The Complete Guide To High Mileage Cars

High mileage cars are often avoided by many people but a car with high miles that’s been well-maintained can sometimes be the better buy. Within this article, we walk you through everything you need to know about high mileage cars as well as what to look out for.

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High Mileage Cars
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High mileage cars can be a scary thought for many people searching for their next used car but they can actually offer a number of benefits. The main bonus of buying a car with high miles is that it’ll be cheaper than a low mileage alternative. A high mileage car (with a low amount of previous owners) is also a good indicator that it has been well-maintained and depending upon its age, it may of had an easy life with longer motorway trips that cause minimal wear and tear.

However, that’s not to say that you should always purchase cars with high miles. Instead, when it comes to buying a used car, we recommend that you focus upon its condition and history rather than its indicated mileage.

To help you determine whether a high mileage car is a good buy, the below comprehensive guide walks you through everything you need to know.

What’s The Average Mileage For A Car Per Year?

The average mileage for a car per year is approximately 12,000 miles or 1,000 miles a month. Therefore, if a car has done greater than the average of 12,000 miles per year, it may be considered as a high mileage car.

However, most people refer to a high mileage car as one with over 100,000 miles but this isn’t necessarily the case. This is because a car that’s 20 years old with 100,000 miles would mean that its only done 5,000 miles per year. It may have also done the bulk of its mileage during the first few years and then sold on to an owner that does below average miles each year.

If you want to check out the average mileage of a car per year, you can do so by entering the car’s registration number into the government’s MOT history checker. You can then divide its current mileage by the age of the car to give you the average miles per year. As shown in the image, each MOT is recorded and it’ll display the mileage along with any advisories or failed MOT’s.

how many miles is too many for a used car

How Much Mileage Is Too Much?

When you come across a car with high miles, you may be wondering whether or not the mileage is too much. For example, some people may think that 100,000 miles on a used car is too much whilst others may say 100,000 miles on a car is just the “running in stage”. Therefore, it all comes down to a matter of personal preference and knowing the car.

Certain car makes and models are known for lasting longer (as discussed below) and the car’s history and how it has been looked after over the years is extremely important.

Lets take these two scenarios as an example. A low mileage car (50,000 miles) may have spent its life in a city centre with multiple owners that have done minimal maintenance over the years.

However, a high mileage car of the same age (100,000 miles) with one owner may have spent its life driving up and down the motorway and is more than likely been maintained as per the car’s service intervals.

Therefore, in the two above scenarios, the higher mileage car would’ve had a much easier life with less stress upon the mechanical components. In addition to an easier life, due to the mileage, it should also be cheaper to buy too.

Although the lower mileage alternative may seem the better buy, the city driving would’ve caused excess wear upon the clutch, transmission and brakes. It may have also been subjected to shorter journeys, which means the oil wouldn’t have been protecting the engine as much and it can also cause problems with the DPF (for diesel cars) and carbon build-up.

These are all factors to consider when you are buying a used car and it’s important that you look at the bigger picture. Just because a car has lower miles, it doesn’t mean that its the better car.

How Many Miles Does A Car Last?

There is no reason why a car can’t drive to the moon (238,855 miles) and back again with regular maintenance. We personally don’t see high mileage cars as a problem and we advise that you focus on the car’s condition than its mileage.

If you are thinking about buying a high mileage car, you can make it last another trip to the moon and back by:

To answer the question of how many miles a car can last, there isn’t an exact mileage where your car goes “bang”. The ability of a car to last is all down to the owner and the car’s maintenance over the years.

However, to provide an answer, a car that’s had minimal maintenance should last up to 100,000 miles. A car that has had an average amount of maintenance should last up to 200,000 miles. Whereas owners that take great pride of their car with exceptional maintenance could easily see mileages that go to the moon and back (238,855 x 2 = 477,710 miles).

What To Look Out For When Buying A High Mileage Car?

Not only is buying a car with high mileage often much cheaper but it also means that it has had lots of maintenance work already carried out (i.e. cambelt change). However, to ensure that you aren’t left with a car requiring lots of work due to lack of maintenance, we recommend that you check for the following when buying a high mileage car:

  • Are there any warning lights upon the dash? (i.e. an engine management light as shown in the picture)
  • Take it for a test drive – Does the automatic gearbox shift smoothly? Is the clutch slipping? Does it pull well when you accelerate? Is there any odd noises?
  • Is there any smoke coming out from the exhaust whilst idling or when the car is under load?
  • Does the car start up immediately when cold and when its up to temperature?
  • Is the bodywork in good condition? Check for any rust, stone chips or damage to the windscreen.
  • Is the service history and other repair work up to scratch? Ensure that all the fluids and other service items have been replaced at the correct intervals.
how many miles can a car last

The above points are the main checks to carry out when buying a car with high mileage. However, some cars may have specific checks to carry out once it reaches a certain mileage, which means researching the particular make and model is highly recommended.

Petrol vs Diesel Comparison

When it comes to high mileage cars, you’ll notice that the majority of the cars with the highest mileage are diesel. This is mainly due to the fact that diesels are able to achieve higher miles per gallon than a petrol equivalent, which is a major factor to consider if you are someone that does many thousands of miles per year.

Diesel is also the fuel of choice for most company cars, chauffeurs or taxis where the driver will spend most of their working life travelling up and down the motorway. However, this may change in the future due to the surge in popularity of electric cars and the various tax incentives for businesses/sole traders that buy them.

Although the majority of high mileage cars are diesel, there is no reason why petrol cars can’t handle high mileage. Regardless of the fuel type used, how many miles a car can last is all dependent upon the maintenance over the years.

Do Some Used Cars Last Longer?

If you have searched the various places to buy used cars, you may have noticed that certain cars seem to have much higher miles than others. For example, a Mercedes/Audi/BMW with a relatively large engine (such as 3 litre diesel) will more than likely have more miles than similar aged Hyundai/Kia/Ford with a smaller engine. The main reason for this is due to how effortlessly larger engines with extra power and torque travel at motorway speeds.

In terms of whether some used cars with high mileage last longer, the answer to this is yes. For example, large engine high mileage cars should last longer than smaller engine cars because at motorway speeds, they are under minimal load.

For example, at 70 MPH, most large engine cars will have an RPM of around 2,000 whereas smaller engines may be over 3,000 RPM. However, as mentioned above, the fuel also makes a difference because diesel engines have more torque, which means that they’ll rev much lower too. Therefore, if you buying a car with high mileage that also has a large engine, the likelihood is that it has spent its life effortlessly going up and down the motorway.


Hopefully the above guide to high mileage cars has given you the confidence to give cars with high miles a chance. However, we strongly recommend judging a used car by its condition and maintenance it has had over the years rather than just its mileage. Although a car with high mileage may be a concern, it shouldn’t be because a car that’s spent its life driving up and down the motorway would’ve had a much easier life than a lower mileage city car.

However, if you are buying a high mileage car, you’ll want to thoroughly check the car as well as its service records over to ensure it won’t give you many problems in the future. If you require further information regarding high mileage cars, feel free to get in touch and we will try to provide our assistance where possible.

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