In Summary
  • A used car buyer needs to do some cross shopping (considering both used car options with an open mind) which will take into consideration the pros and cons of low and high mileage cars to get the best deal. It may be useful to have a trusted technical consultant to assist you during such an exercise.

Hi Paul, I want to buy a used car from one of the bonds in Kampala. I have been told to look out for low mileage cars which seem to be pricier. Does the mileage of a car really matter? Proscovia Nakimera.

Hello Proscovia, there is a debate about the advantages of buying low or high mileage used cars. A section of used car market argues a high mileage car isn’t worth it while another argues it is the condition of the used car which matters.

When buying a used car mileage is reference to how long the car has been on the road. The mileage of a car is considered high if it is close to or has exceeded 100,000 kilometres (60,000 miles).
This is when major long life car fluids or oils and parts ought to be replaced. Low mileage is anything below 100,000 kilometres.

There are strong arguments for buying a low mileage used car. To many buyers a low mileage car is thought to have gone through less ‘hard life’ (wear and tear).
It also means less likelihood of mileage issues such as major fluid and oil leakages, engine or transmission damage due to age.
A low mileage car is not expected to need expensive parts replacement. Low mileage cars tend to have a higher resale value.

This attracts buyers who know they stand a chance to recover a significant part of their investment in the car when it’s time to resale.
In Uganda, however, some used car buyers are more interested in the registration series ie newer number plates.

The arguments for high mileage cars are equally sound. Cars like to be exercised by being driven. Plastic and rubber components on a car become brittle when not driven regularly. Corrosion and blockage can affect suspension, engine and transmission components when fluids are not flowing consistently through them.
Good and regular car maintenance can make a high mileage car better than a low mileage car with a bad service record.

The good driving habits of the previous owner of a high mileage car can make it better than a low mileage one such as sensible driving, cleanliness, and attention to faults and prompt action.
The attraction to high mileage cars is also driven by the tendency to inflate the price of low mileage cars. There is a concern that some crafty car dealers in the used car industry sometimes practice car mileage fraud (reverse the car mileage) to make the used car look ‘younger’ and more attractive.

The danger with this is the car buyer will not know when they are supposed to carry out mileage based service procedures such as timing belt or fuel filter replacements.
This can lead to unexpected car breakdown. Newer cars with slightly higher mileage may be better a better bargain than older cars with low mileage because of newer technology which makes them safer, better to drive, more comfortable with longer major component service intervals.
For instance, the longer life fuel filters and engine timing chains instead of the regularly replaced rubber timing belts.

A used car buyer needs to do some cross shopping (considering both used car options with an open mind) which will take into consideration the pros and cons of low and high mileage cars to get the best deal. It may be useful to have a trusted technical consultant to assist you during such an exercise.