Chances are good that "How many miles does it have?" is the first question out of your mouth when you’re looking at a used car. You’re asking that question because you know that the biggest drawback to buying a used car is how many miles were put on it by the previous owner(s). The higher the mileage means the less life left in the vehicle. Or does it?

There is a general rule of thumb for age and mileage on a used car, but there are also other factors that influence its durability and longevity. The following is a look at the factors that make a used car worth buying or not. After you’re done reading, check out our quality used car inventory at Sioux Falls Ford and come see what makes a great used car at our dealership. 

How Mileage and Age Influence the Value of a Used Car 

1954 Ford F-100 Interior Logo

The mileage and age of a used car are intertwined in how it influences its value. If one or the other is on the high side, or both are high, the lower the overall value of the car. However, this isn’t always true, as a newer used car with high miles undergoes more depreciation than an older car with lower miles. There is a sweet spot, however, in which a used car’s age and mileage are a good value for the buyer and indicative of an abundance of life left in the car before maintenance becomes an issue.

Does the Perfect Mileage-to-Age Ratio Exist?

The automotive industry expects a car to be driven anywhere between 10,000 to 12,000 miles on an annual basis. Some will go as high as 15,000 miles, especially if it’s a vehicle that’s intended for use over long distances. Anything that averages over 15,000 miles, however, and the car is viewed as having more mileage than is good for its age. What this means is that a 3-year-old car with 36,000 to 45,000 miles is considered to have average-to-high mileage, whereas a 5-year-old car with 45,000 miles is considered to have been driven lightly over its lifespan. 

The mileage-to-age ratio is crucial to the value of a used car due to the simple fact that a car’s engine is always under stress, voltage, and heat when it’s in use. An engine is engineered to last for hundreds of thousands of miles when operated normally and maintained regularly. Too much use, or putting on a lot of miles in a relatively short time span, increases the wear on all of the systems and can potentially shorten the life of the vehicle. 

When There’s Not Enough Mileage on a Car

Cars need to be used to stay in good working order. An internal combustion engine relies on movement and lubrication to keep its parts moving freely and prevent premature wear. Cars that are driven infrequently are more likely to need premature replacement of many parts due to the lack of lubricity and parts that dry out, crack, or disintegrate. A car with very low mileage can be just as prone to repairs as one that has too many miles. 

Age and mileage aren’t the only things that influence the value of a used car. Maintenance, or a lack thereof, also plays a role in the value of a used car. 

The Role of Maintenance and Condition in a Car’s Longevity

Modern cars are capable of reaching 200,000 to 300,000 miles without requiring major repairs, provided the previous owner engaged in proper maintenance. That includes getting oil changes at regular intervals, regularly maintaining systems, keeping fluids topped off, and getting the engine checked for signs of wear and tear. Preventative maintenance goes a long way toward keeping a car on the road for longer.

Sometimes a vehicle gets regular maintenance, but the way the car is used damages the engine just the same. An owner who engages in tuning or performance enhancements puts the engine under more stress than it should take on a regular basis. This can cause parts to break down, weaken, or wear in places you can’t see. 

Another issue that causes premature wear is excessive idling. This happens when a vehicle is put into park and allowed to run for long periods of time. Regular maintenance can’t overcome the wear and tear on the bearings inside the engine block and can result in an expensive repair when least expected. 

Original Manufacturing Decisions Play a Role in a Car’s Durability

Sometimes a car can have the magic mile-to-age ratio but still have issues that reduce its value. Before going forward, it’s worth noting there is no such thing as a perfect make or model that will never break down. Some manufacturers come close to that goal, and their cars maintain a high value on the used car market. A used car’s value is affected when a manufacturer introduced a fault during the engineering process or the manufacturing process.

A used car that’s poorly designed at the factory level is one that requires a lot of maintenance or a rebuild kit to make it "right". The car itself has poor resale value and should be avoided unless you’re willing to take it on as a project. Otherwise, take a pass on a used car that has a price that’s too good to be true. It’s priced cheaply for a reason, and you don’t want to be the person who finds out why. 

Come See Our Selection of Quality Used Cars at Sioux Falls Ford

At Sioux Falls Ford, we inspect every used car that comes through our dealership. We want to make sure that you get a reliable used vehicle at a price that fits your budget. Our service center inspects all used cars inside and out, fixes any minor issues and determines its overall condition. We also certify qualifying used Ford vehicles through the Blue Advantage program from Ford. Check out our inventory of used vehicles online or in person, take it for a test drive, and then let our finance department help you get a loan so you can take home your choice today.

1954 Ford F-100 Interior Logo by JD Hancock is licensed with CC BY 2.0.


Categories: Used Vehicles