There was a time in the not-so-distant past, when a vehicle with more than 100,000 miles was considered ready for a future as a mailbox, if it wasn’t already nothing more than a heap of rolling rust. This problem was especially prominent in the north, where hard winters stripped vehicles of their longevity, and made them useless and unsafe. Fortunately, those days are gone, and most of the cars and trucks that somehow survived into the 2000s have now met their final destination. You may be holding pieces of a recycled Ford Pinto in your hand right now as you read this, but are cars still any more reliable than they used to be? Sure, the rust issue has largely been settled, but what about the engine? The transmission?
Many of the problems that tend to plague today’s vehicles are a direct result of owner neglect. There’s no real way around it but to say it, i’m afraid. Skipping oil changes, putting off recommended service, and avoiding washing and waxing a vehicle are a sure way to keep it from running over 100,000 miles, so that’s what you’re fighting against when you consider purchasing a car with in excess of 100,000 miles on the odometer. You have to ask yourself whether the car’s previous owner was the sort of person who took care of their investment, or got bored with it and let things slide, knowing that they were going to trade it in before major problems set in anyway.
Today’s cars can easily run in excess of 200,000 miles with proper service, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll run 200,000 or more without that service. Even the best engineered cars and trucks will develop catastrophic problems with major components without service.
In the interest of saving money, though, its hard to deny that higher-mileage vehicles are much more affordable than their new counterparts, so if you need to save money on a vehicle purchase, there are a host of things you need to take into consideration. First off, if at all possible, avoid buying high-mileage vehicles from small dealer lots that advertise “buy-here-pay-here” service. These are vehicles that were bought from auction, and are typically those that larger dealerships took in on trade, and then didn’t feel were worth selling on their used car lots. You just don’t know how well the last owner took care of the car, if at all.
Secondly, you can get a better deal on vehicles like this if you go to the auction yourself. Go equipped with a KBB price guide to get the best deal, and be thorough, but don’t go to the small car lots that take advantage of customers. Regardless of the mileage, you’ll typically find they have some sort of problem you’ll have to contend with.
If you do want to save money, look at those high-mileage cars from dealers that still have their manufacturer’s licenses to sell new vehicles. As was previously stated, the cars they don’t think are worthwhile go straight to auction. Better vehicles go to their used car lots. This typically means there’s some faith to the dealer that it’s a better car than a junker.
Finally, don’t expect the vehicle to last very long unless its come from someone you know well, like a friend or family member, and you have faith that they were steadfast in taking care of the vehicle. Otherwise, vehicles with more than 100,000 miles are still likely to run into the sorts of problems that drove you to look at a high mileage vehicle in the first place, and you could end up in a situation where you have to replace the car year after year, trapped in an endless cycle of junky cars just to save a few dollars!