Last updated November 23, 2022
It’s important to take mileage (the number of miles that a vehicle has travelled) into account when searching for a used car. The number of miles on the clock will invariably affect the car’s valuation.
In this article, we’ll cover why mileage matters for second-hand cars, how to work out whether a car has a low, normal or high mileage for its age – and some of the other factors alongside mileage that can affect second-hand value.
Mileage is used as an indication of a vehicle’s wear and tear - and therefore, a car’s mileage affects its value. It’s fair to assume that a high-mileage vehicle has been put through more during its time on the road than a vehicle with a lower mileage, meaning it could be less reliable. Likewise, vehicles with a lower mileage have likely completed fewer or much shorter journeys.
It’s important to fully understand mileage if you’re going to use it to inform your choice of used car. As a rule of thumb, you can divide a vehicle’s quoted mileage by the number of years that it has been on the road to identify whether it is a low, normal or high-mileage vehicle.
In 2019, the average driver’s annual mileage was estimated at 7,500. Therefore, this figure can be used as the benchmark for ‘normal’ mileage when working out whether a used vehicle’s mileage is in the low, normal or high range.
If dividing the quoted mileage of a car by the number of years on the road gives you a figure below 7,500, this can be considered a low mileage. This means the car has covered less distance than most cars of the same age.
A car that has travelled more than 7,500 miles per year on average can be considered a high-mileage vehicle. Such a vehicle is likely to have suffered more wear and tear as a result of how far it has travelled during its lifespan.
A conventional, but well-maintained car can last for 200,000 miles – and some models may even last for 300,000 miles and beyond.
It’s a common misconception that you should avoid vehicles with a mileage in excess of 100,000. Many believe this is the point at which a car is at high risk of breakdowns and may become very expensive to repair. However, a car can certainly run well beyond the 100,000-mile mark, if it’s maintained correctly.
In simple terms, how well a vehicle is cared for can have a greater influence on how long it lasts than the number of miles on the clock.
Choosing a make and model with a reputation for reliability and longevity, staying on top of the servicing and maintenance schedule, driving safely and carefully – and avoiding serious collisions can all help to prolong the lifespan of your vehicle.
Full guide: How many miles does a car last?
A car’s value isn’t just affected by its mileage; how and where it has been driven will also come into play. Cars that have been used mainly for city driving will likely carry more wear and tear in certain areas than vehicles that have been used mainly for motorway driving. Similarly, vehicles that have been mostly used in rural, countryside settings will have experienced different wear and tear.
This is due to factors such as the differing amounts of time spent in each gear, differences in road quality and varying journey distances. Therefore, two vehicles of the same age and with the same mileage could be valued very differently.
As we’ve mentioned, it’s estimated that the average driver travels 7,500 miles in their car each year, meaning this is now considered the benchmark for ‘normal’ mileage. If a vehicle that you are looking to buy is in the higher mileage range, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the car is no good – it’s just worth taking a deeper look at the vehicle’s history before buying a high-mileage car.
If you would like to learn more about the history of any UK-registered vehicle, simply run the registration number through our free car check tool.
Mileage isn’t the only factor that could affect the value of your car. Your vehicle’s resale value can be affected by many other factors, such as the state of the tyres, paintwork, brakes – and the vehicle’s overall condition.
How recently consumables such as the brakes have been replaced can also affect your vehicle’s value. If you’re looking to sell your car, check out our guide on 10 ways to increase the resale value of your car.