Mileage vs age of car

I’m looking at Honda Accord LX cars in the model years 1998 - 2001. Which is the better choice, an older car with less mileage or a newer car with more mileage? Examples: 1988 with 97,000 miles; 2001 with 141,000 miles. Thank you!

A great deal of this comes down to what kind of care the car received. I’m confused, though, in the first sentence you say “1998 - 2001”, and then later in the examples you mention a “1988 with 97,000 miles”. I’m going to go ahead and assume that you mean a 1998 in this case.

As I said, maintenance is the big issue. A lot of people think that because they’re not putting many miles on a car, that maintenance isn’t as important, and that’s simply not true. Whatever car that you look at, ask to see maintenance records to verify that it’s had important service, including oil changes, belt replacement, brake service, and things of that nature. Simply going by numbers in this case isn’t a good idea, because there may not be much difference between a '98 and '01 (only a 3 year window).

For what it’s worth -and frankly, this is something I don’t usually think about for myself- you might take in to account the difference in technology and safety features in the different models. Does the newer model have better / more airbags? A better crash rating? Nicer accoutrements like a MP3-capable stereo, etc? All things to consider.

Yes, I did mean to write 1998, not 1988. Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

IMHO both have hit the point of having a major repair is more likely. My rule is over 8yrs or 150,000 miles expect something more major/expensive to go.It has been the case for all my cars (Honda, Toyota, Subaru, VW)

IF, and that’s a big if, the car has had the oil changed on a regular schedule and other maintenance done on time, I tend to prefer the higher mileage with less age. My reasoning is that high mileage in fewer years usually means highway miles. That’s the easiest kind of mileage a car can have. Note, there are some exceptions like a taxicab or delivery vehicle might have high mileage and be used for a lot of short distance stop-and-go driving which is the worst for a car. But, in general, higher mileage in fewer years is a good sign in my opinion.

I once bought a used car from a college student with 270,000 miles on it. He had a girlfriend that lived about 300 miles away and he visited practically every weekend. That car ran fine and had no mechanical problems. Yes it was old and the interior was pretty shabby, but the price was cheap and he had a lot of oil change receipts.

How well the vehicle was maintained and how kindly it was treated are vastly more important than age or miles. Even given two vehicles of the same type with that variation in mileage, the type of mileage is important. 141,000 highway miles are far easier on a car than 97,000 Boston miles.

Something to keep in mind:

That vintage of Honda Accord that you’re looking at is part of the 1998-2002 design which suffered from a very high rate of automatic transmission failures, particularly with the V6 engine.

To minimize risk, I would get a manual if possible (those are GREAT cars). If not, then go for a 4 cylinder and try to find one that has had good regular maintenance, including transmission fluid changes (preferably not at Jiffy Lube, who might have used the wrong fluid type).

Then when it comes directly to your question of age and mileage, I would DEFINITELY pick the higher mileage newer vehicle. It is more likely to have been driven highway miles, which as others have noted, are far easier on the car - in particular, they are FAR easier on the transmission. Wear on the transmission will occur more in proportion to the regularity of service, weight of the drivers foot, and NUMBER OF SHIFTS it has made, not the number of miles.

It’s always best to minimize risk, and since the transmission is the achilles heel of this particular model, you should try to minimize risk related to it in particular.

I would be asking about the90/120K services and whether they were performed. I would also ask about when the timing belt was changed out ($500 cost to you when it has to be done). If they don’t know or can’t show you the receipt for the services, then I would move on.

I would also pick the newer car with the higher miles, My reasoning though is that the 1998 (I think) is the first year in the model run… even though it is a Honda, I would avoid the first year of a model change.

Sun Belt Or Rust Belt And Car Freshness

Other factors as discussed by others being considered and accounted for, my decision would be influenced by my geographic location: The Rust Belt.
My cars rust out before they wear out. I can get 200,000 to 300,000 miles out of them before rust takes over.

I buy the “freshest” car I can find, the one with the least amount of rust, when other factors balance out (year, miles, maintenance history). I also have to pay attention to which car makes and models are rust-prone.

Ordinarily a 2001 would have less rust starting to take hold than a 1998. Look at the door stickers when checking freshness. You will find a “Manufactured Date” showing the month and year. A 98 could have been made during the later part of the summer of 1997 (almost a 97) and a 2001 may have been built during the summer of 2001 (almost a 2002), creating almost a 4 year difference! Where I live, four years of rusting is huge.

Kindly disregard this advice if you are fortunate enough to live where it’s not freezing and snowing half the year and trucks are dumping tons and tons of rock salt all over the roads.