Words Kris Lim
Buying a new car isn’t cheap. In fact, other than a house, a car is probably the most expensive purchase a person will ever make in his lifetime. But if your budget isn’t that big, going for the alternative pre-loved car route might be a better way of managing your finances responsibly. Note that we use “pre-loved” because buying one that’s been well taken cared of and loved by its owner will give you more value for your money.
In the world of second-hand cars, mileage is one of the biggest factors that a buyer should consider. Naturally, a car with 100,000 kilometers on the odometer will cost less than another with only 20,000. But how many kilometers should a used car have to be considered a good, solid purchase?
In general, a car that has racked up an average of 20,000 kilometers for every year it’s been on the road and is relatively young (example: 60,000 kilometers for three years) still has much to offer in terms of reliability. Some models, however, are quite resilient overall. To get the best deal, it pays to know how mileage affects the value of your used car purchase.
Mind the numbers
If you’re buying a pre-owned car, the numbers that appear on the odometer should be a primary consideration in your decision. Ultimately, a car’s mileage is a good indicator of its condition, that’s why when choosing between two cars that belong to the same year, a car with 10,000 kilometers will be worth more than one that’s covered 20,000 kilometers. Vehicle components, especially those in the engine and transmission, are only designed to last so long, and too many kilometers can render a car not-so-worthy of your hard-earned money.
Before you dismiss a high-mileage car though, it pays to know how it managed to rack up that number. One of the more important questions to ask is, “Is the vehicle a city car or a highway car?” That’s because a city car goes through more starts and stops than a highway car, and the components will have more wear and tear as a result. On the other hand, highway driving stresses the car a lot less, so given the choice between a city car and a highway car with virtually the same mileage, you’ll want to put your money on the latter.
Age and maintenance
The car’s age is equally important. Let’s say you find a car over five years old, with an odometer reading of around 10,000 to 15,000. The problem with low-mileage old cars is that they haven’t seen much use. Because cars have rubber and plastic parts that don’t normally age well, they become brittle if they aren’t used regularly. Low mileage can spell expensive repair and replacement if you don’t evaluate the car thoroughly.
Maintenance is another thing you should look into. A car with a responsible owner who follows the recommended maintenance schedule to the letter will likely be in better condition than one that doesn’t see much tender loving care—even if the better-maintained car has a higher odometer reading.
You can’t judge a car’s condition based solely on its mileage, so it pays to have the car thoroughly inspected prior to buying it. Make sure you test-drive it, too. Ask the owner if you can take the car to a service center to be inspected before you sign on the dotted line. If the owner doesn’t approve, take a mechanic with you during your ocular inspection if you must. Better yet, look for another pre-owned car.
Buying a used car doesn’t have to mean you’re buying someone else’s problems. By doing some extra legwork and being patient, you’ll eventually find the right fit and get more bang for your buck.
This story was originally published in Speed Magazine’s July 2019 issue.