Low mileage trips


looking to purchase a used 2002 Lexus GS 300. The owners of both autos have stated that they are only 5 miles from work, thus the low mileage.One auto has 32,100 miles the other auto has 67,100 miles. Have these frequent low mileage trips been harmful to the engine or the exhaust. I will probably keep this car for 150 to 200,000 miles. thanks


They are harder on the engine and axhaust for a few reasons. Most wear happens on start up before everything is lubed and running, and before the engine reaches full operating temperature and its parts are all at their optimum size and shape. They’re designed for perfect fit at running temp. That’s also the most critical time for dilution of the oil by combustion byproducts due to bypass, for the aforementioned reasons.

In addition, the starter system will have many times more wear than a normal engine of that mileage.

There’s also condensation. A normal byproduct of combustion is water vapor. In a warmed up system it stays as vapor and gets carried out the tailpipe. In a cool system it condenses on the cooler walls and remains as water. Lexus uses a stainless system, so that should not be a problem as far as the exhhaust system.

Personally, I’d just get the car checked out, negotiate the best price I could using this as an excuse, change the fluids and filters as prescribed (see the “severe conditions” schedule in th eowner’s manual), and enjoy the car. I wouldn’t let the short trips bother me.


The way to look at it is to estimate one trip to work per day plus one trip in the evening. Thas is 4 starts per day for 5 years or a total of 7300 starts max. Average trip length 4.4 miles minimum. That is enough to warm up the car and drive off crankcase contaminants, and blow condensation out of the tail pipe. The only question left to answer is; did the owner do regular maintenance, especially oil changes.

The other car has probably had the same number of starts, but a lot more wear on brakes, radiator, exhaust sytem, etc. Also check if the car has had regular maintenance.

Beware of a very low mileage car in a cold area of the country. Oil compnaies used to do the “Aunt Minnie Test” to determine how long a car could go on very short trips in cold weather before the crankcase vent would freeze op with condensation, and the oil would lose its lubricity.

I have bought 4 low mileage cars in the past and had good luck with them. I would advise in the absence of maintenance records, you change oil and filter, perform other lubrication and change transmission fluid if automatic. A cooling system inspection is in order, and a flush for the higher mileage car is recommended

Good Luck!


Sorry, doc, but in NH in cooler weather 5 miles often isn’t enough to do the job. I don’t know where the OP is from. Excellent post, though.


to all those who responded,THANKS