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Should I buy old car based on low miles?

When looking to buy used, does the age of the car override the fact that it has incredibly low miles on it? I’m considering a 2001 Honda Civic EX with just 57,000 miles. Looks like it is in good condition. I’ve always purchased new, so I appreciate any feedback.

Are the maintenance records available for the car. If yes, was the oil changed at least once a year, better twice a year or every 3,000 miles? Has the timing belt been changed? If not, you are looking at about $600 immediately to have it done. The brake fluid should have been changed 3 times in 9 years, was it?

Low miles means more “town” driving and less highway miles. If the maintenance was done it is OK. If not, then you need to have all the fluids changed immediately IF, the car passes a pre-sale inspection by a good mechanic with Honda experience. Low miles isn’t always a good thing.

It’s still a 2001 Honda Civic…Yes, the low mileage, if accurate, will be worth paying a small premium for but not a large premium…Private sellers can sometimes get carried away with their perception of value with cars like this and demand unrealistic prices. Does the over-all condition of the car reflect the low mileage? Was the car garaged or left outside for 9 years?

A 2001 is not that old. However, it all depends how well it has been maintained. Driving 57,000 miles over a 9 year period with 2 trips per day amounts to 8.7 miles per trip, probably enough to keep the car warmed up and drive off corrosive moisture and raw gasoline.

IF the maintenance has been done, I would have no hesitation, especially if you can get a good deal.

The timing belt, tensioner and water pump should be changed at this time; budget $500 or so, if not already done. The cooling system also needs to be flushed, hoses checked , if no already done so, budget $150. The automatic transmission should also have its fluid drained and replaced (NOT FLUSHED), if not already done so.

In short, if the car have not been religiously maintained, and still has the oiriginal tires and battery, budget the following:

  1. Timing belt job $500

  2. Rad flush $ 150

  3. Transmission fluid change $ 75

  4. New battery $100

  5. Brake fluid change $40

  6. New tires $300+

A total of $1165

Even if all these things are needed, it is still worth buying, but you should discount the asking price by at least that much. The owner may have no clue as to what maintenance was actually needed.

If there is no record of regular oil changes, run!!!

Hope that provides useful input. I have bought 3 older, low mileage cars over the years, and only one was too old and had deteriorating rubber parts and other age-related illnesses. Your Civic does not fall in thet category, but you should still have a mechanic check it out.

Actually a budget of $1000 or so makes sense for any used car, not just a low mileage one. Good advice.

Cold starts and short-run trips are much worse than longer highway miles. Cold starts actually create more engine wear than miles. Short run trips play havoc on exhaust systems as they don’t heat up enough to burn off condensation. I would budget the cost of a new muffler as well.


It’s hard to find an 8 year old Honda with under 100,000 miles. As long as the maintenance has been done, this should be a good buy. Hondas are good cars but you have to do a little bit more than just change the oil to keep them going.

Be sure to have it evaluated by a professional BEFORE you buy it. Alot of “nice” cars are for sale, for a reason.

You should look at current condition and not really worry how it got there. Do you have a trusted local independent mechanic. Have they check it out. That is about as good as it gets.

Good advice. The condition of a car is much more important than the odometer reading. Back in the old days, dealers would set the odometer to what they thought the odometer “should read”. I’ve heard of cases where the dealers actually set the odometers forward on cars with really low mileage because they thought the low mileage would scare away customers.

Absolutely not as has been referred by others. So much depends upon your location. Rust and body integrity is a much bigger factor than mechanics. I change the oil every 3000 miles on a 10 year old car with 50K miles and floor board rust. You have a completely unsafe car that will have more damage than what’s apparent and more than a new motor to make inspectable if possible at all. A three year old car with an excellent body and 100K miles in need motor or transmission work is not only safer body wise, and less expensive to fix, but has newer safety devises. Buy as new as you can year wise. A decent paint job on an old car can be as much as a rebuilt motor…not even close.

We spend too much time on oil change intervals when body integrity is more important in high rust areas. Car makers do a good job of presentation with plastic cladding while the brake lines and rotors rot in heavily salted areas and blame the salt. Slightly better metals at very little increase in cost and rust everywhere would be thing of the past…but then where’s the profit ? Buy newer with higher mileage. Give me an 05 Civic with 100K miles and I’ll keep it on the road longer, and have a safer car doing it.

Lots of good advice here.

One other thought: have you looked at the wear to see if it’s consistant with the mileage? I looked at a used car rcently for a friend. It had 58,000 miles on the odometer. The only problem is that the rubber brake a gas pedal rubbers were worn through into the metal, the shift knob (automatic tranny) was worn shiny, the steering wheel was getting shiny, and the seat had taken a “set”. These (and other details) indicated that the mileage on the odometer was not accurate. These items do not wear out to this extent in 58,000 miles, even if the mileage was short drives.

Low miles on an old car are not always a good thing. The best would be a car that is parked a lot, but never for more than a couple months at a time. A car that goes on lots of short trips is what you call “severe service,” and the interval for the timing belt on that car is coming up on its change interval for “severe service.” Add 600 bucks or 100 bucks and a weekend of your time to the price of that car.

Generally, though, that’s likely to be a good buy. Take care of it and it will easily do 100,000 more miles, probably 150,000…and the maintenance will cost you less than you were losing on new cars. Your insurance may be cheaper, too.

Carfax is a more reliable way of determining that. (Odometer rollbacks are probably the thing that Carfax is best at catching…other problems are a lot more subtle.) The car could have just sat in traffic a lot.

It depends on condition and cost. The low mileage premium is about $810 for this car. Don’t pay more than that over a car with average mileage (about 110,000 miles).

I wondered if it was appropriate to subtract these costs from my offering price. Thank you! I have, indeed, taken the KBB and subtracted the maintenance now due (timing belt, front brakes, 60K service, and a couple things uncovered by the inspection). I made the offer and she didn’t like it. What was great, though, is that you gave me the confidence to unashamedly ask and share how I had come up with my asking price. Thank you!