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I'm running into a conundrum while used car shopping where there are two cars which are the same make and model, similar features, but they differ in miles and model year. In these cases, the older car (usually by about 1-3 years) has lower miles (usually by about 20-40,000 miles). Given that all other features are essentially equal on these cars, which one is likely to be a better buy from a reliability standpoint? More miles obviously equals more mechanical wear, but more time can add corrosion, chemical breakdown, metal fatigue, etc. Is there a point in miles or years where one becomes too much compared with the other? Are there any other factors to consider when comparing cars in this type of scenario?

Example: A 2008 car with 106,000 miles, vs. a 2010 car with 130,000 miles.

Note that I'm not including specific make/model/year here because I have run into this several times, so I'm looking for answers to this problem in general terms, not details about specific cars. For what it's worth, the cars I'm looking at are typically around or above 100k miles already.

closed as primarily opinion-based by dlu, tlhIngan, Eric Urban, SteveRacer, DucatiKiller Nov 16 '16 at 5:16

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • why close this? I think this is a reasonably good question. – Cc Dd Nov 16 '16 at 0:54
  • @CcDd The OP says he wants a "general answer", which by definition will be largely opinion-based. Three years or 30,000 miles on a Kia does not mean the same thing on a Subaru or a Ford 150. The question is way to broad to answer. – SteveRacer Nov 16 '16 at 4:46
  • @SteveRacer you have a good point there it is pretty broad. – Cc Dd Nov 16 '16 at 4:49
  • I was afraid that it would be closed as opinion based. I was hoping though that someone would have some objective insights into why year vs miles would be more important. – techturtle Nov 16 '16 at 13:14
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You cannot gauge reliability by age and miles, you need to look at the actual mechanical condition of the vehicles. Was it driven gently or put through harsh service? Was proper maintenance done on it or was it neglected? Was it involved in a crash and poorly repaired? Did somebody try a DIY repair and it didn't go well and never got addressed after that?

  • It's always a crapshoot with buying used cars because you never know how it's been driven or maintained. I was hoping that there might be some non-opinion details about why vehicle age or miles mattered more (all other factors being equal/unknown). – techturtle Nov 16 '16 at 13:30

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