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The ideal mileage to look for when buying a used car – why low isn’t always best

There are many things to be taken into account when buying a used car, but one thing most buyers seem to be particularly keen on is finding a car with low mileage. But could buying a higher-mileage car make more sense? Car-selling experts CarGurus answer some of the questions you need to ask when looking at a car’s odometer.

What is average mileage?
Many of us think that around 10,000 miles a year is the correct ballpark for a used car.

In fact, the distance covered by passenger vehicles has been dropping in recent years as revealed by examining mileages recorded at annual MoT tests over the past couple of decades.

Back in 2002 the figure stood at 9,200 miles.

Since then though that figure has been dropping quite significantly and average mileage now stands at just 7,500 miles per year.

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A car driven in rush hour traffic, for example, will have used its clutch, gearbox and brakes far more than one that has sat on the motorway all day long, which could lead to premature wear of those items.

And it’s also true that some car parts deteriorate from a lack of use: rubber parts can perish and brake discs can go rusty on cars that are only used infrequently.

However, a low-mileage car can also be in a better overall condition inside and outside. Its seats will probably have suffered less wear, and it will have had less opportunity to have picked up stone chips to its bodywork during its lifespan.

If your annual mileage is higher than average, then buying a low-mileage car makes sense financially, because if you keep it for two or three years, then by the time you come to sell it, the chances are it will then have covered an average number of miles for its age and still have a solid retained value.

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