A question about buying used cars and high mileage

At what point does mileage become a deal-breaker?

I’m looking to spend $10K or less on an old Jeep Wrangler Sahara (they cost $25K new) and I’m finding a lot that I like but have well over 100K on the odometer. I’m not too worried about high mileage - my last car (a 2000 Ford Taurus) had 137K and was going strong - but I’m registering apprehension at around 125K for the Jeep.

I don’t want to debate the merits of new vs. used. I have limited cash, and will not finance a second auto.

What’s your limit?

Well, if the car was driven on the highway, no problem. Highway miles are easy on the engine and transmission…I figure 100 highway miles equal 1 mile (stop and go traffic).
So, if the car was driven by a salesman, you have a perfectly good car.
Jeep engines are pretty good…not sure about the trannies, though.

I think it depends more on the kind of miles, as near as I can guess. When I shop for a used car I try to stay in certain demographics (if this makes any sense).

Bad: 100K miles on a used, faded, gimmicked-up Camaro from the trailer park

Good: 100K miles on a completetly stock, garaged Caddy from the high-end suburbs.
In short, I try to look for cars owned by old rich people. These will typically have good care, and very little abuse. I narrow down the list, and then present the candidates one by one to my mechanic. He makes the final choice.

Example: Bought a gorgeous, 2001 Lincoln Continental (Dr’s wife’s car) for $4900 a few years ago (my van developed a terminal illness, and expired suddenly). It had 85K miles on it. Got 110K now, with no serious problems. I’d be considerably more careful about a vehicle likely to spend time offroad, or owned by youngsters or by folks of limited means (who may not have complied with all scheduled maintenance).


Mine’s up past 130,000 now, and still drives like it did when I bought it. For many years, these were listed as one of Consumer Reports best used cars to own.

For the next potential buyer: they virtually all highway miles.

Good points here. What I’m finding is high-mileage commuter vehicles. I wouldn’t bet my life on it, but the Sahara’s I’m looking have probably never been off-road. People buy Jeeps because they’re rugged off-roaders, but then pay top dollar for them and don’t want to wreck thier investment. Most Jeeps out there don’t see anything rougher than a dirt road.

You have to take their word if they claim the miles were mostly highway miles.

No kidding. And, just for kicks, take a look through the Craigslist ads and see how many of them claim “highway miles.” The answer would be - all of them.

Maybe it’s my area but I don’t see many ads claiming highway miles. But they do say great shape, like new or well maintained.

Hmmm. Maybe it is just observational bias but it seems like every ad for a vehicle in my area with more than 100k miles claims highway miles.

Just make sure you do a VIN check. That’s more important than the miles on it.

My 1994 Camero as more than 250 000 miles on it. But it was driven on Florida freeways so it is still in great condition.

Unfortunately, I had to introduce it to Canadian winters.

Well, take my '01 Continental. It’s got 130,000 miles since it’s Jan. 01 manufacturing date. Call it 9 years to keep it simple. That’s over 60 miles per work day. How could that not be highway miles? Of course the 3.5 years it’s been sitting idle at times I can’t prove, but that puts the daily average a lot higher.

Aside from my specific case, many other cases should be easier. Say, 100,000 miles on a three year old car? Now I’m picturing my own area, and I know it’s people, and know where people work and vacation. I think I’d be able to determine in most cases which cars are highway miles and which aren’t. Up to a certain age, of course. In retrospect, I guess my car is somewhat old, and would be pushing the limits if I were to buy it from myself.

When I was in high school, I worked at a used car lot. When I first started there, there was an absolutely gorgeous Olds 98 there with (as I recall) 194,000 on the clock. Not only was it in fantastic shape, but the high mileage had the price knocked down so low that this car was an absolute steal, albeit a steal that tended to guzzle gas. Couple weeks later, another Olds 98 of the same year arrived, with something like 110,000 miles on it, yet the difference was like night and day: the higher mileage one looked and ran like new, while the lower mileage one looked like shit, and although it ran fine, put the two side by side and the higher mileage one definitely sounded healthier. Maintenance and what kind of miles were put on it are much more important than simply quantity of miles.

Normally a high number of miles per year does mean mostly highway miles. But I knew a guy in high school that was so into driving he put 25k on a car in 1 year just around town.

I don’t know how sound my reasoning is but I always look at the wear of the brake pedal of similar cars with similar miles. In theory more highway miles equals less brake use. Right? It’s worked out well for me anyway, of course I could just be lucky and talking out of my ass.

I looked at a Wrangler Sahara last night with 139K. It was in really nice shape, well broken-in (ha), and all-round pretty solid. At the moment, it’s my first choice. I’m waiting to hear from my insurance company to find out how much I’ll be getting from my settlement, but if I need to finance a couple thousand to get into it, I think I will. We’ll see how it goes.

People can change brake pads any time they want. Car with 80k miles could have brand new pads.

Not pads - pedal. The point is that highway driving means less wear on the brake pedal. While brake pads are periodically changed as a part of the regular upkeep of a vehicle, the brake pedal is not typically changed. It doesn’t seem like an unreasonable observation by gravitycrash.

Brake pedal, not brake pads. People rarely change out the brake pedal.

ETA: What he said.

OK, I misread and thought it was brake pads. Pedal is something I never thought about looking at.

I may be buying a car in the next couple of months.
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