How much does mileage weigh in on a car purchase for you? For most, it’s a big driving factor as to whether or not that cold hard cash will be handed over. There are those that simply won’t even touch anything considered to have high-kilometres, regardless of the condition it may be in. Many still use the benchmark of any six-figure number with a ‘2’ or higher in front of it as the be-all and end-all. Others are a bit more lenient, although they generally want to pay as little as possible for the car in question. It’s understandable, too, as for a long time I shared the same mindset for no other reason than that’s what those around me thought. Perhaps it’s a byproduct of the automotive manufacturing industry wanting us to subconsciously fear older cars in order to keep sales numbers trickling on through. Or, it’s just the fact that, as cars get on in life, parts start to break down and the maintenance bills keep on coming — everything has its lifespan.
I think that the attitude may have been passed down from generations before that were more inclined to replace cars in a shorter timeframe than what many do now. And with our national fleet’s average age only increasing as we hold on to the imports of decades prior, finding low-mileage cars is becoming more difficult.
But, in terms of buying a car that has seen a few spins of the odometer, I don’t think it should be the number-one factor that determines your purchase. It acts as an indicator, sure. However, it provides little to no information on how it has been treated by the owner(s). I’ve known plenty of lower-mileage cars that have been thrashed to hell and back with no maintenance history at all due to a complete ignorance of what they need and when. I’ve also known cars with numbers higher than your local crackhead that may as well have just been sold off the showroom floor. The reality is that there is far more to take into consideration than just a number.
The maintenance history should be your first port of call. Is there anything at all? No? Then your purchase is going to be a gamble. Most that I’ve encountered have had some form of service history, be it simple receipts from local parts shops for oil and filters, to the more intensive logbook-style records of home mechanics that service the cars themselves, and then the holy grail: a folder of complete dealership service history that can be traced back to the day the car was made. There’s a good story to be told from these records.
What I’m getting at is that, if the car has done a few clicks in its time, but has all the paperwork to back up a solid maintenance history to show that an owner has clearly looked after it, you’re less likely to incur any issues. Don’t be scared to get amongst the older generations. There’s plenty of fun to be had for a lot less coin — hell, there are plenty of recorded examples showing certain makes and models reaching the likes of a million kilometres! And if the market is showing us anything at the moment, desirable models with higher mileage still hold their value like any other when they’ve been looked after.
So, next time you’re in the market, ask the seller what the maintenance history is and if they have any records to share. You never know when a brand new car is hiding under a ‘scary’ number …