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What is Good Mileage for a Used Car? What You Need To Know!

car dashboard

There are many reasons to purchase a used car. A significant reason is to avoid the depreciation hit that happens as soon as a brand new car is driven off the lot. Another would be to save money on a second vehicle, perhaps. Other than wondering if there is anything obviously wrong with the car, many people ask how many miles it has on it. But what would be good mileage for a used car?

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Good or Acceptable Mileage

The general rule of thumb accepted by most mechanics or vehicle sales professionals is the “12,000 miles per year rule.” Essentially, this means that you multiply the age of the vehicle by 12,000.

For example, if you’re looking at purchasing a 2010 car, then your formula would be as follows:

  • 12 (age of car) X 12,000 (miles per year) = 144,000 miles.

This would be considered the average number of miles you would expect to see on the vehicle in question. This is not a precise formula, but if you see that the used vehicle has over 200,000 miles after doing the math, then you know that it has much higher than average mileage.

Keep in mind that higher or lower than average mileage doesn’t necessarily mean a good or bad deal. Other factors play into an acceptable mileage on a used car.

car odometer showing mileage
Image By: BonnyJodwin, Pixabay

How Much Mileage is Too Much?

There are numerous factors that determine whether higher than average mileage is an acceptable risk. A few of these factors to be aware of are highway mileage vs. city mileage, overall maintenance of the vehicle, and brand.

Highway Mileage vs. City Mileage

Generally speaking, highway driving is easier on vehicles compared to city driving. With highway driving, there isn’t a lot of stop-and-go compared to city driving. Also, there is generally a lot of idle time in city driving, which is actually not good for most vehicles.

So if the majority of mileage on a car was from highway driving, then there likely was not as much hard wear on the car.

Overall Maintenance

Many people are reactive in fixing their vehicles. That is that they fix something when it breaks down or needs to be replaced. If a proactive approach is taken and the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance and replacements are all done on schedule. Then, often, a vehicle can reliably last much longer than the average.


Some brands have a reputation for producing long-lasting automobiles. Two examples are Honda and Toyota. Both are known to make vehicles that last much longer than average. However, even when looking at these types of brands, it’s still important to ensure proper maintenance was performed.

blue honda car parked outside
Image Credit: iniesta44, Pixabay

Could Low Mileage be Bad?

As a general rule, low mileage is not a bad thing. If given a choice between the same two vehicles, the one with the lower mileage will usually be the best choice. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes, the low mileage is low for negative reasons.

It is possible to alter the odometer in a vehicle—illegal just about everywhere, but possible. By accessing the history report of a car, sometimes you will be able to figure out if the odometer reading is accurate through a bit of detective work. Another way to do this would be to have a mechanic look at it. A trained eye will often be able to pick things out that may indicate an inaccurate odometer.

Another instance where low mileage may not be good is if the vehicle has been in a major accident. It may still be operable, but it could be beginning to have problems because of the accident, and now the current owner is trying to sell it. Suppose you find a relatively new used vehicle with low miles for an unusually low price. In that case, this can sometimes indicate that the whole story is not being shared.

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So you see, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. However, armed with an average formula for judging mileage, you are armed with enough knowledge to make an informed decision. If there is ever any doubt when purchasing a used vehicle, always have a trusted automotive mechanic look at it. Any seller with nothing to hide will not object to having a professional go over the car to make a sale.

Featured Image Credit: Mikes-Photography, Pixabay


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