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I am a newbie car driver (I got the license few days ago). I am about to get a used car and I am perplexed regarding which one to get. My concern at the moment is what is the maximum mileage that I should stick to. For example, if there is a BMW 318i (Oct-2004) with 138500 km, is that OK? is there a rule of thumb for the OK mileage?

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    have a look at this question , i have detailed info on buying a used car mechanics.stackexchange.com/questions/18503/… – Shobin P Sep 16 '15 at 17:26
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    While there may be a 'rule of thumb' for a specific year/make/model of car, there certainly isn't one for the category of 'all used cars'. Your budget, mechanical knowledge, personal preferences, and the models market history will all shape and determine how many miles are 'too many' for you. I would start by making a list of cars that fit your budget, then search online resources such as Kelly Blue Book to research reviews and ratings for each particular vehicle to help you make an informed decision. – Nick G Sep 16 '15 at 20:35
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    @NickG - When dealing with used cars, every car takes a hit due to mileage every 10k miles (at least here in the States). Also, KBB is not a good source as it rates all of its prices high. This is why dealerships are so keen to show you the KBB value when they are selling you the car, yet they use NADA guides when buying them from you at trade-in (again, here in the States). Edmunds is a lot fairer source for research, but yes, make an informed decision. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Sep 16 '15 at 21:09
  • @Paulster2 - Apparently you're following my posts :) . Please read my comment again. My reference to KBB had nothing to do with the price of the vehicle; only the reviews and ratings. Also, it was an example...there are millions of car review sites. Shall I edit my comment to include one that you like better? – Nick G Sep 16 '15 at 21:23
  • @NickG - No. Your comment is fine. People typically use KBB (or any other site) to give them a fair market value. KBB gives vehicles too much value, which is not good research. This was my real point. You are correct though, you can find good reviews and ratings for vehicles there or many places on the internet. I apologize for not completely reading your comment. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Sep 16 '15 at 21:36
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The mileage of the car doesn't matter as people can get the mileage reversed. Which make the buyer dumb infront of them. I sugget you Look for the obvious signs like the head-gasket's condition, any oil leaks, try looking at the under-frame,signs of rust,check the relay box.(reason, because the relays are long lasting in most cases,and if they're replaced means major issues in the past.)then you can check the chassis number,confirm it with the local bmw center(in your case).

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    Another point you may want to consider is the condition of the gas/brake pedals. If the odometer reads as 50k, yet the brake pedal is very well worn (where a person puts their foot to brake), you can assume something is amiss. It's too bad it's so easy for people to turn odometers back. They thought it was easy with the old rotary odometers, it's even easier now with the electronic ones if you have the right equipment. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Sep 16 '15 at 21:06
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    The condition of the driver's seat is another good indicator, it's not likely to get badly worn and scuffed in 50k... – Nick C Sep 17 '15 at 14:28
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For a car of that sort of age, mileage is much less important than condition. Read through the guide Anarach posted in his comment above, and other online guides - ideally find one that is relevant to the make and model of the car you are looking at, as many models of car have particular issues to consider.

In the UK, the 'average' driver drives 10-12000 miles per year, so I'd be looking for a car to have done around that - so a 10 year old car would have done around 100 - 120000 miles (160-190000km), but obviously this varies per country. I'd avoid any car with a suspiciously low mileage as noted in Saad's answer. Check the car's history where possible to see if the numbers add up...

The best advice I can give is to take a more experienced/knowledgeable friend with you - no only will they be more likely to spot any problems, but the salesperson is less likely to lie to someone who appears to know what they are talking about, whereas a newbie buying their first car is, unfortunately, an easy victim.

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Since different makes and models of vehicles have so much variety, a good bet would be to visit a forum dedicated to enthusiasts of that particular model of vehicle. Most likely you will be able to find a thread in any decent sized forum that talks about precisely what to look for on that model. Things are often common failures on specific models, like the aluminum intake manifold on the 5.4L Ford Triton engine in the first generation of Expedition had a tendency to crack.

The E46 (the BMW you mentioned in the original post fit s in the E46 family along with all other 3 series BMWs that were developed at about that time) has a history of water pump failure, various electrical issues are also fairly common, but all in all they hold up well

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