Comparing mileage and age when buying a used car

Buying a used car is a sensible option when you’re on a tight budget. South Africa has quite a large and active used-car market, so there are options for everyone. Before buying a car that’s taken your fancy, however, you should compare the vehicle’s age to the mileage on the odometer.

These factors are interlinked – neither one is more important than the other. No matter how much a car appeals to you, if the mileage is much higher than average for its age, it could signal potential problems. You could be buying a costly skorokoro. Age and mileage are the most critical factors that affect the price of a preowned vehicle.

Mileage versus age

In general, a car with high mileage should cost a lot less because it has been subjected to more wear and tear – it’s more likely to need parts replaced more often than cars that have been driven less. Engine power in older vehicles is also generally lower.

Interestingly, an old car with a mileage much lower than average could point to an entirely different problem. It could mean that the vehicle has not been used as much as you’d expect. Cars are built to be driven. So, if a vehicle has been off the road for a long time, it could need a few repairs to get it going again, which could bore a hole in your pocket.

Acceptable mileage on a used car

Reasonable mileage ranges from 15,000 to 20,000km per year. Anything beyond that is considered high mileage. So, a 5-year-old car with normal usage would typically have between 75,000 and 100,000km on the clock.

But if a vehicle is 3 years old and has 100,000km on the clock, it has obviously been driven more than average. That’s when you need to look closely at its service history and check for any accident reports. You can find out how many expensive components have been replaced already and how many will need to be replaced soon. Parts can be costly if a car is out of warranty, so exercise caution.

A 5-year-old car with 50,000km on the clock will probably be in a better condition, as it has been driven moderately. However, you still need to check its accident/service history. A 5-year-old vehicle with only 25,000km on the clock has been driven a lot less, but that could be because it spent lots of time at the mechanic. So getting it on the road may cost you quite a bit.


A car more than 10 years old can increase your transport costs if it’s in for repairs often


In all these scenarios, it’s important that you check a used car’s full service history to see how it has been maintained over the years – and be wary of buying a second-hand vehicle if the dealer or private seller can’t provide one.

Some other factors to bear in mind when buying a used car

  • Technology plays a huge role in cars. A newer model will more than likely have better technology, which could be a decisive factor in your decision-making. Newer cars have more fuel-efficient engines and have better safety features like ABS braking systems, as well as a more interactive infotainment system. It all boils down to what matters to you as a buyer, and how far your budget can stretch.

  • If you need financing, remember that some used cars simply won’t qualify. MFC, a division of Nedbank, doesn’t approve loans for cars more than 10 years old. It’s possible that the manufacturer may not even be making that model anymore, which means parts may be hard to come by and expensive – at an age when several key systems in the vehicle will start to need repair and replacement.

  • A car more than 10 years old can increase your transport costs if it’s in for repairs often, with the cost of your alternative transport added to the cost of the repairs. Its value is too low to be acceptable collateral on a long-term loan. A car that costs less than R50,000 is also not eligible for an MFC loan – a loan that size doesn’t require long-term financing. It makes more sense to finance that amount with a personal loan.

For your peace of mind, it’s important to choose a reputable preowned dealership. MFC also finances cars bought from private sellers, not just dealers – and because MFC ensures that both parties submit the required documents, both buyer and seller are protected.

Make sure you shop around and compare various models’ features and prices. When researching, pay attention to the car’s fuel consumption, the cost of the car parts, and compare any available service plans. Also remember that you can request roadworthy inspection on the vehicle if a full service history is not available – youll need a roadworthy ceritifcate in any case, before you can license and register the vehicle.

You can shop for used cars from private sellers and approved dealers all over South Africa, comparing age, mileage and many other filters on Avo Auto, our one-stop virtual vehicle mall for buying new, demo and used vehicles.


Did you know that if you take out MFC vehicle finance and open a Nedbank Savvy Plus or Savvy Bundle Account, you can get R200 a month cash back for the duration of your loan? For an affordable car loan tailored to your circumstances and value-added extras like cash back, choose the bank that’s best for your money.