not trying to judge, only offer my thoughts. Good luck to you.

the only auction around here that non dealers can go to does not offer much, most are Goodwill cars or they are priced above what I can pay. I am able to get $400 in trade for my beat up taurus and $600 down and then payments for 2 years, you can’t do that at an auction. Also at the auction you can’t drive it or even start it, and you don’t get a warrenty. As for a private owner, again it’s an issue of money. I doubt a priave seller is going to be willing to take payments over the time of a year or so. I went to a small town and this dealership because of the reviews, his time in buisness and such. No credit check and such was also key, because no one would even consider giving me a loan…