On top of that, we’ll have a short list of the best high-mileage cars known for their reliability. And, we’ll even answer some car age vs mileage FAQS.

Contents table

  • Used Car mileage vs age explained
  • Car miles – All you need to know
  • Car age – All you need to know
  • Car Maintenance – Why it matters
  • Car depreciation mileage vs age
  • So, what is best: car age or mileage?
  • FAQs

Used car mileage vs age explained

Used car mileage vs age has long been a debate amongst motorists. Is a newer vehicle with high miles on the clock better than an old car with less mileage? It’s a good question, but one that will take a little while to answer as there’s more here than meets the eye. After all, age and mileage are both main influences of a car’s value.

  • In this respect, what does mileage mean? Well, it’s essentially the cost of use. And the more a vehicle is used, the less it is perceived to be worth. Why? Because certain parts in a vehicle are built to last a certain amount of mileage. And the more miles a car’s driven, the more likely it is that it’ll need some repairs down the line.
  • And what about age in used cars? A vehicle’s age is the key factor in determining car depreciation – that’s how much value the car loses over time. Age basically represents the cost of time. The older a vehicle, the less it’s worth. Again, because it’s more likely to need repairs at some point, but also because it will fall behind the standards of newer models.
  • Ultimately, car age and mileage both matter when buying a used car. They both affect the vehicle’s depreciation rate and they are both interlinked – mileage is taken as being high or low based on a car’s age and the older the car, the more miles it’s likely to have driven.

Car miles – All you need to know

A lot of car buyers – when they opt to purchase a used vehicle – will go with the idea that the lower the mileage the better. And whilst it’s certainly true, that the more miles a car is driven, the more moving parts are worn, mileage is not an indicator of quality. It might sound an obvious statement, but cars are meant to be driven. And many parts in a car actually self-lubricate whilst the vehicle is running. In fact, a car that’s being regularly taken out on the road will likely be in a better condition than one kept stationary for months on end on a driveway. A vehicle sat doing nothing over long periods of time will deteriorate quicker, with parts like the engine clogging up.

So, is high mileage good or bad? Firstly, a car with high-mileage definitely requires serious consideration and whilst lower mileage is often preferable, there’s a complicating factor: certain kinds of miles can affect cars in different ways. It all depends on the road surface, the driving conditions, and the type of driving… because a car can actually rack up good and bad mileage.

What are Good miles for a used car?

Is there really such a thing as good and bad mileage on a car? Absolutely. It might seem strange at first, but once you break it down it makes total sense. Basically, motorway miles are better for a car than miles gained from city driving. That’s because motorway driving is easier on the vehicle, which can operate at optimum performance, with less stress on the brakes and clutch, and greater fuel efficiency. City driving is the opposite, wearing the car down more with frequent braking and gear changes.

 

Motorway driven cars will likely have more miles on the clock, whereas city driven cars will probably have fewer miles due to a shorter commute. However, the motorway mileage will be better for the car comparatively. It’s a point that goes to show, the number of miles on an odometer are not always an indicator of a car’s quality.

 

If you’d like to know more about good and bad mileage on a car, we have an expert guide on the topic: Motorway driving vs City driving. It’ll tell you everything you need to know on the subject and more.

Petrol vs Diesel vs Hybrids vs Electrics

Petrol vs diesel vs hybrids vs electric cars is a huge topic in its own right, but it also comes into play in regards to vehicle age vs mileage. Here are some points to consider:

  • Used diesel cars, known for having the edge in motorway driving, will likely have higher mileage and diesel engines often have a longer lifespan than petrol ones as well
  • However, petrol cars as they get older can be cheaper to repair and service compared to diesels and a well-maintained vehicle can result in a longer lifespan
  • Electric vehicles (EVs) have fewer moving parts than their hybrid, petrol, and diesel counterparts, this means there are less things to go wrong as the vehicle gets older (although you may have to replace the battery around the 10 to 20 year mark)
  • Hybrids offer the best of both worlds with the petrol/diesel engine for long motorway journeys and battery power taking the pressure off the engine when city driving – they’re known to have strong reliability too, although like EVs the battery will need replacing in time

Are some cars better than others with high mileage?

There are marques that have gained strong reputations for reliability over the years, such as Toyota and Honda. And cars that rank highly in reliability scores are known for performing well with high mileage as well – like the Toyota IQ, Honda Jazz, and Mitsubishi Lancer.

However, it really does depend on the individual car – how it’s driven and how it’s cared for. And vehicles known to be reliable won’t necessarily outperform rivals. Again, motorway miles vs city mileage also comes into play. A car with high motorway miles could be in a better condition than a similar model that is mainly driven in the city, which is more taxing on a vehicle.

Best high mileage used cars to buy

If you’re looking for a reliable high-mileage car, however, then it’s worth taking a look at some of these cars. These models are well known for being reliable with high mileage on the odometer. They’re 6 of the best in this department:

  1. Ford Fiesta, petrol 2008-2017
  2. Honda Civic, diesel 2006-2012
  3. Ford Focus, diesel 2011-2018
  4. Toyota Avensis, 2003-2009
  5. BMW 3 Series, 2012-2018
  6. Skoda Octavia, diesel 2004-2013

Car Age – All you need to know

Just like mileage requires serious consideration, so too does a car’s age. And whilst most people’s ideal used vehicle would be one that is fairly new and with low mileage – one that should be primed for long-lasting service – you can often find some outstanding deals for older cars that can make them incredibly worthwhile. Nonetheless, there are several things to consider with car age:

  • Firstly, age is the primary factor for depreciation – the older the car the cheaper it usually is
  • Newer models showcase technological advancements, such as better fuel efficiency, lower CO2 emissions, and the latest safety equipment, which older models can miss out on
  • Older cars, when in frequent use, can also rack up mileage on the odometer
  • Daily wear and tear can make an impact over time
  • And after time, car parts can degrade, even for vehicles that are mostly sat on a driveway
  • The older a car gets, the more likely it might require repairs at some point

These aspects are also why age is considered the main influence of car depreciation. However, an older car that is regularly serviced and maintained, with an excellent MOT history, in many ways shows buyers that it has a proven track record for reliability. Pair that with a low-cost starting price typical of older models and you have a very tempting deal. Nevertheless, you should still consider all aspects of car age and that includes its safety features.

Important safety features to consider when buying an old car

When buying an older used car, one thing to be aware of is the vehicle’s level of safety equipment. Driver assists and safety technology have improved in recent years, meaning an older car might not have the same levels of equipment. Some useful safety tech to look out for includes:

  • Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) – this prevents a vehicle from skidding when the brakes are sharply applied
  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC) – fitted on all new cars from 2014 as standard and building on ABS, electronic stability control helps drivers recover from a slide or spin to regain stability
  • Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) – together, these safety systems monitor the road for potential collisions, warning the driver of danger, and automatically applying the brakes if the driver doesn’t respond in time
  • Blind-spot monitoring – sensors monitor the car’s blind spot, alerting you to any approaching vehicle
  • Rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlights – these will bring your windshield wipers and headlamps on automatically at the appropriate times
  • Reversing camera and Rear Cross Traffic Alert – the camera will help you enter and exit parking spaces, whilst the cross-traffic alert will detect and inform you if a car is approaching from either side whilst reversing

There are lots of other drivers assists and warning systems you might want to look for too, such as lane assist and lane departure warning systems. Do your research in advance and decide what you consider is essential for your needs. Discover more on the subject with our expert guide on safety features.

Car Maintenance – Why it matters

In the car age or mileage debate, one factor that is massively important is vehicle maintenance. How long a car lasts is often directly tied to how well it has been cared for. It’s one of the reasons vehicle inspections are a key part of buying a used car. After all, a car will last longer if it’s properly maintained and serviced. Over the course of its life, it should have fewer faults and problems too. And owners who carefully maintain their car are more likely to fix any issues as and when they arise – before they become major problems. It’s not surprising then that the third influence in car depreciation is the car’s condition.

When buying a used vehicle, always check the service history and look for signs it has been well cared for. Essential maintenance checks for owners and buyers include:

  • Inspecting the fluid levels (and keeping them topped up)
  • Ensuring the oil is regularly changed
  • The inspection of hoses and belts, such as the timing belt
  • Reading over previous MOT notes (and getting any issues fixed as soon as possible)
  • Checking the exterior for any scrapes, dents, or scratches
  • Checking the interior for wear and tear

For buyers, you can gather more information on a used car with a vehicle history check. Gov.uk do a free MOT history check too, allowing you to gain maintenance info on the car before you even view it.

Car depreciation mileage vs age

As mentioned, a vehicle’s age and its mileage are the two main factors of car depreciation. And a car starts losing value the very moment it’s driven off the forecourt. Age is considered the main influence in depreciation, but that’s partly because the older a vehicle is, the more miles it’s likely to have driven. Typically, the average car will stop depreciating after 8-10 years.

And why is this important in the car mileage vs age debate? Basically, it will affect the used vehicle’s resale value should you come to sell your car. In addition, a little knowledge here will help you decide whether a car with high mileage or an old age is well-priced and a deal worth going for in the first place.

How to calculate time-based depreciation on a used car?

The formula to calculate a used car’s time-based depreciation value is relatively simple. Take the car’s sale price and subtract its current value. Then divide that figure by the car’s age, which will equal the depreciation rate per year – how much it has dropped in value every year. You can use this formula to get a good idea of how much a second-hand car is worth and whether it’s a good deal. Use it alongside our Car Price Guide for even better results.

How to calculate mileage-based depreciation on a used car?

How to calculate mileage-based depreciation on a used car is equally simple if you take the formula at face value. The calculation is easy enough. Take the depreciation rate per year and divide that by the car’s annual mileage. Times that by 100, which will then equal the cost per mile.

However, there’s one problem with this calculation. It makes the cost of mileage dependent on the age depreciation rate. In most cases that won’t be an issue. But, in those instances where a car’s age and mileage are vastly different – for example, a 4-year-old Ford Fiesta with 100,000 miles on the odometer – it won’t give you an accurate result. Nonetheless, it’s a useful calculation for working out mileage-based depreciation for the average car. Again, you can use this info to see whether a used vehicle is accurately priced, and a good deal or not.

 

Check out our complete guide on car depreciation for more info on the subject. It goes into lots of additional detail and even provides top 10 lists of the best and worst depreciating cars.

So, what is best: car age or mileage?

So, is mileage more important than age? Or is car age better than mileage? Or, to bring back the question from the start of this guide, is a newer vehicle with high miles on the clock, better than an old car with less mileage? As you may have gathered by now, there’s no straightforward answer to this dilemma. In many ways, it depends on your needs and what you’re after.

  • A newer high-mileage car will have more up-to-date tech and safety features and it’s likely to have been driven predominantly on motorways, which are easier miles on the car. However, being younger it will still have value to lose through depreciation – a point that will affect the resale price should you come to sell your car.
  • An older low-mileage vehicle won’t have covered as many miles, so moving car parts should have less wear and tear. Being older, it should also have undergone a significant amount of depreciation already, giving you a better return if you come to sell. However, it may not feature certain safety equipment or tech. And, it’s low mileage could be a sign it has mainly been driven in the city, which can be harder on a car.
  • The ultimate answer to which is best, is simple: proper car maintenance. How well the owner has maintained the used vehicle is paramount to how it will perform and how long it’ll last – making a massive impact on both age and mileage. An old, high-mileage car that’s been carefully serviced and cared for can still enjoy many more miles on the road. A car that’s consistently maintained poorly and badly cared for will likely run in to more problems, before it reaches an old age or high mileage.

That’s why whenever you buy a used car, you should always perform a vehicle inspection and a car history check, paying close attention to the service and MOT history. You can use our buying a used car check list too, to help you every step of the journey.

FAQs

In the car age vs mileage debate, there are a few frequently asked questions on the subject. And we’ll answer those right now:

We’ve explored every aspect of the question, which is best: car age vs mileage? We’ve discussed what age and mileage are in terms of depreciation, and how both affect used cars. And although there’s no definite answer to which is best, there are pros and cons for a young car with high-mileage and for an old vehicle with low-mileage.

And while motorway miles are easier on a vehicle compared to stop-go city driving, ultimately, the most significant aspect in regards to used car age and mileage is actually vehicle maintenance. A properly serviced and well-maintained car is typically best.

Combine a well-serviced vehicle and motorway miles and you have a recipe for a long-lasting used car. Discover why that’s the case with our guide on City vs Motorway Driving.