How does mileage impact car values?

    Mileage is one of the main metrics that buyers and sellers use when assessing the value and longevity of used cars. Higher mileage typically equates with lower pricing and may also indicate a lower vehicle lifespan, compared to similar models that have logged less miles.

    But what counts as ‘good’ mileage? Optimal mileage depends on a variety of factors, including a car’s make, model, and maintenance history. A good rule of thumb is to look for mileage under 12,000 miles a year for petrol cars, or approximately 10,000 miles for diesel vehicles. 

    Well-maintained cars and vans can often surpass these benchmarks, so regardless of if you’re buying or selling a car, it’s important to know what counts as good mileage for your specific vehicle. That way, you can get more money for your investment whenever you choose to sell. 

    Importance of vehicle mileage

    mileage counter
    What counts as ‘good’ mileage depends on your vehicle’s make, model, and overall condition.

    Car mileage is often seen as a stand-in for a vehicle’s overall condition. The more miles a car racks up, the more likely it is to have issues and need repairs – facts which can impact its resale value

    Mileage is documented during your vehicle’s annual MOT test, as well as in your V5C logbook. If this information is missing, reach out ASAP as this could indicate vehicle tampering or fraud. 

    When buying and selling used cars, mileage can a helpful gauge as it signals:

    • Component wear-and-tear – Every mile driven impacts the functionality of your car’s individual parts. Increased mileage can wear down parts ranging from your engine and transmission to your suspension and brakes, impacting their functionality and overall vehicle safety. 
    • Maintenance frequency – Vehicles with higher mileage often have more frequent maintenance needs. Components like timing belts, spark plugs, and fluids deteriorate over time and require regular replacements, something to consider when investing in vehicles with increased miles on them. 
    • Manufacturer recommendations – Many manufacturers provide recommended service intervals based on mileage. Adhering to these guidelines can help maintain the vehicle’s performance and longevity. It could be a red flag if a used vehicle has not followed these guidelines.
    • Warranty coverage – Some warranties have mileage limitations. Buying a car with lower mileage may provide additional warranty coverage, offering added peace of mind.
    • Driving conditions – What type of driving has your car experienced? City driving typically involves more stop-and-go traffic, which can wear out components faster compared to highway driving. Driving conditions are important to consider when thinking about mileage as they can go against the truism that more miles contribute to more maintenance. 
    • Resale value – Lower mileage cars generally retain higher resale value as they’re perceived to have less wear and potentially fewer repair needs.

    Understanding used car mileage

    car dashboard lit up
    High mileage isn’t always a bad thing, especially when a car’s condition is otherwise good.

    Calculating average annual miles

    The typical car or van in the UK drives between 5,000 to 8,000 miles per year, according to the Department of Transport. This average has decreased since Covid-19 as the pandemic impacted mobility and transportation around the UK. 

    Keep in mind that this range is just that, an average. Factors such as a car’s age, what kind of driving it’s used for, and how well it’s maintained all also impact mileage. 

    For petrol cars, low mileage is generally considered to be under 10,000 miles per year. For diesel vehicles, it’s a bit less given their superior fuel economy on longer drives. High mileage can be viewed as anything exceeding these benchmarks. 

    To see if a vehicle’s mileage is above, below, or has average mileage for its age, simply multiply a (generous) yearly average of 10,000 miles by the car’s age in years. This resulting value is the total mileage you can expect for a functional vehicle that old. A quick breakdown:

    Cars age in yearsAverage total mileage 

    Market perceptions

    Cars with lower mileage may command higher resale prices due to perceived better condition and potential longevity. On the flip side, those with higher mileage may offer more affordability but could require more frequent maintenance.

    However, mileage is just one factor in the overall story of a car! A well-maintained, high-mileage car can still offer reliability and performance, while a low-mileage car with poor maintenance may have hidden issues and end up costing you more money in the long run. 

    Financing implications

    Mileage also plays a role in the vehicle financing process. Car-buying dealers and financing companies assume a yearly mileage of 8,000 to 10,000 and design contracts accordingly.  

    If your car or van is under a lease agreement or on finance, you may also be subject to an excess mileage charge if you go above the maximum predetermined mileage outlined in your contract. This charge is designed to  compensate for the additional wear-and-tear and value depreciation caused by adding even more miles to your vehicle. 

    Mileage and age: three cases

    vehicles driving down a motorway
    Mileage and age do not always go hand in hand when it comes to resale value.

    Older cars with low mileage

    While not necessarily a negative, there are a few important elements to keep an eye out for with older cars that have lower miles: 

    🏁 Maintenance and mechanical issues – Older cars with low mileage may have spent extended periods inactive, leading to issues such as dried-out seals, corroded parts, and deteriorated rubber components. These issues can result in costly repairs despite the low mileage.

    🏁 Out of date technology – Older cars may lack modern safety features, fuel efficiency advancements, and connectivity options found in newer models, diminishing their appeal and resale value.

    🏁 Limited warranty coverage – Older cars with low mileage may have expired or limited warranty coverage, leaving buyers responsible for repair costs incurred due to underlying issues.

    🏁 Value depreciation: Despite low mileage, older cars still depreciate over time. The rate of depreciation may accelerate if the car becomes outdated or requires costly repairs.

    Newer cars with high mileage

    Mileage doesn’t just come with age. Depending on how they’re used, newer cars can also amass significant miles, which can impact their condition over time. 

    🏁 Higher potential for wear-and-tear – Newer cars with high mileage may have been subjected to extensive use within a shorter timeframe, leading to accelerated wear-and-tear on critical components, such as the engine, transmission, and suspension, that cost a pretty penny to replace.

    🏁 Maintenance costs: Despite being newer, high-mileage cars may require immediate or frequent maintenance to address wear-related issues. These costs can add up, negating any initial savings from purchasing a newer vehicle.

    🏁 Questions about vehicle lifespan: While newer cars typically have fewer age-related issues, high mileage can still indicate potential reliability concerns and a shorter remaining lifespan compared to lower-mileage vehicles of the same age.

    🏁 Unknown history: What was your used car previously used for? High mileage could indicate reckless driving habits or improper maintenance. Without a clear service history, buyers may be unaware of potential issues or neglect by previous owners.

    🏁 Resale value: High-mileage vehicles depreciate faster, reducing their resale value compared to lower-mileage counterparts. This can result in lower returns on investment if the owner decides to sell the car in the future.

    Excessively low mileage 

    Has your used vehicle been driven at all before you got the keys? Excessively low mileage can actually be a red flag indicating underlying issues. 

    🚩 Does the odometer match the vehicle’s V5C logbook? Inconsistencies or irregularities in the mileage records may suggest tampering or odometer rollback, indicating potential fraud. 

    🚩 Low mileage may also indicate neglect or improper storage, which can lead to mechanical issues. Look out for signs of excessive wear or deterioration, such as worn-out tyres, brake pads, or suspension components

    🚩 Excessively low mileage vehicles that have been inactive for extended periods may develop musty odours or interior damage from moisture buildup or lack of ventilation.

    What is the best mileage for a used car?

    The ideal mileage to purchase a car depends on various factors, including make, model, and maintenance. Generally, cars with lower mileage offer better value and longevity.

    SUVs are designed for increased mileage, but technological advancements are helping electric vehicles (EVs) go farther with each charge. 

    Here’s a quick guide on mileage by type of vehicle:

    Car typeMileage expectationAverage annual mileageDurability and longevity
    SUVs😁 Higher12,000 to 18,000 milesRobust construction, withstands rough terrain and heavy loads
    Sedans🙂 Moderate10,000 to 15,000 milesReliable with proper maintenance, often exceeding 100,000 miles
    Trucks😐 Varied15,000 to 20,000 milesEngineered for durability and rugged use
    Electric/Hybrid😐 Lower 10,000 to 15,000 milesLower maintenance needs, longer intervals between service visits
    Luxury Vehicles😐 Lower8,000 to 12,000 milesPremium status, meticulous maintenance required

    Does mileage affect resale price?

    Generally, increases in mileage lead to depreciations in vehicle resale value. For every 20,000 miles added to your total mileage, you can assume around 20% to be taken off your car’s market value, given that buyers often view high-mileage vehicles as having more wear-and-tear. As seen, this rate of depreciation can be even higher for older vehicles with significant mileage. 

    Check out our ultimate guide on mileage and car value for more. 


    What is considered high mileage?

    While mileage specifics depend on car make and models, you can start thinking about scrapping your car once it’s exceeded 100,000 miles for petrol (or up to 150,000 miles for diesel) with proper maintenance.

    Between 50,000 and 100,000 miles is when you can expect more frequent repairs and replacements. 

    How many miles is a lot to run?

    The mileage considered a lot depends on the vehicle’s age, make, and maintenance history. Generally, anything over 10,000 miles per year for both petrol and diesel vehicles can be considered high mileage.

    How can I track the value of my car?

    If you’re not sure what your car’s value is to begin with, it’s hard to know how much money mileage might take off the price.

    All vehicles depreciate at varying rates, with no rule of averages accurately describing any one car’s changing value. Motorway’s Car Value Tracker provides a free, reliable monthly price alert for up to six vehicles at once. 

    Follow changes to your car’s value to choose the best time to sell, and make informed choices about investments in your car’s maintenance.

    Ready to sell your car?

    Want to read more about owning, valuing, and selling your car? Check out more of our guides here, covering everything from depreciation to maintaining your car’s value. Understand your car’s worth in the wider market.