How does mileage affect car value?

When it comes to value loss, a car’s age and condition are not the only contributing factors. The number of miles on the odometer also has a significant effect on how much a car is worth on the second-hand market.

A car that loses value due to high mileage may simultaneously experience value loss through age-related depreciation and general wear and tear. Many second-hand buyers are also wary of high-mileage vehicles, sometimes due to concerns that they are more prone to developing faults. As such, cars with higher mileages are also unlikely to be selected as approved used cars.

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Why does mileage affect car value?

A car with a high mileage will always be worth less than an identical vehicle with fewer miles on the clock. This is because the further a car travels, the greater the wear on its components - and the more likely it is they will require repairs or replacement.

High-mileage cars are also more likely to have amassed superficial and structural damage, which would further devalue them. This may explain why many second-hand buyers prefer cars with a low or average mileage.

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Car mileage bandings

The UK's average annual car mileage can fluctuate year-on-year, but if your car exceeds this figure, it can lose value even quicker. Car mileage can be grouped into bands of 20,000 miles.

This is a convenient model for calculating car mileage depreciation, as each time a car passes through a mileage band, it will lose on average around 20% of its current value.

A loose example would be a new car purchased for £20,000 and then sold a few years later with 40,000 miles on the mile counter. Based on mileage alone, the car would be worth around £12,800 at resale, with its value having decreased from £20,000 to £16,000, then £16,000 to £12,800 (each a decrease of 20%).

However, it’s important to remember that car mileage is not the only thing that affects value, and during this period, the ca will have aged, plate changes will have occurred (at which point older models tend to lose resale value), cosmetic or functional damage may have occurred, as well as other possible factors that impact resale value.

Don’t forget, if you need a value estimate based on your car’s age and mileage, you can use our free Car Valuation tool at any time!

Mileage and choosing the best value used car

When searching for used cars, some consumers deliberately avoid any high mileage options. If the vehicle already has considerable wear, this may be a wise decision.

With that said, if the owner of a high-mileage car has kept on top of its service and maintenance schedule and replaced any worn parts in a timely manner, this vehicle may actually be a better purchase than some lower-mileage equivalents, which could be on the verge of developing expensive faults.

If you are open to the idea of a high mileage used car, it’s worth considering an ex-company car. Cars that have been used for business trips are likely to have spent more time on the motorway. Travelling at steady speeds on motorways causes far less engine wear than shorter journeys through built-up areas, in typical stop-start traffic.

Are you still unsure whether a higher mileage car would be right for you? Check out our High Mileage Buyer’s Guide.

How many miles does a car usually last?

Many cars on the market can last around 200,000 miles. However, certain models can reach the 300,000 mark, providing you are proactive with repairs and maintenance - and service the vehicle regularly. Driving safely, carefully and avoiding severe collisions can help to increase lifetime mileage.

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What is a clocked car?

The odometer in a ‘clocked’ car has been deliberately modified to reduce the mileage reading, usually to increase its perceived value and saleability. Whilst ‘clocking’ a car is not technically illegal, selling that vehicle without disclosing the mileage discrepancy is against the law.

How to tell if a car’s mileage has been clocked

One of the biggest red flags that indicate mileage tampering may have occurred is a discrepancy in the mileages recorded in the MOT and service history.

You would expect the mileage of an untampered vehicle to increase fairly steadily year on year. If after being driven around 10,000 miles each year, an annual mileage of 1,000 is then recorded, this could be an attempt to mask mileage clocking.

You can check the MOT history of any UK-registered vehicle with our free car history check tool. Pay attention to the mileage recordings for each MOT in the vehicle’s history.

If the mileage increases just slightly for a given year, you should ask the owner to explain this. Of course, if the mileage miraculously ‘falls’ from a previous figure, you can safely conclude that this is a result of tampering!

Although checking the history can uncover evidence of clocking, this is not always conclusive. For instance, the tampering may have occurred prior to the first MOT.

As such, you should also pay attention to the vehicle’s overall condition. Excessive wear on the pedals, carpets, seats or steering wheel can all suggest the vehicle has been driven further than its reputed mileage.

Finally, you should take the car for a test drive prior to committing to purchasing it. Pay attention to how the vehicle handles. If it behaves like a vehicle with a higher mileage than the what’s on the clock, then this also suggests tampering has occurred.

How does car clocking affect a vehicle’s value?

Many cars are ‘clocked’ in the hope that buyers will take the revised odometer reading at face value. Once mileage tampering occurs, a car’s true market value will fall and it may be harder to sell, as knowledgeable buyers will likely pick up on the mileage discrepancy.

What penalties can you face for tampering with an odometer?

Whilst altering a vehicle’s odometer isn’t technically illegal, doing so with the intent to sell is against the law. If it is proven you have clocked a car for financial gain, or sold a car that is clocked without disclosing this, you can be prosecuted under the Consumer Rights Act.

What is annual mileage?

Annual mileage is used by car insurers to estimate how far customers will drive each year. This is calculated by dividing a car’s current mileage by the number of years since it was manufactured. A 5-year-old car with a total mileage of 100,000, has an annual mileage of 20,000.

What are the effects of annual mileage on car insurance?

The greater your annual mileage, the more likely it is you will have an accident and make a claim on your car insurance. Therefore, a higher annual mileage usually means you’ll pay a higher insurance premium.

How do car mileage and depreciation affect car value?

A car’s value will depreciate year on year, irrespective of the mileage driven, with the starkest value loss occurring in the first year. Depreciation will continue steadily thereafter, before slowing significantly at the 8-10 year mark.

If a car has a particularly low mileage and is generally in good condition, it may sell for more than an identical car with an average mileage. Conversely, a car with a high mileage will typically sell for less than others of the same model with fewer miles on the clock.

Age or mileage: Which has the greater impact on car value?

Age is broadly considered to be the largest contributor to value loss, although it is also likely that an older vehicle will have more miles on the clock than a newer one. You can estimate your vehicle’s depreciation from its brand-new value using our free Car Depreciation calculator.

Other Frequently Asked Questions

According to Government data from the ‘National Travel Survey’, in 2021, the average mileage per car was approximately 5,300. The average mileage for diesel cars was higher (6,500) than their petrol counterparts (4,600). Company cars covered around double the mileage of private cars (10,200).

An annual mileage of 10,000 or less is considered ideal by many second-hand buyers. To gauge the ideal mileage, simply multiply the car’s age in years by 10,000. For instance, when shopping for a three-year old car, many buyers would prefer 30,000 miles or less.

A car with a mileage exceeding 20,000 per year - or a lifetime mileage over 200,000 can be considered ‘high mileage’. Statistics from the Department of Transport revealed that in 2019, just 2% of cars travelled 21,000 miles or more – down from 6% in 2002.

High mileage cars are often sold at favourable prices – and providing they have been well cared for can make for a worthy investment. If you would like to sell your car, you can do so privately or through a car-buying website such as webuyanycar.

Source: Department of Transport data.

Some of the best models for value retention after three years include the Porsche 911 GT3 (81%), Range Rover Evoque (73%) and Aston Martin DBX (70%). Although the value retained will be slightly less with a higher mileage, these models hold up well compared to others on the market.

Reliability is a key consideration, especially if you need to make long trips on a regular basis. Models such as the BMW 3 Series, Toyota Corolla and Skoda Octavia have been feted for their long-term dependability as workhorses and company cars - even after a high mileage.

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