Are low mileage cars always a good thing?
The average man or woman in the street probably thinks that the fewer miles there are on the clock of a used car they're looking to buy, the better it is. They're not entirely wrong to think that, but they're certainly not entirely correct either. Low mileage is always necessarily a good thing for a used car, and here I'm going to tell you why.
Age vs Mileage
Before I go into specific examples, let me explain my point a little further and qualify the relationship between age and mileage. If you're looking at an ex-demo car that's three or four months old, the fewer miles there are on the clock the better it is. On the other hand, if you’re looking at a model that's perhaps ten years old or older, you need to be wary and possibly even suspicious of examples with extremely low mileage.
I must also point out here that I'm talking about normal, everyday used cars here, and not expensive classics that have been kept in air-conditioned and humidity-controlled garages to keep them in pristine condition.
What's the Problem?
The first reason you need to be suspicious of older used cars with very low mileage is because of the possibility the mileage isn’t genuine. Despite the fact modern cars now have electronic mileage displays and not the old analogue clocks, the newer computerised clocks are actually easier to tamper with than the old analogue ones.
If the car you’re interested in has extremely low mileage you should do as many checks as you can on it before you even consider parting with money to buy it.
Just because it's easy for crooks to alter the mileage reading on a car doesn’t mean that every car out there with extremely low mileage has been ˜clocked.˜ There are plenty of cars out there with genuinely very low mileage, but these can present their own problem deterioration.
Let's say you see a car that's 13 years old but only has 48,000 miles on the clock, and let's also say that you've established that the mileage is genuine by looking at the service history, MOT history, and by getting a vehicle history check done. The car is also in really good condition, so the seller will probably be asking for top money for it.
In this case, all that glitters may not be gold, and you might get a better deal by going for a model of the same age that has perhaps 80,000 miles or more on the clock instead. The reason for this is the deterioration of various components and consumables that have not had enough use.
You may not be aware of the fact, but if you leave a car parked and rarely use it the ravages of time will take their toll, even though you're not using the car much and therefore not wearing stuff out.
Parts That Deteriorate
There's a lot of rubber used in various areas of your vehicle, and rubber perishes over time even if it hardly gets any use. The tires may have almost full tread, but if they're ten years old they could be severely cracked in the bottom of the tread and need replacing. Various belts like your cambelt need replacing over time, but if someone has only done 20k miles in ten years they probably won’t have thought to have them replaced.
Brakes are another area where a lack of use causes problems. The discs will rust over time through lack of use, the pads will deteriorate and the calipers can seize up. The rubber seals around your doors and windows can also perish and allow water to leak in.
Alloy wheels can also corrode over time if not used enough, and this can lead to the seal between the tyre and wheel failing and even a brand new tyre will deflate in those circumstances.
I Should Know
All the above are from a recent real-life example my mother's car. She has a 2007 Hyundai Coupe with 48k miles on the clock and a full service history that she's had since it was 3 years old. At first glance, it looks superb for its age, but it's just had to have a new clutch (£550). It also needs a new condenser for the air conditioning, new brake discs and pads, the timing belt needs changing, and one of the alloys needs the tyre removing and sandblasting.
If she didn’t do any of that work and put it up for sale she'd get a good price for it because it looks like a great buy, but there's at least £900 that needs spending on it right now and the car is only worth about £2500. Just think about that the next time you’re tempted by a used car that has really, really low mileage.