Does mileage really matter?

Words by Raj Hunjan

The difference in price of a particular car is based on a number of factors including: number of potential buyers; condition of the car; numbers produced; number of previous owners; reliability reputation; accident/theft history and of course mileage. Mileage can be one of the biggest factors that determines the price of a car compared to others on the market. It is possible to use this factor to your advantage when buying a car, but only if the cost savings outweigh the increased risk of issues in the future.

Before a car is ready for production and sold to the public, pre-production prototypes are tested to make sure the car is fit for purpose. Car manufacturers will test prototypes beyond the normal expected conditions a car will likely encounter in it’s life. Examples of testing include: extreme cold and hot weather, dry and humid climates and endurance testing. Quite often manufacturers will clock up hundreds of thousands of miles in these extreme conditions before a car is signed off for production. A good example is the Aston Martin V8 Vantage development programme. It used fifty prototypes to conduct in excess of 500,000 miles. This included 12,000 miles of desert driving in Dubai, 37,000 miles at the Nardo test track in Italy and also cold weather testing in Sweden. In addition components themselves are tested to destruction. The data is used to improve the production processes and materials used to increase their durability in the real world. All this amounts to cars in general being able to withstand much higher mileage and extremes then we value.

Aston Martin V8 Vantage Snow Testing-1It is possible you could save a large amount of money by buying a car with a higher than average mileage and yet still not be out of pocket in terms of maintenance costs during your ownership. The owner of the Audi R8 we featured in MotorStars Issue Three deliberately bought an R8 with a higher than average mileage with the intention of clocking up very few miles during his ownership. After three years of owning the car, he decided to sell, by then the total lifetime mileage had dropped to a level that was now perceived by the market as normal. This meant the car only depreciated £6,500 during the whole three years. That is extremely impressive for a relatively new supercar.

Here are some examples from the classifieds of the way mileage can impact sportscar values.

Aston Martin V8 Vantage
We found a saving of around £7,000 when buying a 2006 AMV8 with 58,000 miles for £30,000 instead of a 30,000 mile example.

BMW M3 Coupe E90
A saving of around £9,000 can be made on buying a 2010 M3 with 50,000 miles on the clock advertised at at £25,000, compared to a 19,000 mile example.

Porsche 911 Carrera 2S
Buying a Carrera 2S with 81,000 miles will save around £7,500 compared to picking up a similar spec 2S with just 35,000 miles on the clock.

The key to making this work is doing your homework when going to see a car to know what issues to look out for, get it inspected by a professional and check the history to make sure it has been maintained in line with how much it has been used. Ensure that wear items such as clutches, brakes and tyres have been replaced regularly and are in good condition. Also thoroughly test mechanical wear items like gearboxes, diffs, suspension and the engine itself. Buy on condition rather than mileage and you could save thousands on your next car.