How many Kilometers are to many?

by Lori Straus

When buying a used vehicle, you can’t compare apples to apples like you can when buying a new car. Each vehicle is different because each previous owner drove and maintained the car differently. But the number of kilometres a used car has clocked will affect the vehicle’s value. So, is there a golden rule about the number of kilometres on a vehicle? Let’s find out.

Why Do You Need This Vehicle?

This will always be your #1 question. If your next vehicle is simply for running errands around town to get you through the winter, an older model with over 200,000 km on it might suit you fine. On the other hand, if your new job includes a daily one-hour commute, try finding a vehicle that’s only a few years old with maybe 40,000 km on it.

But what if you’ve found a five-year-old vehicle with 40,000 km on it? That’s a good find, right? Not necessarily.

Does the Odometer Reading Make Sense for the Vehicle’s History?

Because sellers understand that a lower kilometre reading on the odometer raises the vehicle’s value, some roll back the odometer. This is illegal. When buying a used car, always ask for a vehicle history report. Then compare the odometer readings on the maintenance and repair reports to the number on the dashboard. Do they make sense?

As you speak with the seller, also put two and two together. A car that has been driven mostly on the highway has less wear and tear on the brakes. This is a good thing. But you would assume that the odometer reading would be higher. Does the odometer match the story?

If you believe the odometer has been rolled back, you might be right. An inspection before purchase will help confirm your suspicion.

It’s Not All in the Kilometres

A car that has been driven only short distances in its lifetime isn’t necessarily the better choice. We cover this topic in detail, but here’s the summary:

A car that has been driven only short distances doesn’t give the engine enough opportunities to reach its optimal operating temperature. This leads to condensation, which dilutes the oil and reduces its effectiveness. Moreover, a driver who rarely uses their car may also have assumed that the vehicle doesn’t need regular maintenance. A vehicle history report will also tell you if this was the case or not. And last, not driving a car frequently can affect the battery’s ability to recharge.

It’s More Than Just the Kilometres

Don’t evaluate the mileage a vehicle has accumulated on its own. There is a stark difference between a three-year-old vehicle with 20,000 km on the odometer and a 10-year-old vehicle with that same reading. (The industry assumes that every vehicle is driven 20,000 km/year. This figure includes to and from work and the occasional road trip.)

Whereas an engine is probably in fine condition if a vehicle has accumulated 20,000 km in three years, it may not be in the best shape if the vehicle has only been driven that far in 10 years. But maintenance history is part of the story, too.

When you buy a used vehicle, whether you shop privately or through a dealership, have the vehicle inspected by a mechanic. Read the vehicle history report yourself and ensure that all disclosures about the vehicle’s history are listed on the bill of sale. The kilometres on the vehicle are only part of the story.