ACV facts & figures
Purchasing a used vehicle can be an intimidating endeavor for a customer. A multitude of make and model options, dealership offers, and trims can be overwhelming on their own. Used vehicles have the additional factors of age and mileage to consider. Both can impact the value and risk associated with a pre-owned vehicle and influence a customer's decision. Understanding how these factors impact consumers is essential for helping a prospective buyer get through their shopping experience and closing a sale.
Why Mileage Matters for Used Cars
A car’s mileage is one way to measure how much a vehicle has been used to get a sense of how much wear and tear it might have. Buyers often look at the average miles driven per year to evaluate how much a car has been driven. In the United States, this number is about 13,500 miles per year¹. Taking the vehicle’s age into account, one can figure out how many miles to expect.
For example, a 10-year-old car with average use could reasonably have about 130,500 miles on it. This means that a consumer may look at a 10-year-old vehicle that has 200,000 miles and think it was used much more and, therefore, should be worth less or is more likely to have issues. Conversely, a 10-year-old vehicle with 50,000 miles will likely look more attractive since it wasn’t used as heavily.
However, the numbers themselves don’t paint the full picture².
Types of Mileage
Miles driven aren’t all created equal. For example, highway miles tend to be more favorable to a vehicle’s condition than city roads—and that means a car with lots of highway mileage is likely to be more desirable. This is because city driving conditions tend to result in more wear and tear on a vehicle. Potholes and uneven surfaces work the suspension harder, while stop-and-go traffic leads to more repetitive brake usage. Similarly, the engine and transmission are working more to repeatedly shift speeds.
A car or SUV that’s been primarily used for off-roading is also likely to have excess wear and tear compared to a vehicle that primarily drove on the highway. But unlike a city vehicle, off-roading results in wear from driving over harsher terrain that can kick up rocks onto the body of the car.
If you know a vehicle’s history and driving conditions, pass that information along to your customer to provide more context for the mileage³.
Why a Used Car’s Age Matters
The average age used cars in the U.S. has been increasing since 2019 and has now reached a record high of 12.5 years—but experts expect this average to continue increasing through the end of the decade, with a vehicle possibly changing hands between up to four drivers in its lifetime⁴. Unsurprisingly, the older a car is, the more likely it is to depreciate (excluding classic and antique cars).
Like mileage, a vehicle’s age should always be considered among other related factors—and that includes the car’s location. Vehicles sourced from colder areas that experience a lot of snow are more likely to be exposed to road salt, which can cause rust and corrosion over time if not properly washed off. Warmer climates with long, hot summers can also negatively impact a vehicle’s condition because intense sunlight and heat can fade the interior components.
How Maintenance & Age Are Connected
Another factor to consider is how well the previous owners kept up with preventative maintenance, like routine oil changes and inspections and making repairs while the issues are still minor. Written records show that a vehicle was well-maintained throughout its lifetime, making it much more likely to last longer and experience fewer problems.
Since owners provide maintenance records when selling their cars², and appraisers look at their condition to determine a fair value, there’s plenty of evidence pointing to a car’s quality by the time it comes up for auction.
What About Third-Party History Reports?
Providing potential customers with information from the vehicle’s past owners can help them understand which factors contributed to the car’s mileage and condition, but self-reporting is not the only way to get information. Third-party reports that track previous collisions and accidents, such as flooding, can capture issues the owner might have omitted from their records⁶. These incidents can significantly impact a vehicle’s value and desirability. These third-party reports are considered the most reliable option aside from a first-hand inspection. Even if a vehicle is older, providing a clean vehicle history report with no accidents can help boost consumer confidence³.
Ultimately, the best strategy for helping a consumer navigate the purchasing process is to be aware of potential roadblocks to a purchase. In the case of age and mileage, higher numbers are less attractive at first glance, but knowing more about a vehicle’s maintenance and driving history provides valuable context that can help elevate the vehicle’s desirability.
ACV Auctions Makes Transparency Easy
If you’re looking for a trustworthy and reliable source for pre-owned vehicles, ACV Auctions is the place to start. With detailed condition reports and market comparables, we make it easy to understand what you’re getting before you bid and craft a bidding strategy that helps you get the best value. Join ACV today to get access to our comprehensive used car dealer auction platform.
- Rivelli, E. (24 February 2023). What is Average Mileage Per Year? Car and Driver. Retrieved on June 16, 2023, from
- Gaylo, P. (6 August 2021). How Important is Mileage When Buying a Car? CarGurus. Retrieved on June 16, 2023, from https://www.cargurus.com/Cars/articles/how-important-is-mileage-when-buying-a-car
- Demuro, D. (30 June 2019). Buying a Used Car: Why Are Highway Miles Better? AutoTrader. Retrieved on June 16, 2023, from https://www.autotrader.com/car-tips/buying-a-used-car-why-are-highway-miles-better-225870
- Krisher, T. (15 May 2023). Average age of cars on U.S. roads hits a record high as soaring prices means people can’t afford to replace them. Fortune. Retrieved on June 16, 2023, from https://fortune.com/2023/05/15/average-age-of-cars-on-u-s-roads-hits-a-record-high-as-soaring-prices-means-people-cant-afford-to-replace-them/
- Valdes, R. (28 December 2022). Buying Older, Used Cars in 2023, Kelley Blue Book (6/16/2023) https://www.kbb.com/car-advice/used-car-shopping-insider-tip-whats-more-important-mileage-age/
- Montoya, R. (28 March 2022). AutoCheck vs. Carfax: Which Vehicle History Report Is Best for You? Edmunds. Retrieved on June 16, 2023, from https://www.edmunds.com/car-buying/which-vehicle-history-report-is-right-for-you.html
Aug 30, 2023