What is the best mileage to buy a used car?

What is the best mileage to buy a used car?

motomatch / 3 May 2021

The answer will give you insight into how much work the car’s done in its lifetime – but is it really something to make or break a deal?

The answer is…yes! Mileage gives you an indication of how much distance the car has done, compared with its age. While it isn’t the only aspect that you’ll look at, it’s good to know what ideal mileage is on a used car, so that you have a guideline to work from.

What does mileage do to a car?

As with any asset, general wear and tear happens on cars over time. Vehicles that are used more frequently at longer distances will reach their mileage replacement indicators earlier than others. It’s helpful to understand the “mileage” that certain parts of the car have. Here are some recommended replacement milestones (remember, these are just guidelines based on a healthy, well-maintained vehicle):

- Tyres: 30 000 – 35 000kms

- Brake pads: 30 000 - 35 000kms

- Shocks: 50 000 – 60 000kms

- Cam/timing belt: 70 000 – 100 000kms

- Major service: Every 15 000kms

    When you’re assessing a second-hand car that you want to buy, a pertinent question would be whether these items have been replaced at the appropriate times, and whether the seller has got proof of this. Parts that are not replaced when necessary, cause other mechanical issues if neglected over time. So, it’s important that you have evidence that the seller has maintained the vehicle well. For instance, if they’re selling a car that has a mileage of 80 000kms but they’ve never replaced the brakes, clutch or tyres, it’s a red flag. This means that even though the mileage may be relatively low for the age of the car, it hasn’t been looked after; which could mean trouble for you and loads of spend down the line.

    What is good mileage for a used car?

    Ideally, you’d like to buy a second-hand car at the lowest possible mileage for its use. Between 10 000 – 15 000km is acceptable for a car that’s one year old. You can do the maths and work it out from there. So, a car that’s 10 years old shouldn’t have more than 100 000 – 150 000 kms on the clock.

    It’s also important to consider what the car is used for. Bakkies and four-wheel drives like the Toyota Fortuner or the VW Amarok are generally used for long-haul drives, so may have a higher mileage than smaller cars of the same age, but they are built to handle distance, so they tend to wear down a little slower than other cars. Diesel vehicles also have more mileage capacity than petrol cars. You’ll also need be aware of a car with incredibly low mileage for its age – this could mean that either it’s been sitting somewhere and neglected (cars that seldom get onto the road get mechanical issues from lack of use), or because the odometer has been tampered with.

    Keep this all in mind when looking at the model and the mileage of the car you want to buy. You’ll need to cross-check this information with the number of owners and what the car was used for, but about 10 000 – 15 000kms per year of age is a good place to start.

    At what mileage do cars start having problems?

    This is a tricky question to answer, because a car that’s well looked after could have a higher mileage but still be in excellent condition in all the ways that matter. Generally speaking though, cars start to show signs of age at around 60 000km if they’ve been handled well. But the higher the mileage the more you’re going to fork out for maintenance in the long run. So really what it comes down to is what you’re willing to pay for. You can get a lower mileage vehicle and pay a bit more, or you can buy a cheap second-hand car with high mileage and pay for maintenance.

    What’s more important, the mileage, or the age of the car?

    They’re not mutually exclusive. A car’s age gives you and indication of what a reasonable mileage is. As mentioned, about 10 000 – 15 000kms per year is an acceptable range. What may help your decision is whether or not you need the bank to finance your purchase. Most banks will not approve a loan for a car that’s older than 8 years - so no matter the mileage, if you want to buy a car on HP you’ll need to find a younger model.

    So, what are great used car choices based on mileage, quality and affordability?

    After doing a little research, we found that the most search for brands of used cars continue to be Toyota, Volkswagen and BMW, with the Toyota Hilux being SA’s most desired used car model in 2020, followed by the Volkswagen Golf and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

    However, the popular hatchback still offers the most value for money for every-day drivers. These include the Volkswagen Polo and Golf, as well as the BMW 3 Series. This is generally because hatchbacks offer fuel efficiency, quality build and style, along with affordability. They’re dependable, practical vehicles that are great to nip around town in, and although they’re smaller cars they certainly don’t lack in performance. Newer models also come with all the bells and whistles, so you really want for nothing. Hatchbacks also have great resale value, for the same reasons, so they make fantastic options when for used car purchases.

    We hope this article helped you. When it comes to buying a pre-loved car, the bottom line is that you want the lowest mileage for the latest year model at your price point.