What’s the optimal mileage on a used car?

Updated Jun 03, 2021 | Same topic: Automotive FYIs

Maybe it’s time to replace your car.

What is car mileage?

"How many miles should a used car have?" is a common question of second-hand car buyers, no matter if you buy used cars for sale in Reina Mercedes Isabela or any other place in the Philippines. However, before answering this question, let's first find out what car mileage is.

See the number usually placed in the middle portion of your car’s instrument cluster? That is called your car’s mileage. Mileage determines how much distance a car has covered since the start of its production in the factory.

Car mileage can be used for different applications. However, it is widely used among most used car buyers. The mileage is a great indicator for them to determine the condition of a used car.

A white analog mileage

Some cars come with digital mileage while some come with analog mileage

For example, two 2015 Toyota Vios with the same variant can be priced differently depending on the mileage. For the most part, the Vios with the higher mileage usually comes with a lower price tag especially if the numbers are far from each other.

The different components of a car degrade over time. Failures such as leaks, overheating, tire blowout, and faulty spark plugs tend to happen for cars that have a high mileage register.

On average, the mileage of a car per year is rated at 20,000 km. This is an event where a car is used for work on weekdays and road trips at least twice a month. For those who frequently use their car for work, the average mileage is rated at around 40,000 to 60,000 km.

A car in the middle of nowhere

The higher the mileage, the lesser the fuel consumption tends to get

If you do the math, cars with a mileage rated at 120,000 km could be running for five to six years already. This is exactly the reason why used cars with high mileage tend to have lesser value as compared to those used cars with lower mileage. These cars are now more likely to show component failures.

Buying a car with a 250,000 km mileage is probably not the best idea. Usually, people who buy a car with this amount of mileage are those who know how to properly maintain a car or it is the dream car they wished to own.

Unfortunately, there is a thing in the auto scene called the odometer fraud. This is the act of resetting or altering the mileage of a car for various reasons such as to be able to sell a car at higher price points. Odometer fraud is a crime recognized all around the world.

A digital mileage on a car

Here's an example of a digital mileage

Here in the country, the Land Transportation Office (LTO) punishes offenders with imprisonment of not less than six months, a fine of up to Php 300,000, or both. How are offenders caught? There are great mechanics out there that can determine the accurate mileage of a used car just by checking various factors such as maintenance record, engine condition, and more.

How many miles should a used car have?

The answer has to depend on how long you decide to keep the used car. If in three years you plan to buy a brand new car, then probably cars with a mileage that ranges from 60,000 to 100,000 km is a good option to buy.

Why? Five to six years is the timeframe for most people before trading or selling their brand new car. The reason why people sell in these timeframes is that it is more economical to buy a brand new car as it usually comes with free preventive maintenance services (PMS) than maintaining the five or six-year-old car.

A black Dunlop tire

You can monitor the ideal lifespan of your tires before replacing them through the mileage

If you decide to keep the car for at least five years, then cars with a 20,000 km mileage rating are the ideal options to look for. Just remember that used cars with a low mileage tend to come with high price tags somewhat close to a brand new unit so you might want to weigh your options.  

However, if we have to give the optimal number of how many miles a used car should have, it would have to be around 100,000 km. Beyond this number, expect minor problems and failures. The decision of buying a used car is more challenging than expected. The lack of understanding of used cars can lead you to the wrong investment that will cost you money in the long run.

>>> Related: How to unmask true low-mileage second-hand cars in the Philippines?

Other aspects to consider

Mileage is just one of the many indicators to look at when determining a used car’s working condition. In addition to knowing how many miles a used car should have, there are various ways to consider. Here are some tips you could use for your next used car buying.

Check maintenance record

Perhaps the best tip to determine a used car’s condition is to check its maintenance record. Here, you can find the dates of maintenance done to the car. If you see that the used car underwent its regular PMS, then it would still probably last for a longer time.

Of note, used cars with lesser mileage can be worse than a used car with more mileage if they are not taken care of properly. The maintenance record is one of your best assurances for a used car’s condition.

A black analog mileage of a car

Your mileage is your maintenance buddy that will tell you when things should be done

Know where the car was normally used

The next tip is to know where the car was normally used. If a used SUV was driven in off-roads almost every weekend, then the struts or suspensions are likely due for replacement. A second-hand car used in car rentals is also not an ideal option to buy as it experienced being driven by different drivers.

Know your seller

The last tip we can give to you is to know your seller. It would be great to buy a unit from a car enthusiast who treats his/her car like a baby that needs to be taken care of. If you have no clue as to whom are you buying from, then that is a risk that you have to deal with. Check the seller’s ratings on the platform you use to buy used cars so you can look for others that are trusted by many.

>>> Related: Used car mileage guide: 6 important things to know for Filipino car buyers

FAQs about car mileage

Q: What is the average mileage of a car per year?

On average, the mileage of a car is rated at 20,000 km. This could change depending on how frequent or seldom is the car used.

Q: What is mileage?

Mileage refers to the distance traveled by car since the day it was manufactured.

Q: Can I reset my mileage?

Technically yes, however, it is illegal to do so. This is a crime recognized not only in the Philippines but also around the world.

Q: Is a 200,000 km mileage too long for a car?

Yes, this means that it has been running for a good nine years or so. Rather than maintaining an old car, it is recommended to buy a new one.

Q: How much is the fine for tampering mileages in the Philippines?

The Land Transportation Office (LTO) imposes a Php 300,000 fine, imprisonment of not less than six months, or both.

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Rex Sanchez

Rex Sanchez


Rex Sanchez grew up in Saudi Arabia where he saw and got into the automotive scene. He started his career for an aviation company in the said region, writing about turbines and rotors which are later distributed for educational purposes. And now, he joined Philkotse.com as a staff writer. Currently, he is the youngest on the team and is more than ready to grow in the field.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rexsanchez09

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