Problems With Buying High Mileage Cars (5 Common Issues)

If you’re interested in buying a used car, different vehicles will occasionally appear on your radar as seemingly great deals.

If it’s a high-mileage car, there are many things involved and they aren’t all good.

Let’s begin with the common problems you may face with a high-mileage ride.

1. Frequent Transmission Failure

This doesn’t mean that transmission failure occurs with all old cars. However, the older a car gets, the higher the probability of its transmission failing. So, you can imagine that with high-mileage cars, you’re more at risk of dealing with incessant transmission problems.

Also, when transmissions develop major problems, the best option is usually to replace them. If you buy a car with extremely high mileage, it’s possible that its tranny has undergone several repairs. This isn’t usually a good sign regarding the car’s overall health.

The major reason cars with high mileage are more prone to transmission failure is because of accumulated wear. Although modern trannies last longer, regular transmissions typically last about 100,000 miles. With that factor in mind, buying a vehicle with 80,000 miles gives you only 20,000 miles of smooth usage.

The transmission in a modern vehicle may provide up to 150,000 miles of smooth usage. There are exceptions to how long a transmission can last, with some lasting as long as 200,000 miles or more.

However, based on averages, if you’re buying a car with over 70,000 odometer miles, prepare for possible transmission repairs or replacement.

Probable problems people encounter are bad shift solenoids, worn-out clutches, and leaking tranny fluids. If you’re lucky, you’d get a well-maintained transmission that’ll last another 50,000 miles.

2. Excessive Incurable Rust

Admittedly, rust isn’t always incurable. However, rust on a high-mileage vehicle may be difficult to deal with.

When a car is new or in its first 5 years, there’s little to no rust. During this period, the warranty on most vehicles covers rust or corrosion. After this period, it’s imperative to keep a keen eye on your vehicle, especially the underbody.

Car owners who handle rust swiftly get impressive longevity for their vehicles. If you buy a well-maintained car (rust-wise), you’d have less to worry about. However, if the car wasn’t well maintained, it’s a different story entirely.

It’s also not helpful if the vehicle was previously driven in the rust belt.

When rust is untreated, it gradually spreads to other areas of the vehicle. Surface rust, for example, can escalate into rust bubbles that are powerful enough to eat up metal. Believe it or not, surface rust can ruin your car’s aesthetics for life.

Underbody rust, however, is the more dangerous form of rust. First, it’s difficult for people to observe it quickly and this gives room for underbody rust to thrive. It’s also harder to treat underbody rust than it is to handle surface rust.

So, underbody rust won’t ruin your car’s appearance immediately. However, it’d hurt your vehicle’s structural integrity over time. Besides, what’s stopping it from spreading until it gets to the car’s surface?

So before buying a high-mileage vehicle, ensure you inspect it thoroughly for rust.

3. Worn Out Or Damaged Brake Pads and Rotor

There are few components in a car that can last as long as the car itself. Unfortunately, brake pads aren’t on this list.

On older vehicles, brake pads don’t last very long so they’re often replaced about every 30,000 or 40,000 miles. On more modern cars, the brake pads last way longer and they may even last as long as 70,000 miles.

However, this does no good for you if you’re going to buy a high-mileage car at 70,000 or 80,000 miles. That leaves you with a new old car that needs new brake pads and probably even a new rotor.

The brake pads alone may not feel like a major cost to reckon with. However, add the costs to other expenses you’d incur on your high-mileage vehicle and they become more significant.

Brake pads wear faster on high-traffic roads because drivers step on their pedals more often. Sports cars witness more brake rotor thinning because the cars usually have to decelerate from really high speeds.

So, driving habits also matter a lot to brake pad and rotor longevity.

4. Deteriorating Suspension System

The suspension system of any car is a major determiner of comfort, performance, durability, and reliability. It affects quite several features because it’s an entire system and not just a single component.

Most people immediately think of shock absorbers when they think of a suspension system. However, there’s a lot more to it than just shock absorbers. Think of the suspension system as encompassing any component that adds support, or contributes to a smoother ride.

So whatever links a car to its wheels is part of the suspension system. The tires, springs, and shock absorbers are the major components of a car’s suspension system.

The springs and the shock absorbers are the most susceptible to deterioration. While there’s no global benchmark on how long these components should last, 100,000 miles is plenty.

When a car gets to 100,000 miles, it becomes less comfortable because its suspension system degrades significantly. This degradation means the suspension system can no longer shield the vehicle and its occupants from the road’s unpleasantness. At such mileage, its shock absorbers and springs may need to be replaced.

If they aren’t replaced, more components may start to wear out. So, if you’re buying an ancient vehicle (especially a luxury one), keep a keen eye on its suspension system.

5. Major Engine Problems

Engine longevity is mostly associated with overall vehicle longevity. This means it’s not uncommon to measure a car’s lifespan by how long its engine would last. That’s why the engine is the single most important indicator of how far is too far for your high-mileage vehicle.

We expect most engines to last over 100,000 miles. We also expect the average vehicle to last at least 150,000 miles today. Considering these factors, you can see how a high-mileage car may not be ideal for you.

With other components, it’s understandable if you only get an additional 30,000 or 20,000 miles after buying the car. However, with the engine, even 40,000 miles doesn’t seem like a good return.

This is because replacing a car’s engine is quite expensive. Most people would even prefer to replace their cars than to replace their engines. Engine replacement costs can range from about $8,000 to twice the amount.

Some used cars with high mileage cost less than $10,000. Also, like other components, engines degrade part by part as time passes, not suddenly. This means you would incur minor repair costs before your high-mileage engine finally gives up.

General Pros and Cons for High Mileage Cars

Although buying a high-mileage car is often a gamble, there are still advantages to doing so. These are some pros and cons of high-mileage cars:

Pros

  • Nicely lubricated engine
  • Minimized depreciation
  • They’re less expensive including insurance costs

Cons

  • They lack modern safety features
  • Need for rigorous maintenance
  • They aren’t as reliable as newer vehicles

It may be a great idea to buy a high-mileage vehicle today than it was 10 years ago. The reason is that cars last longer today than they did in the past.

So, if you aren’t a big fan of ultra-modern vehicle features, it might be a good choice for you. This is especially if you can keep up with maintenance.

Related: 8 Common Problems With High Mileage Cars (Explained)

What Do the Reviews Say?

Despite common problems, getting a good deal on a high-mileage vehicle might be a great idea. So much so, that even Consumer Reports have some recommendations.

According to CR, sedans that are over a decade old have some advantages of their own. The obvious ones are their prices and fuel economy. Based on several reviews, some reliable, comfortable, and importantly; long-lasting cars were selected.

So, feel free to search for a 2012 Toyota Camry if you’re in the market for a high-mileage vehicle. Their most valuable trait might be their impressive reliability. Other great cars to consider include the Lexus ES, Mercedes Benz E-Class, Honda Accord, and Toyota Avalon.

What do these cars from a decade ago all have in common? For starters, they’re tried and tested and are more of a safe bet than other high-mileage cars in the market.

What’s the Resale Value of High Mileage Cars?

It’ll be impractical to have a specific figure in mind. Different cars have different prices when they’re fresh out of the dealership and the same applies when they’re old.

However, one thing is certain, their resale values aren’t very high. If they were, most people wouldn’t even consider buying them. Hence, their low prices drive their demand.

The good news is there’s not much vehicle depreciation when the mileage gets high. This is because depreciation affects a car the most when it’s brand new. Every car even loses a high chunk of its value immediately after it leaves the dealership.

Subsequently, more value is lost in the first five years. However, its remaining value is gradually lost over the rest of the vehicle’s life.

This is great because the worst (in terms of depreciation) is done when it gets to you. You might even be able to sell it for a price very close to what you got it for. Still, this is only possible if the vehicle doesn’t start developing major problems.

Overall, higher mileage cars have less risk regarding depreciation.

Related: 9 Electric Cars With LONG Battery Warranty (With Prices)

Final Thoughts

The greatest fear with buying a high-mileage car is uncertainty. This is because there’s too much that the buyer does not know. The car may have been driven roughly on off-road tracks throughout most of its life.

There’s also the fact that many people lie when selling their used vehicles.

It’s also possible that the previous owner didn’t stick to the standard maintenance procedure. Some high-mileage cars would even have more miles on them than you’d see on their odometers. Although odometers are digital now, odometer fraud is still common today.

Considering all these factors, you should only ever buy a high-mileage car if you believe it’s worth it. More often than not, they aren’t.

Also, ensure your mechanic screens the vehicle thoroughly for any anomalies and you get a vehicle’s history report.

Related: Do All Cars Depreciate Over Time? (Explained)

Sources

What Goes Wrong as Cars Age | Consumer Reports

How Long Should an Engine Last? | Your Mechanic

Most Satisfying 10-Year-Old Sedans | Consumer Reports

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