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Average Mileage on a Used Car

Measuring mileage on a used car isn’t always as simple as it might seem. If you are considering buying a pre-owned vehicle, your instinct may be to follow the common-sense guideline that lower mileage means a better deal. This is always a good starting point; typically, it tends to be true. But low mileage on a used car does not always equal a higher value. The more you understand about vehicles and how they’re used, the better you can evaluate the mileage on a used car and how much it affects its worth.

What Makes Average Mileage a Good Measurement for Used Cars?

average mileage on a used car

When you look at the wide variety of luxury sedans, work trucks, sports cars, family vans, and SUVs, vehicles can seem very different. Still, physically and mechanically, most have quite a bit in common. Although some have many more parts and features than others, the elements of any vehicle are made of the same known materials and usually function in the same known ways. This means that cars made to meet similar manufacturing standards will age in very similar ways, even if they seem very different on the outside.

By nature, any vehicle is an advanced piece of equipment, which makes its amount of use a better indicator of its condition than its age. Nearly all cars function and wear similarly when traveling equal distances. Because of this, industry experts have established that the amount of use is represented best by average mileage. This makes it possible to find the average mileage range for just about any vehicle, no matter how old.

How Average Mileage Works

Decades of research have shown us that, on average, people drive their vehicles about 10,000 to 12,000 miles yearly. This reliable average can give a quick and relatively accurate picture of the car’s usage history. Regardless of the car’s age, you’ll immediately be able to discern whether it has had regular, excessive, or very little use. To find average mileage, simply divide the used vehicle’s mileage by its age in years and compare the result to this established average range.

For example, a 10-year-old car with 115,000 miles has driven an average of 11,500 miles a year. This is close to what you would expect for regular use, so you could reasonably assume it has an average value. But if the odometer of that same car reads 185,000 miles, that car’s average mileage would be 18,500 miles a year. Since this is significantly more miles than average, you could also assume it had more wear than average. So, logically, that vehicle would have a lower-than-average value.

Following these general guidelines will help you figure out a consistent relative value. But you should also be aware that not all average mileage is equal.

Things That Can Affect a Vehicle’s Average Mileage

There are times when a used car’s average mileage does not accurately represent its value. To see past a misleading average mileage, you’ll need to know some specific things about the used vehicle you’re considering. You may assume that low mileage is always better, but there are exceptions to this general rule. You’ll also want to determine what kind of mileage a vehicle has and look into its history.

Kinds of Mileage

You’ve probably noticed that a car’s fuel efficiency is measured in two ways. A car’s fuel economy when driving in a city or town is not as efficient as highway driving. Those two categories of city and highway are also used to describe the kind of mileage a vehicle accumulates. On average, most people spend time driving in city traffic and on highways. Therefore, most vehicles will follow the balance of these two. Still, sometimes you’ll come across a car with an imbalance in these kinds of mileage that can change what the mileage means.

It may seem like the shorter distances of city driving would be easier on a car. But, in reality, the frequent stops, acceleration, and turns of stop-and-go traffic actually put more stress on the systems of a vehicle. In contrast, the generally smooth and consistent miles of highway driving puts minimal wear and tear on most vehicle systems over the same number of miles. This means a car with higher mileage that accumulated most of its miles on highways could be in better shape than one mainly driven in urban streets.

History of a Vehicle

Any used vehicle will have a history that can affect its value, beginning with the make and model of the car. Some manufacturers produce cars that consistently last longer, and certain models include upgraded features that enable them to handle the miles more efficiently. High mileage on these cars can be less consequential than on others. Also, known mechanical work can remove some problems usually associated with high-mileage vehicles. Sometimes there are no records to find, but researching a vehicle’s history as much as possible is always a good idea before buying.

Another essential part of a car’s history is its maintenance. Some owners take regular cleaning and maintenance very seriously, while others might neglect routine maintenance and let little problems add up. Because a well-maintained vehicle will run better for longer, higher-than-average mileage on a car with regular maintenance records is less concerning than on a vehicle with no maintenance records.

Maybe you’re looking for a reliable pre-owned car to help you navigate the busy streets of Jersey City and New York City. Or perhaps you need something better suited for longer trips. When you understand how average mileage works, you’re better prepared to find a dependable used car for the right price.

Here at New Jersey State Auto Used Cars, we’d love to help. We can point you to some of the best used car choices available, and work with you to find the one that meets your needs. Contact us to get things started, and let our 25 years of experience with quality used cars work for you.