What Matters More — Age or Mileage?

The ultimate debate in your used car search. Should you get a a newer model year with more miles or an older car with less miles? Let's break it down.

What Matters More — Age or Mileage?

During your car buying search, you’ll inevitably face vehicles of varying mileage and model years. It’s hard to decide, which one is better? Should you look for a 5 year old car, because it’s less expensive than a newer model year or should you aim for a vehicle that is newer, but has more miles? Let’s break it down.

What Does Mileage Tell You

Mileage should always weigh heavy on your mind. It tells a big story about how much the vehicle has been “used.” A vehicle that has been driven over 100,000 miles has different wear and tear than one driven 50,000 miles.

Understanding total mileage is only one part of the equation, how that vehicle has acquired those miles is another. Was the vehicle driven as a commuter car—long distances on the freeway or driven in stop and go city traffic? Figuring out how the vehicle was driven and whether the owner took care of the vehicle and had the vehicle properly repaired.

How Age Matters for Used Cars

A vehicle’s age is also an important consideration. A vehicle that’s 10 years old, but has only been driven 25,000 miles may seem appealing, but on the flip side the vehicle has also been sitting for most of its life. There are certain parts of a vehicle that don’t age well when the vehicle has been sitting. As always it’s important to get a mechanical inspection to understand the condition of the vehicle.

Service and Maintenance History

You can weigh mileage and age for every vehicle, but the most important factor when buying a used car is service and maintenance records and getting it inspected by a certified mechanic before purchasing it. You could have a two year old vehicle with 25,000 miles on it, but if the previous owner was hard on the car and didn’t service it or maintain the vehicle, then the vehicle will probably show signs of wear and tear earlier than expected. Any part can go prematurely, which is why an inspection is key.

If you had to pick between model year and mileage, you’re better off going with mileage. If you think of a car like a pair of shoes, the more you walk in them, the more they are going to wear. Now if you bought a pair of shoes and only wear them on special occasions, you’ll be able to keep them longer. One could apply a similar principle to cars, the engine and parts won’t wear as quickly if the vehicle isn’t driven a lot.

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