How Many Miles Can a Car Last?

Hands on the Steering Wheel

What is considered high-mileage?

Typically, putting 12,000 to 15,000 miles on your car per year is viewed as “average.” A car that is driven more than that is considered high-mileage. With proper maintenance, cars can have a life expectancy of about 200,000 miles. But whether you reach that in two years or 10 years, it doesn’t have to mean the end of your vehicle’s life.

Is high-mileage bad?

In short – not necessarily. (Although some drivers say it’s a love-hate relationship.)

In fact, a high-mileage car could point to better standards and technology in the automotive industry. Drivers feel more confident about driving their cars longer because automakers are building more durable vehicles.

In the 1960s and 1970s, vehicle odometers would only display 99,999 miles before “rolling over” to zeros once again. Now, many vehicle owners can view far past 100,000 miles and continue cruising.

Should I buy a car with high mileage?

If the car is a newer model with higher mileage, you might be better off. A newer car, regardless of the mileage, typically has more up-to-date technology and safety features. (Side note: That’s why new car buyers choose to have this small add-on to their auto insurance policy.)

There are benefits to both sides. While cars with low-mileage often have less wear and tear, a high-mileage car shows that it’s still running smoothly despite how much it’s been on the road.

When you’re car shopping, remember that there’s more to a vehicle than just its miles. Ultimately, you want a car that best fits your lifestyle – which isn’t determined by only reading the odometer.

What problems can come from high-mileage vehicles?

Your best resource for car maintenance information is a trusted mechanic. However, a little common knowledge about routine wear-and-tear can help you feel more confident on the road. Trusted organizations like Consumer Reports and the Car Care Council are great sources of information to help you make smart decisions about car maintenance.

Here’s a quick roundup of when car care pros say you should expect to replace some of the most essential car components:

  • Automatic transmission repairs are rare and most are simply replaced, costing thousands of dollars. Transmission failure is more likely to occur once a vehicle eclipses the 100,000-mile mark. However, lack of proper maintenance can cause a transmission to fail sooner.
  • Battery lifespan is generally around four years, regardless of the miles you’ve put on your vehicle.
  • Brake pads are easily heard when it’s time for new ones. But, miles cannot exactly predict when that loud screech will sound. How often you drive and the way you drive play into the wear and tear of your brake pads. Braking hard and frequently driving in stop-and-go traffic will wear out your brake pads more quickly. Have your mechanic check your brakes during each maintenance check to help catch those worn-out pads before any damage is done to your rotors or bearings.
  • Tires can wear out based on your driving habits, road conditions, the type of tire and even the type of car. Most tires come with a treadwear grade and warranty that estimates the average miles a tire can last – but the way you drive can impact that number, too.Try this quick trick to check your treads: Insert a penny, President Lincoln’s head first, into the groove of the tread. If you can see any part of his head, it’s time for new tires. For safety and performance, your best bet is to buy brand-new ones. Used tires can be a safety hazard due to their compromised condition.
  • Fuel pump failure typically occurs if you often drive on a low tank, which can cause damage to the pump. Otherwise, your fuel pump typically will last the life of your car. Changing your fuel filter every 50,000 miles can help preserve it.
  • Water pump failure can occur between 60,000 and 90,000 miles. If it starts to deteriorate, it will leak coolant, which can expose your engine to the risk of overheating. Most mechanics will replace the timing belt and the water pump simultaneously.
  • Timing belts don’t give warning before they break, but can cause damage to your engine if they do. As a preventative process, mechanics often suggest replacing the belt anywhere between 60,000 and 100,000 miles.
  • Oil changes should be part of your regular maintenance routine. But once a car reaches 75,000 miles, the engine often begins to loosen and cause oil leaks and engine rattling. Switching to high-mileage oil can help “tighten up” the engine.

How to make a high mileage car last

If you don’t have the money to buy a new car – or you genuinely love the car you already have – then you’re probably interested in keeping your current vehicle as long as possible. Be prepared for the road ahead with these tips:

  • Fix any problems immediately. Don’t ignore that check engine light or any other issue that arises with your high-mileage car. Problems don’t just go away – in fact, they usually get worse. As soon as you feel, see, or hear something unusual, take your car to your mechanic to have it serviced immediately.
  • Choose high-quality replacement parts. When it comes to auto parts, you generally get what you pay for. If you want to keep your car on the road, make sure that any worn-out parts are replaced with high-quality options.
  • Follow your owner’s maintenance manual. This means getting your oil changed on time, checking your tire pressure, rotating tires and maintaining your fluids. Ignoring regular maintenance during your car’s early life will lead to larger problems down the road.
  • Keep it clean. Aside from scrubbing away bugs and grime, cleaning your car can help prevent corrosion both on and under your vehicle. If you drive in the snow, you should know the damage road salt can do to your car – it might surprise you!
  • Drive gently. The better you treat your high-mileage car, the longer it will last. Don’t slam on the brakes or the gas; make gradual turns; and avoid potholes or other rough road conditions that can put stress on your vehicle.
  • Get the right auto insurance. We believe your auto insurance should go the distance – just like your trusted ride. Learn more about the built-in extras that come with every ERIE auto policy, or contact us today to help you pick out the right coverage for your needs and budget.