Americans have a long love affair with the automobile—the freedom and independence it offers, as well as the daily function. On the other hand, cars can expensive to buy and maintain, and many people don't have the in-depth knowledge and skill needed to fix cars on their own.
This becomes an increasing concern as cars age and parts begin to succumb to wear and tear. With use, our vehicles can begin to exhibit a host of problems, so when we start to see high miles, it's no wonder we think of buying a new car rather than waiting for inconvenient failures that lead to pricy repairs.
There seems to be a popular myth that once cars reach 100,000 miles, it's time to replace them. Perhaps this is because odometers used to stop at 99,999 miles (before rolling over and returning to zero). In truth, you can get a lot more life out of modern (and even older) cars, and advances in automotive technology have even reduced the frequency of required maintenance and increased the longevity of many parts.
What, exactly, is considered a high-mileage vehicle? When is it wise to keep such a vehicle, or even buy one instead of brand-new? Here are a few things to consider before you succumb to the 100,000 mile myth.
What is a High-Mileage Vehicle?
Normal vehicle use is capped at 12,000-15,000 miles per year. If you exceed that amount, your car is considered high-mileage right off the bat, even if it's only a year or two old, so high-mileage doesn't necessarily equate to age.
Your dad might have a 1965 Mustang with 20,000 miles that is considered low-mileage even though it's more than 50 years old, while you have a year-old Mustang with 20,000 miles that's high-mileage. Hitting 100,000 miles isn't really as important as how fast you get there and whether you properly maintain your vehicle in the meantime.
Keeping Your High-Mileage Vehicle
Once you hit a certain mileage, you might be keen to find a new car, but it's important to keep all the costs in mind. For starters, value matters, and your brand-new car loses 22% of its value in the first year alone. Then there's the cost. In addition to paying the sticker price (which averages more than $30,000 these days) and interest, you'll have to pay more for registration and insurance, and if you live in a high-traffic area, you might want to spring for gap coverage, as well.
With regular maintenance and speedy repairs when things break down, you can keep most vehicles well beyond 200,000 miles, old or new. If you're worried, just follow the 50% rule. If you come up against repairs that are more than 50% of the car's value, consider a replacement instead of repairs.
Upgrading: New with High Miles vs. Old with Low Miles
The thing to remember is that mileage isn't everything. There are many other considerations when buying a used car, including the relative age of parts, the technology and amenities included, and how you're going to use it. Even with higher miles, you might want a new vehicle instead of an older one with low mileage simply because of the other benefits you'll gain in the process.