Tips for Buying a High-Mileage Used Car

CPOProsCons-Sonya_Etchison-Hemerea-Thinkstock.jpg Sonya Etchison/Hemerea/Thinkstock

CARS.COM — Buying a high-mileage car presents a number of unknowns: Has it been in an accident? How was it used for the last 100,000 miles? Has it gotten regular maintenance? Is it a good deal? These questions are best answered by finding the right vehicle as well as the right seller, and has resources to help you do that. Below, you’ll find advice to prepare you for shopping for a high-mileage used car and a handy list of factors to consider.

Related: More Used-Car Advice

How to Inspect a Used Car

Used cars are more popular than ever, and they’re also as durable and maintenance-free as ever thanks to engineering strides. There’s a ton of value in the used-car market, but there’s still much to be mindful of when buying a car someone else has driven and maintained for mile after mile. With the tips provided in How to Inspect a Used Car, we give you the skinny on what to look out for beyond the odometer reading, like tire wear, to ensure an older car is in good condition given its high mileage.

Save Time — Screen Sellers First

You might be solely focused on the mileage and condition of the car, but the seller also should be vetted. It’s in your best interest to get an early read on the seller to determine why they’re selling the car and potentially avoid buying someone else’s maintenance problems. In Is a Used Car a Good Idea?, we detail the questions you should be asking as you “test drive the seller.” You’ll also want to see any service records on the vehicle.

Used Car Buyer’s Checklist

In any situation, this used-car-buyer’s checklist is a cheat sheet of what you should consider while shopping for high-mileage car.

  • Decide which make and model vehicle you want.
  • Research the car’s asking price.
  • Find out how much it would cost to finance the vehicle.
  • Find out how much it would cost to insure the vehicle.
  • Research the prospective vehicle history report using online and printed resources.
  • Interview prospective sellers before meeting them in person.
  • Set a daytime appointment for your drive.
  • Before starting the test drive, check the undercarriage, engine and body for rust or damage.
  • Check the interior of the vehicle for cleanliness; measure its comfort and size.
  • Check for signs of tire wear.
  • Check the engine oil for the proper level and color.
  • Check the coolant and radiator for leaks or corrosion.
  • Drive on the highway to gauge acceleration and handling.
  • Test the brakes.
  • Test the steering and alignment.
  • Practice parking the car for maneuverability and sight lines.
  • After the test drive, inspect the engine for leaks, odors or smoke.
  • Request and review the service history, receipts and title.
  • Have a mechanic inspect the car you’re thinking of buying, even if it’s been well-maintained.’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

Latest expert reviews