When it comes to human age, 40 is the new 30—or at least that’s what some health gurus and motivational speakers would like you to believe. Does a similar trend hold true for cars with a few more miles on them?
Perhaps. A couple of decades ago, 100,000 miles was the point at which most cars were deemed to be “over the hill.” These days, however, that’s no longer the case. Many modern vehicles now surpass the 200,000-mile marker with ease, making 200k the new 100k.
The current new and used car market is also making super-high-mileage vehicles more appealing than ever. Used car prices have reached a historic high, primarily due to the increased new vehicle costs stemming from supply chain issues.
Earlier this year, the average cost of a one-to-five-year-old used car hit nearly $35,000. So, it comes as no surprise that super-high-mileage used vehicles, which are generally older and less costly, are becoming appealing to consumers.
Franchised dealers—retailers that are backed by a vehicle manufacturer, such as Ford—are also selling more ultra-high-mileage cars than ever before.
Build Quality is Making High-Mileage Cars More Appealing to Consumers
Sure, classic cars can be charming, but the truth is that modern vehicles are much more reliable than the classics. In 1970, the average service life of a car was no more than a few years and 100,000 miles.
These days, however, it’s not uncommon for a car to carry on long past the 200,000-mile mark, which is making consumers more comfortable with buying high-mileage vehicles.
Many automakers have also increased their powertrain warranties from three years/36,000 miles to ten years/100,000 miles to reflect these improvements in reliability.
Technological advancements, such as fuel injection and computer engine management systems, have made vehicles more dependable and increased service life. Replacing many of the temperamental mechanical components with electronic systems has reduced the number of breakdowns.
Modern materials and manufacturing processes also play a role in making vehicles last longer. For example, advancements in paints and coatings help prevent rust and corrosion from building up on components. Meanwhile, automated manufacturing processes allow greater precision, making parts more durable and efficient.
Today’s vehicles also require less maintenance. For instance, spark plugs typically last upwards of 100,000 miles in newer engines versus 30,000 miles in older models. Fluids, such as engine oil and coolant, also tend to last longer than they did in the past. Such reductions in routine maintenance help minimize the risk of damage due to a lack of upkeep.
In the future, emerging technologies—ranging from electric vehicles to autonomous features—have the potential to improve service life even more.
High Mileage is No Longer a Dealbreaker for Franchised Dealerships
Would you pay tens of thousands of dollars for a vehicle with over 200,000 miles on the odometer? Maybe not, but franchised dealers are betting that some buyers will. For example, Wilson Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Winnsboro, North Carolina, recently listed a 2019 Dodge RAM 3500 with 225,000 miles, hoping to draw in a buyer not afraid of high mileage.
The price tag? Over $50,000.
And the Wilson dealership isn’t alone in selling ultra-high-mileage vehicles. According to Automotive News, the sales of high-mileage vehicles from all sources (private parties, dealers, etc.) grew 7% between December 2021 and March 2022.
If you scroll through any online used car marketplace, you’ll find one franchised dealer after another posting listings like the one from Wilson.
In the past, franchised dealers generally wouldn’t keep vehicles that had exceeded the 100,000-mile marker. Instead, high-mileage vehicles taken as trade-ins were typically sent to auction, where they were often purchased by independent used car lots.
But now, franchised and independent dealers are both vying for the same used vehicles due to the shortage of new cars. Because of the disruptions resulting from the Russia-Ukraine war and pandemic-induced supply chain issues, S&P Global Mobility anticipates 2.6 million fewer new cars will be produced this year and next.
As a result, franchised dealers are trying to stock up on whatever used cars are available—including those that are super-high-mileage—since they’re struggling to get new models. That’s prompting dealers to hold onto high-mileage trade-ins and scour the same auctions as independent used car lots.
One independent dealer named Amanda Gordon told Automotive News, “When I started buying from this particular auction—I don’t want to give my source—there were 30 to 40 dealers there. Now, there are upwards of 250, and 30 percent of them are franchised dealers.”
Like everyone else, franchised dealers know that modern cars have a lot of life left after 100,000 miles. Putting mechanically sound, super-high-mileage cars up for sale allows them to fill their lots in times when inventory is scarce.
Should You Buy a Super-High-Mileage Vehicle?
Typically, the best bet for the average consumer is a pre-owned vehicle that’s less than five years old with relatively low mileage. But because used car prices have skyrocketed during the last couple of years, many buyers can no longer afford a newer, low-mileage pre-owned vehicle.
The current market leaves many consumers considering other options, including high-mileage older vehicles.
Should you be one of the shoppers who start looking at cars with over 200,000 miles on the odometer? The answer comes down to your budget and lifestyle. If you have limited funds and can’t get an auto loan, a high-mileage vehicle for which you can pay cash might be the way to go.
Still, despite the advancements in automotive technology, vehicles with over 200,000 miles generally require more upkeep than lower-mileage models. And paying for repairs here and there can eventually add up to a hefty bill from your mechanic.
If you ultimately decide that a super-high-mileage vehicle makes sense for you, be sure to do your homework and get a professional inspection before plunking down your hard-earned cash.
Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.