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Buying a Car with Over 100,000 miles

Updated on August 27, 2010

Buying a High Mileage Car

 Many collectors and non-collectors buy cars with over 100,000 miles on them because of economic reasons and there is nothing wrong with such cars. Cars with mileage between 100K and 150K are usually much cheaper initially than cars under 100K. The general perception is that car engine etc., is still new like.

There are many variables to any used car.if a car has been maintained well for the first 100K, then, its engine should be fine. Even so, most cars at this mileage do require new timing belts, other belts, water pump etc. The difficult thing for most buyers is determining what on the used car will need and costs. If this can be done, then, one can decide if buying low will pay off or should they buy higher to avoid the hassle of repairs.

All cars have wheel bearings, usually an inner and outer per wheel. These are steel bearings that allows the wheel to rotate on the axle. On most cars, these wear out at some point and it usually begins at the 100K mark. It may not happen until 120K. CV joints follow the same pattern. Any steady rumble metallic sound that is constant when driving is a clue it is going bad. If the noise is when you turn, it may be a CV joint.

The car you want to buy may have a rebuilt engine. That is a strong selling point for a 20 yr old car but if the wheel bearings are going out or the tranny's solenoid is going bad, the rebuilt new engine is not much help. Repairs are expensive unless you can do them yourself. For instance, changing the wheel bearings for one wheel at a shop may cost you $200-500 because of the labor, the part itself may only be $40. If you do it yourself, spend five hours, the cost is only the parts. Some bearings need to be pressed in by a 12 ton press.

Many automatic tranny's have a solenoid that regulates shifting. If this starts to go out, the car shifts but starts to do some odd things and greatly dislikes any sort of hill. Again, even if the car was a steal at $1500, fixing the tranny may run another $500-1000 to replace the part, unless you can do it yourself. Maybe it would have been smarter to simply buy a car costing $2000 with no tranny issue.

Other things needing replacing after 120K or more include shocks, springs, fuel injectors, mufflers and converters, fuel pump, turbo and more. The bottom line is that you want to find a car with the least wrong with it and items that you can repair yourself and when you find a car with issues, decide just how good of a deal it really is.

The kicker to all this is, even a good used car where everything works fine but has 120K on it and bought for $1500 is a temporary state. If the car is a daily driver, you just know things will start go wrong- it's just a question of when.

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    • profile image

      joeaverage@frontiernet.net 4 years ago

      I drive a 247K CR-V. The engine and transmission have needed nothing. Did the brake rotors twice, brake pads a few times, rear brake shoes at 215K. The radiator needed replacing and then the replacement leaked too. Then I went and bought a quality replacement radiator which has been perfect for 90K miles. You get what you pay for so don't buy cheapo made on the far side of the solar system parts.

      I have no hesitation to drive a well kept older car but many people do not keep their vehicles up well. They slam the doors too hard (window motors and lock actuators fail), they drive it like it was a race car, and they neglect it.

      I think the best method to drive cheap is to frequent an enthusiast forum and read-read-read. Even if you don't do the repairs yourself - know what needs to be done. Know what the causes of your's car's problems are. Know what quality parts cost. I for one don't want to pay high hourly shop rates and then for expensive parts prices on top of that when I can learn to do the repairs myself safely for a fraction of the cost.

      I have a very well equipped garage and it cost me about $3K-$4K in tools. Understand you could buy professional tools for many times more. You can also buy the junk tools at the big box discount store that lasts three or four uses. There is a middle ground for tools and this is what you ought to buy b/c they'll last years of shadetree wrenching. I have a MIG welder, air compressor, many air tools, table saw, etc and I've spent time learning to use them. And they'll outlast me. Some tools are approaching 30 years old at this point. Some are as new as last week. I never, ever take my car to the shop for anything aside from tires installation. I put brake rotors on it in 45 mins last weekend for the cost of parts - about $65x2. The pads I already had. I also wasted about 15 mins looking for my torque wrench b/c I did not put it back in the right place the last time I used it... ;)

    • profile image

      joeaverage@frontiernet.net 4 years ago

      I drive a 247K CR-V. The engine and transmission have needed nothing. Did the brake rotors twice, brake pads a few times, rear brake shoes at 215K. The radiator needed replacing and then the replacement leaked too. Then I went and bought a quality replacement radiator which has been perfect for 90K miles. You get what you pay for so don't buy cheapo made on the far side of the solar system parts.

      I have no hesitation to drive a well kept older car but many people do not keep their vehicles up well. They slam the doors too hard (window motors and lock actuators fail), they drive it like it was a race car, and they neglect it.

      I think the best method to drive cheap is to frequent an enthusiast forum and read-read-read. Even if you don't do the repairs yourself - know what needs to be done. Know what the causes of your's car's problems are. Know what quality parts cost. I for one don't want to pay high hourly shop rates and then for expensive parts prices on top of that when I can learn to do the repairs myself safely for a fraction of the cost.

      I have a very well equipped garage and it cost me about $3K-$4K in tools. Understand you could buy professional tools for many times more. You can also buy the junk tools at the big box discount store that lasts three or four uses. There is a middle ground for tools and this is what you ought to buy b/c they'll last years of shadetree wrenching. I have a MIG welder, air compressor, many air tools, table saw, etc and I've spent time learning to use them. And they'll outlast me. Some tools are approaching 30 years old at this point. Some are as new as last week. I never, ever take my car to the shop for anything aside from tires installation. I put brake rotors on it in 45 mins last weekend for the cost of parts - about $65x2. The pads I already had. I also wasted about 15 mins looking for my torque wrench b/c I did not put it back in the right place the last time I used it... ;)

    • perrya profile image
      Author

      perrya 5 years ago

      I think in any part of the world, buying a used car is:

      Buyer beware!

    • profile image

      seventelltd 5 years ago

      People are strange when it comes to trust when buying a car. Over here, if there is any outstanding finance for example, the registered owner still gets all the registration documents, so a new buyer feels as though everything is ok and pays up. Weeks later, the finance company will get in touch and demand 'their' car back or the new owner pay the debt on it. The seller can't be prosecuted, it's up to the buyer to check it out! Same applies to a stolen car, if you buy one, the police take it and you get nothing, even if you have a receipt and all the documents. My website is getting busier by the day as people start to realise they can find all this out for a small fee. I can't understand why anyone would trust a complete stranger and hand over their cash.

    • perrya profile image
      Author

      perrya 5 years ago

      I agree. regardless of what the previous owner stated presume they are lying. I relied on the previous owner stating the timing belt was changed. Even a receipt to prove it. Then, it broke on the highway causing $2000 in engine damage. Had he told the truth, the cost would be $200. In the US, you just have to run the VIN number for a small fee to get the car history.

    • profile image

      seventelltd 5 years ago

      I live in the UK and have always bought high mileage, but well maintained cars. In many cases, cars with 120k well maintained miles are a better buy than a much lower, un-maintained ones. The only thing I do is change the cam belt, regardless of what a previous owner may tell me! Great hub! Do you have car check sites in the states? I run one over here, the website is www.freecarchecks.com and it gives users access to many of the UK's official database's to check to see if a vehicle has been stolen, scrapped and fixed, been an accident write-off etc.

    • perrya profile image
      Author

      perrya 5 years ago

      @ashley-maybe. if you need a van expect much lower MPG than your corolla! kelly blue book states if in very good condition $4100, so yes, offer that amount. Even if in excellent condition-$4500 tops.I would also run a VIN check online for car history make sure it was not in a wreck or has salvage title. ask him how many miles he has put on it, when the brakes and belts were changed. did your mechanic say it was a good deal? find out the car history via VIN check and ask him what repairs or service has he done since owning it and at what mileage.

    • profile image

      Ashley 5 years ago

      I'm looking at buying a used 2003 Dodge Caravan Sport. 125,000 miles on it. $5,000. I am in the midst of trying to talk him down to $4000. He is the 2nd owner and the van has been maintained. Very nice looking and I took a mechanic with me, he ran all sorts of tests. He used a diagnostic reader and everything passed. Test drove it and it passed. The guy is in the military and is being deployed overseas. He would not want to sell if he was able to stay. I currently have a 1994 Toyota Corolla. 189,000. Bought it for $500 at 169,000. Very good car. Would the Dodge be a good buy or should I keep looking?

    • perrya profile image
      Author

      perrya 5 years ago

      Whatever car, do research on them online on forums etc., to find out any weaknesses, recalls etc. Ask for proof of repairs for timing belt, water pump, brake jobs etc. Ask for contact info of previous owners and talk to them about the car, why they sold it or issues. Any German car is more costly than a Japanese car generally,not always. A well maintained MB or VW will last a long time, especially the diesels, which get fantastic MPG!

    • profile image

      Slav 5 years ago

      Hey perrya

      I was looking at some Mercedes Benz's, and i see a lot of them in my price range from around 01,02,03 with around 100-130k miles, would you say its a money pit with it being expensive to replace parts, or a good buy, because it will probably last another 100k miles easy?

    • perrya profile image
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      perrya 5 years ago

      @ D Team, who ever thought I would get 170 miles from a quarter tank of fuel around town. I thought I was seeing things. This equates to about 33-34 mpg, on the highway, its 45 mpg. I cannot complain yet!

    • profile image

      D Team 5 years ago from Taxachusetts

      that's a bunch of miles for a 6 year old car, but you're right that you should be able to get another 100k out of it. The TDIs are good cars.

      .rd

    • perrya profile image
      Author

      perrya 5 years ago

      Just bought a 06 VW jetta TDI (45mpg) with 170K on it, the car looks new and all of the key weak spots for the car have been replaced. Should be good for another 100K, it is a diesel

    • profile image

      D Team 5 years ago from Taxachusetts

      It's amazing what 100,000k mileage cars get these days. I've just started writing articles comparing auction prices to KBB suggested values and it's crazy!

      Good stuff!

      .rd

    • profile image

      GEEMONEI 5 years ago

      Good article. I'm in the process of buying an 04 325i with 108,000 miles on it from a bmw dealership. It looks very well maintained, acutally inside and out is in excellent condition. And they performed a 20 point inspection. I was hesitant on buying it bc of the mileage but I own a 95 bmw with 295,000 miles and I have to say I was impressed with the engine. She's still going but needs a timing chain and radiator costing around $2100, not sure if im willing to do all that when I know the water pump etc will probably be next to repair.

    • perrya profile image
      Author

      perrya 5 years ago

      As to wheel bearings, the sound is a metal on metal high pitch.I have a 91 merc capri with 80K, when the brakes were done, because the design, the bearings had to be replaced ($20) and they were due then, although I did not hear a sound.

    • sharewhatuknow profile image

      sharewhatuknow 5 years ago from Western Washington

      Great article Perrya. But now you got me kind of worried. My car is a 98 Ford Taurus SE and has 139,000 on it. The wheel bearings I hope stay ok.

    • PoliCommandments profile image

      PoliCommandments 5 years ago from DeKalb, IL

      My worries about buying a used car have been reaffirmed here. You have offered some interesting insight. Also, the types of miles that have been placed on the car may need to be investigated. In one year, it is easy to place 100,000 miles on a car if you have an hour-long rural commute each day. City cars tend to be older when they have such high mileage. I guess my debate between a motorcycle and a car will continue.

    • Leonard Michael profile image

      Leonard Michael 6 years ago

      soung great, good to think about.

    • profile image

      Band Randy 6 years ago

      I have a Toyota Sequoia with 275,000 miles on it. It has only had Oxygen sensors replaced. Original motor, trans, alternator, rotors. Still looks great. My previous call was a Toyota Previa van 315,000 same thing. This is driving in Washington, D.C. traffic everyday and towing a boat on the weekends. If you buy something well maintained it lasts and lasts. I bought a Lexus gs430 a year ago with 152,000 miles. It now has 175,000. So far good as gold. No unscheduled repairs just fluid changes and tires. Don't be afraid. Do your homework and find something with few owners that has a service history.

    • perrya profile image
      Author

      perrya 6 years ago

      Many turbo engine cars will last up to 200,000, before some sort of rebuilding.

    • perrya profile image
      Author

      perrya 6 years ago

      I would say as a rule, cars with over 100,000 with still the original equipment, will need water or fuel pump, timing belt, plugs, fuel injectors, shocks, wheel bearings, clutch parts. depends on a lot of things and one needs to know what to look for and what to listen for. Some cars need nothing until 120K.

    • vietnamvet68 profile image

      vietnamvet68 6 years ago from New York State

      I recently bought a 1988 Niassan D21 Pickup with well over 100000 miles, and now have over 160000 on it. It was a steal at $600 the body is good as any new car as it came from NC. I buy older cars all the time to fix up and resell. I find most cars with over 100000 miles are the best buy in the long fun.

    • Chola Mwaba profile image

      Chola Mwaba 6 years ago from Zambia

      Perrya this is one good writing. Surely its costly to buy a used car than a new one. can you please be more specific on replacing of parts such as fuel pump, mufflers, injectors ets. Some writers suggest that certain parts can only be replaced when worn out or damaged unlike replace them because they have reached a certain mileage such the one you are suggesting.

    • perrya profile image
      Author

      perrya 6 years ago

      Used cars are fine, just weigh the pros and cons. Most engines in cars made from 1985+ will last to 100K with just basic maintenance. Cars before 85, not so much unless work has been done on them.

    • eovery profile image

      eovery 6 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

      I am not going to ever buy a new car, and just start using used cars. Here in Iowa used cars get rusty, but as you head south into Missouri, and even down to Texas, the used cars are in great body shape.

      I just bought my son a 99 Alero with 95k on it, for $3500. The car is great, I wish I had it.

      Keep on hubbing!