Should You Buy a Car with 200,000 Miles?

Should You Buy a Car with 200,000 Miles?

When the need for transportation far outstrips your bank account, you end up looking at the dark-side of the classifieds: the super-cheap, almost 200,000 mile used cars. Is it ever worth it to buy one of these clunkers?

Any time you’re considering buying a high-mileage used car, precautions should be taken. First things first, always get a pre-purchase inspection, as it can help identify a vehicle’s trouble spots. And by always, we mean ALWAYS! Even if the last owner was the Pope.

However, with that much mileage, it’s not easy to predict or see future problems.

“Those cars are in the ‘as it breaks’ phase of their life,” explains Lou Trottier, Technician and Owner of All About Imports, a car repair facility that specializes in foreign models. “Predictability of maintenance costs is difficult and things to look for are hard to find as well.” He explains that owners of cars with that much mileage end up having to repair and replace things as they break, in addition to performing their regular maintenance.

SEE ALSO: AutoGuide Used Car Shopping

Not every high-mileage car is a lost cause though, as Trottier explains that some previous owners have reasons for putting such high-mileage on their car, and what it means to the next owner.

“There are times when a newer car is owned by someone who drives a lot, like a salesman who has a large territory to cover,” says Trottier. “I have a couple of 2008-2009 Civics and Accords that come here that have more than 200,000 miles and these cars have been fairly reliable.”

Of course Trottier says that these owners are aware of the extra stress they put on their cars, and that they usually come in every month or two for an oil change.



Trottier explains that it’s tough to find a good deal with cars with that much mileage, since they can be much older.

“Generally a ten year old car with excess of 160,000 miles, I generally recommend against ownership.”

He’s not the only one. Viraf Baliwalla, a broker for the Automall network, which works with car buyers to help them get a good deal, is weary of high-mileage vehicles.

“I would stay away as the vehicle is more than likely nearing the end of its life and/or will be heavy on the repairs,” says Baliwalla. “What good is spending only a few thousand dollars on the vehicle when it will cost you many times that in repairs over the next year or two?”

He recommends only one specific type of vehicle when it comes to very high mileage. “Diesel engines have been known to keep going and going for hundreds of thousands of miles without a problem so I would not be as concerned so long as the price was right,” he says.



Still looking at buying a high-mileage car? Then watch for the warning signs. Things like rust can be hidden under a paint job, so keep an eye open for paint bubbling, or other tricky rust spots. If the car is old as well, rust is almost unavoidable. Paint chips (caused by natural wear after putting all those miles on a car) can lead to rust quickly, and rust can spread too, so be aware of how much rust you’re dealing with and how much you’re ready to live with.

SEE ALSO: Tips for buying a High Mileage Used Vehicle

The suspension is another area that needs to be carefully inspected. Take a test drive, and ensure the car drives straight, and with minimal squeaks and rattles.

Check the car’s tires as well, if they’re older than six years they should be replaced. Be sure to also look for any cracks in the tire’s sidewall, or for uneven wear. It’s something small, but if you’re on an extremely tight budget several hundred dollars spent replacing four tires can make all the difference.

ExhaustAn engine compression test is also useful to ensure the car has a healthy heart. Bad engine compression can point to future problems with the exhaust valves, head gasket or even the entire engine. Speaking of engines, ensure the oil is checked before buying a used car. The previous owner’s bad habits can show up here, indicating a car which hasn’t had its oil changed in a while, or is burning oil.

Interior wear and tear will also likely be an issue on a 200,000 mile. With a car this old and used it’s likely things aren’t going to be perfect. And while you might be able to live without a power rear window, what about your brakes? You’re going to need those. Speaking of which, if you’re buying a high-mileage car, check its brakes. Like with the tires, you’ll want to know up-front if you may need to spend extra money replacing them in 6 months or a year.

Also always check for exhaust smoke. Blue smoke means excessive oil is being burned, indicating an engine problem. Black smoke shows up if there’s a fuel system problem, which is producing excessive unburned fuel. White smoke comes thanks to burning anti-freeze, which could indicate a head gasket failure.

SEE ALSO: What does the smoke from my exhaust mean

If there’s no smoke, and the rest of the checks come up positive, then the car might just fit the bill to buy, but our advice? Make friends with a mechanic: you might be visiting them often.

  • Will C

    I got a 95 deville from an older guy for $500 in 2008 with 108K on it. It has outlasted every thing else including a 2009 car that got wrecked. And no smoke from the exhaust at 160K. Its paid for itself many times over.

    I have the 4.9 OHV & not the northstar as well.

  • Bryan AMDGuy

    Wow you sir are very lucky, That guy must have really taken care of that 95 Deville, Right now im debating weather or not to buy a used 1997 Honda Accord for $1740 it has over 251000 miles on it but I checked the carfax report on it and it says it only had one owner with no incidents its a clean car fax besides the hard heavy miles it has…..SO……you think its a good buy or should I skip it my budget is under $2000

  • brando

    251k!!! For $2000 you can do much better than that

  • devildog85

    Found a 2008 silverado 2500HD 4×4 crewcab with 173,869 Miles for $10,700..VIN: 1GCHK23K48F212396 Any opinions on buying it or not??

  • Bill

    I have 192,300 miles on my 2007 Saab 93 Aero. I was was planning on getting 200,000 out of it, now I think 250,000 is possible.

  • Mike Kennedy

    I bought a 1995 Honda Civic at 226,000 miles 6 years ago, the owner had all receipts and records for regular maintenance, and the price was cheap, so I bought it for commuting. I’m a do-it-yourselfer, so I did some replacements here and there as they came up, but I’m pleased with the car. It is still going strong today at 311,000 miles. However, had I not been able to replace the occasional worn-out part myself, the costs would have piled up at the shop.

  • repealobamacare

    200K on a well maintained six year old car is preferable to 100K on an average 15 year old car.

    It’s not just mileage, but the age of components as well. Little rubber coolant bypass hoses, emissions hoses, seals, gaskets, heater cores, rubber suspension links, etc.

    For the car owner who doesn’t wrench on their own vehicles, I’d leave the older vehicles and the high mileage vehicles to the shade tree mechanics.

    A good friend of mine bought a 8 year old Honda CR-V with 170K on it for a ridiculously high $7,000. (for his daughter) A year later, the head gasket went and she doesn’t have the money to have it repaired, so it sits in their driveway.

    People need to stop paying ridiculous prices for cars that stand a good chance of needing expensive work. That car was really worth a couple thousand dollars because of the mileage. But if people keep paying inflated prices, people will keep asking for them.


  • jennifer

    I have 271,000 on my kia sedona and i really want to get rid of it but at this point maybe just drive it until it dies and sell for parts. nothing wrong with it. just a few minor things like the tail light is out

  • Rachel McAbee

    I found a 2003 Buick Century for $2,000. 160,000 miles. Engine sounds good. No smoke. New tires.

  • Marlon Martinez

    Senator Tom Carper has a Chrysler minivan with over 363,000 miles!

  • Ramiro

    I’m debating on buying a 2004 Ford Mustang it has 200,000 miles on it but the owner was a mechanic and said he took good care of it. He’s asking for 1500 is that a good deal?

  • Chris Higley

    Thinking of buying 07 gmc Yukon xl with 225614 for 11000 ?

  • Donnie Creene

    there is a good reason why 2010 Ford Taurus sells for $3,000 with 100k miles and why 20 year old Toyota Tacoma with 300k miles go for $5,000. Or Subarus, 4Runners, Jeep Wrangler or most diesels. Those are expensive for a reason. No, that CRV will never dip below $5k for any reason even with engine

  • repealobamacare

    And that reason is people are idiots and will throw good money after bad. Tacoma’s are rust bucket POS’s, Subaru’s are prone to head gasket failure, 4Runners and Wranglers are BOF trucks that their fan base cannot afford new, so they drive prices up in the used market. A 10 year old CRV is about as good as a 10 year old Escape – they are both used cars and their care over the years will reflect their condition and reliability. Any advantage the Honda had over the Ford has worn out.

  • Donnie Creene

    Nah, the reason people pay high dollar for those used cars is that they are really that good. You can’t have that many stupid people. In Ford cars you can change the oil as much as you want, it will still last to about 150k miles They just don’t care for their cars to go over that. Their trucks easily go 300k miles, just like Toyota/Subaru cars. It’s all about the quality of metal you put in the engine transmissions. Thats why Ford trucks have good resale value, unlike their cars.

  • repealobamacare

    I’m an auto tech, and no, they’re not that good. Used Toyotas break down like used Fords.

  • Donnie Creene

    A friend of mine sells those cars. He says people price Subarus and Toyotas, Honda like gold, rightfully so. Very rarely do you see one giving you headaches after you sell it or buy it. I highly doubt you ever see a Tacoma or Subaru at your shop. Camry maybe, because they sell 200k a year, so statistically some are bound for you shop. Subaru engines are built like diesel engines. It’s modular design, made to flex, bunch of pieces bolted together, with special force bolts. Which is also why they last so long and why self taught mechanics hate them, cause they can’t work on em, other than changing head gaskets or timing belt. Especially newer ones with all the fancy Variable Valve crapppp.

  • repealobamacare

    You are comedy gold my friend!

    I love this line:

    “Subaru engines are built like diesel engines. It’s modular design, made
    to flex, bunch of pieces bolted together, with special force bolts.
    Which is also why they last so long and why self taught mechanics hate
    them, cause they can’t work on em, other than changing head gaskets or
    timing belt.”

    Where do I get me some “special force bolts” like Subaru? Bwaahahahahahaaaahahahaaaa!!!!!

    In any case, I don’t have a problem with your friend getting top dollar for selling worn out used cars – it just means that I can fix them and make some money rather than having the owner decline the repair. I mean, $2500 bucks into a 10 year old Camry with 120K? But hey, that car will go another 400K easy! (as long as you want to keep fixing it, which is true of ANY car)


  • eksine

    seriously a light? replace it for $4 versus buying a used car for 8000…you really are debating this?

  • tony

    Buying a 2001 mercury sable im sure its over 200k miles owner says it runs fine paying 700 from family friend what do you think.

  • NCOriolesFan

    I’m getting 2K+ for my ‘totaled’ 2002 Escape with 300K+ miles that was wrecked in a highway collision. Is this a good deal?

  • NCOriolesFan

    Say to say this but my 2002 Escape with 330K+ miles passed away this past Sunday AM from a highway collision. Drove it since August 2004 after I bought it to replace my original practically still brand new 2002 Escape that didn’t escape an out-of-control car that had just hit some deer.

  • bigv

    Seriously? It is a mechanical device, it will require routine maintenance & repairs (both major and minor) so 200,000 miles should scare you off, unless you are only buying this as a band aid and saving money to get something better.

    Anyone with a car with over 180,000+ should have a plan to replace that vehicle in the near future, if not, then you are asking for trouble.

    You are getting something at the tail end of its service life and expecting to keep it for another 10 years? Um, no. A year or two at the most. When my Camry hit 205,000 miles I sold it (to someone like the folks on this forum) and put the cash towards a better car.

  • me

    How do i know for sure that a 94 ford ranger has 63000miles on it.

  • Adrieanna

    is it ok to buy a 92 to 2000 lexus that has any where from 200 thousand miles?

  • mika

    Ok so is $800 for a 1992 oldsmobile bad with $200,000 miles

  • dub28

    Is a dodge magnum 5.7 awd for $2500 with 201000 bad deal

  • Steve Henry

    the fact a dodge made it that far is a hell of on an accomplishment….. its a bad idea.

    -Auto Mechanic 25 years.

  • teefer

    Nice article. Thanks for advice. Was looking at a 05 2dr Accord V6 for 4k. Still not sure if i was going to venture down this road. It is in immaculate interior and exterior condition but 195K is a whole lot of miles.

  • Melissaa Flores2710

    Is a Ford focus 2000 with 200000 miles for $800 a good idea

  • Jordan

    99 Honda accord with 197,000 miles for $2000?

  • Joe

    02 Chevy avalanche with 220,000 for 4800 bad idea?

  • Jane

    That’s bad. You can buy those for 1K or less. Or a BMW 740iL

  • Mike Chen

    what about a 2008 Mazda 3 manual with 219,473 Miles? for 4500

  • Mack

    Is a 2000 Volkswagen Golf for $2500 or less a good idea?

  • Patrick Idemudia

    Hi, I need a car maybe Toyota camry or tundra, mileage 150000.what price do u guys think would be fare.Contact me if you hv any.Patrick. Terrell tx.214 622 7214

  • Diamond A. Washington

    I’m trying to buy a Infinity 2003 FX35 Base AWD with Mileage of 136,899 Miles, MPG 15-20 for $4K. Is this a good deal? I haven’t done the testing checks on it yet because I’d like to know first if it’s a good idea to buy it or not.. Please help I’ve one month to decide.

  • Eddie

    I just bought a, 08 Suzuki SX4 with 245K on it. The car was owned by a salesman who bought the car new and had every 3,000 mile oil change record. The oil in the dip stick and on the cap looked like brand new fresh oil. The exterior is a 8.5 out of 10, the interior a 9 out of 10, the drivers side armrest/door trim panel is broke where you rest your elbow/forearm while driving because… he rested his elbow/forearm there for over 40K of highway miles a year. I fully expect the car to go for another 100K or more. It runs and rides like new.

    My last car, a Saturn SW2 when for 267K with no major problems. I gave it away.

  • Eddie

    It depends. If the body and interior are in great shape, it’s doubtful you can get that car for $1,000. even with 200K miles.

  • Eddie

    Keep fresh oil in your car, change the belts and plugs every now and then and just about any car will go for over 300k easy.

  • Jacqueline Nfwia Washington

    How about a 2005 lincon ls with 210,000 for 5000.?

  • Randy

    I have a 1991 Toyota Truck with 420,650 miles on it. Runs great still gets over twenty miles per gallon around town.

  • Derek

    What about an ’01 Chevy Malibu with 217,000

  • The Arbiter

    3.0 Toyotas – (Camry, ES300) seem to blow transmissions after 180,000 miles. I’ve been searching Craigslist’s below $2000 range (which I realize represents a small sample of cars) and note that many of the Civics, Accords and Camries (V-6) have drivetrain issues. Or just symptoms of owner neglect. Civics…”oh, the engine’s missing a bearing…” Accords with blown engines, Camries usually with “it only drives in reverse or forward.”

    The GM cars seem to fail in the head-gasket or transmission department. But, the well maintained larger sedans seem to be fairly immune. With Fords, it’s a mixture, but honestly, they seem to pull ahead of the competition in terms of raw durability.

    My conclusion is Nissan, both the Maxima and Altima take the cake in terms of import longevity if taken care of. Maybe the timing chain keeps the ownership costs more manageable when the vehicles reach an age where the paint is falling off and the idea of spending $800 on something that has lost its investment and physical appeal isn’t top on anyone’s list. Or, has been modified to the point of being completely useless outside of perfect weather conditions.

    I think a well conditioned American car past 160,000 miles is actually a much better deal than many of the Japanese cars of the same vintage simply because of owner involvement. Aside from the notorious intake manifold issues with some 4.6L, I’d say the average Crown Vic or Grand Marquis has been subject to much more conscientious treatment by its owner(s) than a typical college owned Civic or Accord.

    Timing belts, head gaskets, transmissions — many see early demise due to lack of owner awareness or abuse, especially with transmissions. The weak economic recovery has probably driven many people into this market, and maybe there’s a future in it.

    I’d add that when buying an older car, consider how effective good preventative maintenance will still be. My primary focus for the two cars I’ve owned in the US has been to keep the under hood temps down and to drive in such a way as to limit wear from normal use. And I’ve demanded a lot from both.

    Suspension, tires, lights and so on are just going to happen.

    (Ford and Camry owner, combined average total mileage 250,000 miles.)

  • Max Brown

    Looking at a 2004 dodge 2500 with some aftermarket modifications and 250000miles on it but it dose have a diesel motor in it any suggestions?

  • Namakabrood Abrood

    200k miles for a Toyota corolla is just breaking in.

  • Namakabrood Abrood

    We have 3 vehicles in our family, a VW Passat , Ford Escape, and Toyota Corolla and all of them have close to 135k miles. The VW is the most unreliable followed by the Ford. The Toyota just gets oil, filter, brake, plugs, battery and tires with no electrical or mechanical problems.

  • Ben Gazi

    Ever bang a chick with that many miles ?


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