What mileage is good for a used car?
Can't stretch to a new car and wonder what mileage limit to set when looking at used models? Find out what to expect with used cars here
The mileage of a used car is one of the easiest ways to assess how much it's been used and how much life is left in it. You can expect a one-year-old car with only 5,000 miles covered to look and feel practically new, while a car with 150,000 miles is likely to show lots of wear and tear both physically and mechanically - and potentially have some reliability issues if it hasn't been maintained well.
Modern cars often last well beyond 200,000 miles - with some relatively regularly being seen with more than 300,000 miles on the clock - provided they've been serviced regularly and looked after well. This means that what classes as a good mileage for a used car is very different to just 10 or 20 years ago, when fewer cars may have been able to rack up so many miles.
The mileage of a car can have a huge impact on its value. Lower mileage cars are often seen more positively by buyers, who are often happy to pay a premium for a car that is perceived as being fresher. On the flip side, some savvy drivers will hunt for well looked after higher mileage cars, as they can be much more affordable and just as reliable.
Keep reading to find out what a typical UK average mileage is, so you can get a yardstick to judge second-hand cars from. You can expect some variations between petrol and diesel cars (with diesel cars often being more expensive new but costing less to fuel - making them a popular choice with higher-mileage drivers), along with the pros and cons of choosing a car with a higher mileage.
Overall, though, there is no set rule; a suitable mileage for a car can depend on everything from fuel type to which brand of car you are considering. If you want the newest, freshest car and are willing to pay for it, going for a low-mileage vehicle can be the right move. If, however, you want the best value car and are happy to pay a bit more in maintenance, going for a higher-mileage model at a lower price is likely to be the way to go.
How many miles should a car have?
According to the Office for National Statistics, the average number of miles a car travelled in the UK during 2020 was 6,800 miles. We think this should be taken with a pinch of salt, though, as the coronavirus pandemic definitely cancelled the odd journey or two.
Figures for 2019 put the average annual figure at 7,400 miles and, although this number is a few years out of date, it is probably a more accurate representation of ‘normal’. With the 2019 figure in mind, we dusted off the BuyaCar abacus and calculated how many miles a typical car will have travelled per year of its life. The table below shows a breakdown.
|Age of car in years||Average mileage|
The numbers above are best thought of as guidelines, as there are plenty of nuances between the different types of cars depending on their fuel type, size and also how they are used. A three-year-old diesel commuter car is likely to cover a reasonably high mileage, while a 20-year-old sports car will typically cover fewer miles.
What is high mileage for a petrol car?
Petrol cars are better suited to shorter trips than diesel cars (due to their lower purchase costs and reduced emissions of some pollutants, which can contribute to health issues for those in urban areas). As such, you can sometimes find petrol cars that are four, five, six or more years old that have travelled less distance than your average two-year-old car. A classic example of a low-mieage petrol car is one run by someone who rarely travels further than the shops and back.
As such, the average mileage of a petrol car is typically slightly less than the overall car average (as this includes diesel models, too) - 6,000 to 7,000 miles per year is a good benchmark. Therefore, a petrol car that has travelled an average of 9,000 miles per year could be considered relatively high mileage.
Although petrol cars are better suited to shorter journeys, they are by no means bad at long-distance driving - especially in the case of economical models. It is just that traditionally, the fact diesel cars are usually more economical than petrol equivalents on long motorway journeys means that drivers who do lots of miles per year tend to choose them over a petrol model.
For people expecting to use motorways only to see family from time to time or to go on the rare longer trip, a petrol car could well work out the better option, though, as this type of driver wouldn't benefit from diesel models' increased fuel economy. For help deciding on whether a diesel car is right for you, take a quick look at our ‘should I buy a diesel car’ guide.
What is high mileage for a diesel car?
It is much more common for higher-mileage cars to be diesel-powered. This is because they tend to be more expensive to purchase, but also more economical than petrol models, especially at motorway speeds. This means that those who do the highest mileages have the most to save in fuel costs by choosing a diesel car over a petrol equivalent.
As such, the average annual mileage for a diesel car is normally around 9,000 to 10,000 miles. A higher mileage car might have travelled on average 15,000 miles per year, with many covering well 20,000 miles per year. It is not uncommon for taxis and company cars to exceed 25,000 miles per year, with a reasonable number racking up even 35,000 or 40,000 miles each year.
Many manufacturers specifically engineer diesel cars to be able to travel tens of thousands of miles each year without fuss and, as a result, diesel cars can often travel long distances between services. For example, Audi recommends that many of its models are serviced every 9,300 miles if driven frequently for short distances - the type of driving more suited to petrol models than diesel cars.
However, if the same cars are driven more regularly for long journeys - such as motorway journeys, the type of trip more suited to diesel than petrol cars - the mileage before a service is needed can increase all the way up to 18,600 miles. Handily, Audi and a number of other car makers include clever software in their cars which informs the driver when the car needs to be serviced.
Risks of buying an older car with a low mileage
One of the more appealing combinations when shopping for a car is an older model with lower miles. This could potentially mean that you get the benefit of a reliable car, which hasn't been used too heavily, while saving thousands of pounds compared with getting a newer model with the same mileage. While this can be true, there are a couple of risks associated with getting an older car - even if it has a low mileage.
First, is the level of manufacturer warranty cover you get - if you get any. A three-year, 60,000-mile warranty is fairly standard on new cars sold in the UK (with a few brands offering five or even seven years' cover). Once either the time limit or mileage cap is reached, drivers lose the safety net of manufacturer cover, should certain parts of the car fail.
It is possible to buy used car warranties, though, which enables you to get a cheaper, older car and still benefit from additional peace of mind. With all warranties, it is important to check the small print to see which parts are covered and which exclusions and uses may void a warranty - such as using a car for motorsport or commercial purposes.
Another risk is the reduced use of a car translating into a lack of maintenance. Sometimes, drivers who do very few miles might miss a service here or a recommended inspection there, as they feel they haven't used the car much and so there's no need. This can be a false economy, as some car parts wear due to usage and others wear over time, with materials such as rubber degrading regardless of how much the car is used.
This is important as car manufacturers normally quote the lifespan of key components in mileage or time terms. Timing belts, which are common on a lot of cars, can need to be replaced to avoid them snapping and causing catastrophic damage to the engine. Shorter intervals for this might be every 72,000 miles or five years, so can impact drivers of older vehicles.
A 10-year-old, low-mileage car may not have covered 72,000 miles, but if the previous owners didn't bother to replace a belt over the car's first decade, for instance, it is possible it could get brittle and snap, causing significant damage that would have been prevented by servicing the specified part on time. As with all cars, making sure lower mileage cars have been maintained as per their manufacturer’s recommendations is a good way to mitigate the risk of unexpected repairs.
The last risk is specific to diesels. Modern diesel engines need to regularly get up to full temperature in order to stay healthy (hence why they aren’t as well suited to short trips as petrol engines, as they don't get hot enough). Lots of brief drives can cause unburnt fuel to build up and clog up the exhaust, ultimately leading to reliability problems. If you find the perfect diesel car but are worried about this, buying or financing through a retailer gives you more after-sales protection if there are issues soon after getting the keys.
Risks of buying a newer car with a high mileage
The more you use something the more likely it is to go wrong, right? Not quite. While some badly looked after lower mileage cars can be unreliable, a well looked after high mileage car can prove to be incredibly reliable. That said, higher mileage cars do come with some additional risks.
Just like with lower mileage cars, it is important that the manufacturer's maintenance schedule has been adhered to. In this instance, though, it is likely that more maintenance will have been needed. Items such as water pumps (which circulate water to keep the engine cool) are often replaced around the 60,000-mile mark as a matter of caution. If works like this haven’t been carried out, there is more chance of a car unexpectedly going wrong.
In addition, higher mileage cars will have experienced greater wear and tear on components such as clutches and brake discs and pads. These are often referred to as ‘consumables’ and they will need replacing more frequently if a car is mostly driven in stop-start traffic. This is because when cruising along the motorway drivers can travel dozens of miles before needing to brake or change gears - meaning that each mile adds little wear to the car - whereas in a city or town they may need to brake and change gear every 20 metres.
How a car is driven can shorten the life expectancy of consumable parts, too. Performance cars are often driven hard - with more strain put on the engine, brakes and gearbox. As a result, drivers may find they need to change the clutch in as little as 15,000 miles. Meanwhile, the clutch in a relatively small car with a manual gearbox could last up to 100,000 miles without needing changing.
If you are looking for a high-performance car, therefore, keep this in mind when shopping around. It is a similar story with off-roaders - if a vehicle has been taken off-roading regularly, it will likely have been driven over rough terrain and potentially through deep mud and water, putting more strain on engine, transmission and suspension parts. This can accelerate the speed at which components need replacing so factor this in when hunting for your car.
Warranty is another cause for concern when buying a car with a higher mileage. If the mileage is above the manufacturer limit then the car will be out of warranty - even if it's still within the warranty time period. Happily, some car makers offer particularly long warranties - which last up to seven years or 150,000 miles in some cases. Below is a table of some of the longest standard warranties offered by manufacturers in the UK.
|Car manufacturer||Used car deals from||Warranty period||Warranty mileage limit|
or £138.76 per month*
|5 years||Unlimited mileage|
or £129.92 per month*
|7 years||100,000 miles|
or £136.64 per month*
|7 years||80,000 miles|
or £122.80 per month*
|10 years*||100,000 miles*|
|SsangYong||7 years||150,000 miles|
or £141.20 per month*
|5 years||100,000 miles|
*Toyota’s warranty requires that you service your car through an official Toyota garage to qualify - doing so automatically activates the warranty. The good news is that you can buy a second-hand car that has not been serviced by Toyota recently, take it to an approved garage and then qualify for 12 months of cover following the service.
General mileage tips and advice
- The average annual mileage for a car in the UK is around 7,000 miles
- Regardless of mileage, make sure a car has been maintained in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations
- Higher mileage cars can be wise purchases - provided they have been well looked after
- Lower mileage older cars can offer great savings, but need to be maintained properly to reduce the likelihood of any issues
- High-performance and off-road cars may have low mileages, but wear and tear on components could be greater than with standard cars if they've been used to their full potential
*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:
48 monthly payments of £192
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.