How Many Miles Are Too Many For A Used Car?

Dustin Hawley | Apr 18, 2021

Technological advancements in the automotive industry had led to several improvements to passenger vehicles. Modern powertrains are capable of achieving greater fuel economy while decreasing carbon monoxide emissions. Through active and passive safety systems, passengers are now equipped with an additional layer of protection.

how many miles is too much for a used car

Despite the manufacturer’s effort to create the most durable components, failures are somewhat unavoidable. Mileage can be a strong indicator of the state of the engine, transmission, and suspension. However, with the increase in the number of electronic parts that make up the modern car, determining the mileage limit has become more challenging. 

Maintenance And Owner History - Find the best car deals!

To adequately explain how mileage reflects on a vehicle’s state, we must consider the number of owners and maintenance records. Regular oil changes are crucial for optimal engine performance, followed by oil and air filters. Intervals in which oil needs to be changed will vary depending on the manufacturer. But generally, it’s about 10,000-15,000 miles (or once every year).

Purchasing a new car often includes a 3 to 5-year warranty, which requires the owner to service their vehicle in an authorized shop or dealership regularly. Each service log needs to have a date, current mileage, and the type of service performed, making it easy to verify. Some owners prefer the DIY approach and update the service book themselves, keeping receipts and records archived. 

On the flip side, the risks involved with purchasing a used car are increased with every prior owner. An incomplete service book for a vehicle with numerous previous owners may indicate a hidden problem with the car.

With that said, certified pre-owned cars are an excellent option for prospective buyers. These vehicles are no more than five years old with under 50,000 miles on the odometer, and have been regularly serviced and maintained by the dealership.

Why Is Mileage Important? - Find the best car deals!

The close relationship between the lifespan of moving parts and mileage is the reason why it’s a significant factor in a car purchase. Through regular use, your vehicle’s components naturally wear out and need to be replaced over time.

Though the value of used cars constantly depreciates, spare parts’ value often does not, and the cost of labor also remains the same. The main risk of driving a used car is that at one point, the cost of repairs will likely exceed the car’s remaining value. 

One of the reasons why some drivers prefer older vehicles is because they can be driven almost indefinitely if they are well-maintained. With their robust powertrain and general simplicity, the lack of complex equipment is great for maintenance. But you sacrifice comfort, convenience, and safety features as a result.

How To Pick A Used Car - Find the best car deals!

The age-old adage is that the 100,000-mile mark was indicative of a car past its prime. But despite their complexities, modern vehicles are even more reliable, thanks to a multitude of technological advancements. In general, most modern cars can cross 200,000 miles without any major issues, provided the vehicle is being well-maintained. Considering that an average person drives 10,000-20,000 miles per year, this will account for roughly 15 years of service.

Here are some factors to consider when assessing used car mileage. 

Maintenance Cycles

A harsh reality is that cars are in a constant state of degradation. Through regular service and component replacements, drivers can renew the cycle and keep their vehicles on the road. At their core, engines are built to last for hundreds of thousands of miles, so as long as the components around them are in good condition, the mileage does not necessarily have a profound effect on the car’s viability. 

Timing Belt & Chain

Often overlooked, the timing belt is a crucial element of any working engine, and it needs to be replaced every 60,000-100,000 miles. If it wears out and snaps, it can cause severe damage that could potentially total the entire engine. If you plan on owning the car for several years, consider replacing the belt yourself, or try to find a vehicle that has recently been serviced.

While the timing chain operates in the same way as a timing belt, it usually lasts two to three times longer. Some drivers prefer to never change it, as replacing it could sometimes cost more than selling or trading in the vehicle to purchase a new one. 


Brake pads need to be changed every 30,000 to 70,000 miles, while the discs themselves can last up to 120,000 miles. Fortunately, brake pads are relatively inexpensive to replace, so it’s vital to invest in proper upkeep. 

Uneven and sticky braking or scraping sounds when you engage the brake pedal are common symptoms of worn brakes and can appear suddenly. Often replaced in tandem with the brake pads, be sure to check the service history and condition they’re currently in when assessing a used car.


With an average lifespan of 150,000-200,000 miles, the transmission is one of the most crucial and expensive parts to both repair or replace. With regular service, drivers can prolong the life of their transmission, but it is undoubtedly a part you’d never want to replace yourself unless you were a professional. 

Summary - Find the best car deals!

Buying a used car can be a practical investment. New vehicles rapidly depreciate and become available to second-hand buyers at much lower rates. However, you should keep in mind how the car was maintained and the conditions it was driven in whenever you assess a used car’s mileage. 

There’s no absolute number of miles that is too many for a used car. But consider 200,000 as an upper limit, a threshold where even modern cars begin to succumb to the years of wear and tear. The consistency of maintenance and repairs should be your primary concern when determining how many miles may be too much for a used car.

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