car milometer

Mileage tends to be one of the first things that most buyers look at when buying a used, seized or salvage car, especially in online car auctions like ours. That’s hardly surprising, really; for most buyers, it serves as a useful shorthand indication of how intensively the car’s been used - and by extension, how much longer it can be expected to last. While we’re not denying it’s useful in that regard though, if it’s only considered in isolation then it tends to provide a very narrow insight into the car.

100,000 miles might sound like a lot, but if the salvage car has been well looked after for all those miles, it could end up being a more preferable option to a car that has a much lower mileage, but hasn’t been looked after nearly as well. After all, over in countries like the United States, cars can regularly go for hundreds of thousands of miles. So, when it comes to mileage, here’s what to bear in mind.

Why a high mileage isn’t necessarily a bad thing

Most modern cars will have a design life of at least 150,000 miles, so as long as a car enjoys a reasonable standard of care, then most have no trouble reaching this milestone. And if it’s carefully looked after, a vehicle might even reach as high as 300,000 or 400,000, and remain a reliable source of transport.

So, how long does it take them to rack up these sorts of figures? Well, if we’re looking at generally accepted averages, a three year old car tends to have covered something like 30,000 to 45,000 miles by its third birthday. But the important thing isn’t just the total miles it’s covered, but the manner in which it travelled that distance. If it’s been used for lengthy motorway trips, like a fairly long commute, a high mileage may well actually indicate a car in reasonably good condition. That’s because components like the brakes, suspension and clutch wear out more slowly on long motorway jaunts, and everything has a decent length of time to warm up.

On the other hand, shorter and more frequent trips can put cars under much more strain, especially in the colder winter months. That’s because parts like the engine and gearbox have to work a lot harder when they’re cold, and if they’re not given a chance to warm up, those frequent strains can start to take their toll. The brakes and suspension see a lot more intensive usage in stop-start driving trips too, such as trips through city centres. So if there are clear signs that a car has racked up its high mileage through shorter journeys, it’s wise to treat it with a bit more caution.

Make sure to do some sleuthing

Of course, you might not be able to tell all that much about the car from its odometer alone. A glance around the bodywork, and a chance to take it out for a test drive, will generally serve as a useful supporting insight into its general condition.

One of the best things you can do, though, is to look at the car’s service history. Make a note of who has worked on the car, when they worked on it, and what they did. The MOT history can also be revealing - if your prospective new purchase failed its MOT often, it could be a hint that it’s not been all that well cared for. Somewhat counterintuitively though, bigger bills can be a good indication that previous owners have indeed lavished some decent care and attention on it.

If you’re still torn but really set on the car, then it might be worth getting it professionally inspected - although obviously you’ll have to weigh up the cost of that against your budget, and the total purchase price of the car.

When it comes right down to it of course, the final decision is up to you. Judging the potential costs of inspections versus the risk that you might still walk away can all be a delicate balancing act, but if the mileage helps you to make a more informed decision, you can at least enjoy some extra peace of mind.

And if you’re looking to kickstart your journey to your next used, seized or salvage car, you’re in exactly the right place. Our auctions refresh on a daily and weekly basis, so you’ve always got a great chance of finding a bargain here on our site. We’ve got models from a range of leading global manufacturers, including Audi, BMW and Mercedes. Why not take a look around our site, and see what you can find?