Why Consider High Mileage?

You are shopping for a good used vehicle. You see an ad for a three-year old car at a very reasonable price, but the ad reads 180,000 highway miles. You immediately envision a car owned by a traveling salesman or someone with a long daily commute. Below, you see another ad for a six-year old car that says excellent condition and has very low miles. Now you think retired, senior citizen. You pass over the first ad and call about the second. Could you be making a mistake? The answer, of course, is it depends! Highway miles can mean an engine loafing along for hours on end as well as infrequent application of brakes and transmission shifts. Today’s vehicles operating under such mild driving conditions coupled with regular preventive maintenance can go 200,000, or even 300,000 miles, without signs of being worn out! In contrast, that car owned by an elderly couple who only drive it to the doctors, for shopping, and to Sunday church may have problems lurking below its like-new body and interior.


One of the big problems with infrequently driven vehicles is moisture condensing in the motor oil. When an engine is first started, the air in the engine is heated. Water in the air condenses on the cold metal surfaces inside the engine, just like moisture condenses on the inside of windows on a cold day. This moisture condensation accumulates in the oil so it no longer provides the lubrication needed to prevent engine wear. Severe wear and engine damage can occur when this is repeated over and over again in a vehicle that is used only for short trips. This abnormal wear in a low mileage engine becomes apparent when the car starts to burn oil. Water in the oil can even freeze in very cold climates. This can result in oil starvation and major engine damage.

When the engine is allowed to reach the proper operating temperature on each use, water does not accumulate. It may take only a few minutes up to half an hour for the engine to reach its proper operating temperature, depending on the engine and the outside temperature. When the engine operates at its proper temperature, the water evaporates and is turned into steam in the combustion chamber before it passes out through the exhaust system. That is the reason white smoke comes out of the tailpipe on cold days. Incidentally, if the white cloud continues after the engine has warmed up, you probably have a blown head gasket that needs to be addressed.


Another problem with infrequently driven vehicles is dried out seals and gaskets, especially in automatic transmissions, as well as front and rear engine seals. Once they dry out, they will start leaking when oil pressure builds up in engines and transmissions. Repairing the problem can be expensive, not to mention the mess on your garage floor or driveway.

Although the damage is not permanent, infrequent usage can also cause reduced battery life. As a rule of thumb, each time a battery is discharged to a very low level, the life of the battery can be decreased by 30 to 40% . If the temperature is low enough and the battery is discharged sufficiently, a lead-acid battery will freeze.

Tires on a low mileage vehicle may still have lots of tread left, but they could be old and unsafe. Tires older than five years have likely deteriorated substantially because of natural aging, oxidation, and UV and ozone damage. On the other hand, tires on frequently driven vehicles do not usually deteriorate before they wear out. One reason for this is that oils in the tires come to the surface when driving, protecting the rubber from UV light damage and hardening.


If you do not use your vehicle on a daily basis, there are some things you can do to prevent deterioration and other problems. The easiest thing is to drive it more often and long enough for the engine oil to reach operating temperature. For example, plan your errands so you make one long trip rather than several short ones. Better yet, give your vehicle a periodic Spanish Tune-up. That is, take it out on a long highway trip and clean out the cobwebs with a few rapid accelerations. This will also help prevent the tires from deteriorating. Of course, check all fluid levels before making any hot runs. While you might use a bit of extra gasoline, it will be a lot cheaper than major engine or transmission repairs. Besides, you will save fuel by combining trips since engines use fuel more efficiently when they are warmed up.

Change your oil at least twice a year on low mileage vehicles rather than the typical 3000-mile intervals. This ensures water will not accumulate. On seldom driven cars, 3000 miles could represent years. Also, periodically check, or have checked, belts, hoses, PCV valves and other items for age deterioration.


In conclusion, we have all been programmed to buy low-mileage used cars. Most people still believe that a car’s natural life is 100,000 miles, but that is old history! High-mileage vehicles may not be a bad deal. For example, Consumer Reports ran a cover story entitled, How To Make Your Car Last 200,000 Miles or more. The bottom line is that a high-mileage vehicle in good condition is a bargain if the price is right!

We cherry-pick all our vehicles! Each one is well-maintained, clean, and sold at strictly wholesale prices! Call today to schedule a no-obligation, no hassle test drive and judge for yourself! Your friends @ Wholesalers Unlimited Auto Sales.