Buying A High-Mileage Car: 10 Practical Tips

By Zach Buchenau

Last Updated: February 4, 2021

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Buying a high-mileage car | Be The Budget

There are a number of things you should consider when buying a high-mileage car. From budgeting and saving to researching and test-driving, if you properly prepare for your next used car purchase, you can reduce a lot of the risk.

In fact, in this article we will cover 10 practical tips for buying a car with high-mileage.

Let’s dive right in.

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1- Set A Savings Goal

When it comes to buying a high-mileage car, the first thing you should do is set a savings goal. And on top of that, you should set a timeline for your savings.

These two components are key. You see, a savings goal in and of itself is just a little too abstract. Setting a timeline allows you to plan exactly how much you need to save each paycheck, and help you to stay on track.

Without a timeline, there’s no way to gauge your progress. And I find that progress is the greatest source of encouragement when it comes to pursuing any savings goal.

2. Get On A Budget

Now that you have set a savings goal and a timeline, you need to develop a plan to achieve them. This is where a budget comes into play.

When you create a budget, you are developing a step-by-step game plan that ensures you will reach your goal. Your budget will also bring some accountability into your day-to-day financial habits, and keep you from impulse spending.

I truly believe that your budget is the key to any kind of financial success you hope to achieve.

As you might suspect, we spend a lot of time talking about budgeting on this website. So, if you are looking for a little more info on how to properly create, or just stick to a budget we have some awesome resources for you. In fact, here are a few of our popular posts on budgeting that you might want to read:

3. Give Yourself Plenty Of Time

Patience is one of the hardest aspects of saving for anything you really want. And with how exciting the prospect of driving around a new set of wheels can be, patience is extra difficult when saving for a car.

That said, if you really want to make the best possible decision when buying your next car, you need to give yourself plenty of time to save.

Luckily, the benefit of buying a high-mileage car is that they are much less expensive than new, or even relatively new cars. So, you won’t have to save nearly as long. But, the more time you give yourself, the easier it will be to reach your goal.

In fact, in order to keep from getting impatient and purchasing a car before you’re ready, I recommend holding off on researching cars until you are completely finished saving. Researching cars too early in the saving process will only make it harder to practice patience. And it will only add fuel to any desire you have to make an impulse purchase.

4. Do Your Research

Once you have reached your savings goal, you need to really dive into your research. The thing about buying a high mileage car, is that they come with the risk of costly repairs. So, as you search for your next car, your main focus should be long-term reliability.

Now, no car is perfect. But, there are definitely cars out there that are known for their unreliability. You do not want one of those.

If you are about to purchase a car with 100K miles on it, the last thing you want to do is buy a car that’s known to break down right around 115,000 miles. That would give you a year of driving before getting hit with big expenses.

As you research different options for your next car, be sure to read as many reviews as possible. Additionally, do a search for the ratings on the car in question. My favorite places for car ratings are,,,, and

5. Save Up A Car Emergency Fund

As I mentioned before, buying a high-mileage car comes with the risk of costly repairs. And this is where proper preparation can really help you out.

After you reach your car savings goal, I highly recommend saving a car emergency fund. Now, if you follow Be The Budget, or have read a few of our other posts, you know how much we value a good emergency fund. But if you are accepting the risks that come with a high-mileage car, I don’t think you should pull from your normal emergency fund if something goes wrong.

Rather, you should save up two to three-thousand dollars in case of emergency car repairs. Having a car emergency just takes the sting out of repairs, and you’ll be glad you have it if the time comes.

6. Research Car Insurance

One of the best parts about buying a high-mileage car is that insurance tends to be much cheaper. It makes sense; the risk an insurance company takes on is much higher for a brand new, expensive car, than a lower cost, high-mileage car. And the lower risk is reflected in your monthly premium.

That said, you should still do your research on insurance, and shop all the competition. Just because your insurance is comparatively less expensive, doesn’t mean you got the best rate possible.

In fact, I recommend getting quotes from at least four or five different insurance companies when buying a high-mileage car.

7. Always Get A Vehicle History Report

You are much less likely to run into car trouble with your new ride if the car is accident-free, came from a dry climate (less prone to rust), and only had one or two owners. For those reasons — and I can’t stress this enough — before you buy a high-mileage car, you should always get a vehicle history report. This is especially true if you are buying from a private seller.

I don’t care how honest a person seems. Don’t just take them for their word. It is unwise to buy a car without a vehicle history report.

In my opinion, the seller should provide you with one for free. If they don’t, you have two choices. You can either pay for the report yourself, or ask the seller to buy it for you. Though, if a seller is unwilling to spend the money on a vehicle history report, it’s probably a bad sign.

8. Get The Car Inspected By A Professional

Unless you know your way around a car, I highly recommend getting any car you are interested in buying, checked out by a professional (trusted) mechanic. And when you do, tell them to go through it with a fine-toothed comb.

In my experience, most mechanics will do this for free because they want your long-term business. So don’t go spending a bunch of money on an inspection. Though, even if they do want to charge you a reasonable fee for the inspection, it’s much wiser to spend a few bucks now than to buy a car that needs repairs that might cost you thousands.

Not only will an inspection keep you from buying a car with major issues, but it will help uncover minor issues that you can use to negotiate price.
Getting a car inspection is just an all-around good idea when buying a high-mileage car. So, don’t disregard this valuable tip.

Oh, and if the seller isn’t willing to let you get the car inspected by a mechanic of your choice, don’t buy the car. Chances are, they are hiding something.

9. Go For A Long Test Drive

Taking a car for a test drive is one of the best parts about car shopping. But you aren’t going to learn a lot about a vehicle by driving around a parking lot, or a residential neighborhood.

If you are going to spend the money to buy a high-mileage car, you should take a test drive that puts the car through the kinds of conditions you will be putting it through on a day-to-day basis.

So, get that car on the highway. See how long it takes to get up to speed. Do you hear any concerning noises, or feel any hesitation? Does the car drift or pull to one side? Make the car earn your money.

If it doesn’t stand up to a long, realistic test drive, then don’t buy it.

10. Pay Cash

We have briefly touched on this tip throughout the article, but I can’t emphasize this point enough: you should always pay cash for a high-mileage vehicle. Here’s why.

First of all, the main benefit of buying a high-mileage car is the low purchase price. So, why would you want to finance something and pay interest, when you could just save up and pay cash.

Secondly, since high-mileage cars are at higher risk of breaking down or incurring costly repairs, the last thing you want to do is owe money, with interest, on a broken down car.

Lastly, when buying a high-mileage car, despite what anybody tells you, cash is king. You have much more negotiating power when you pay cash instead of financing a car.

Final Thoughts

Buying a high-mileage car can be a great option for people looking for an affordable set of wheels. And if you properly prepare, you can reduce a lot of the risk involved in the process.

Hopefully these ten tips will help you the next time you are looking for a high-mileage car. And if you’ve never considered buying a high-mileage car, maybe you will now.

Have you ever purchased a car with high-mileage? What was your experience? Be sure to comment below. We always love hearing from our readers!

10 practical tips for buying a high-mileage car | Be The Budget

Zach Buchenau

About The Author:

Zach Buchenau is a self-proclaimed personal finance nerd. When he isn't writing about budgeting, getting out of debt, making extra money, and living a frugal life, you can find him building furniture, fly fishing, or developing websites. He is the co-founder of BeTheBudget, and Chipotle's most loyal customer.

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