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What is Good Mileage for a Used Car?

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By Madeline Klein on June 17, 2021 in Life Hacks

Are you searching near and far for the car of your dreams and planning to start at local used car lots? We’ll sort through the numbers and let you know which ones should catch your eye!

A bonus: We explain the best (and worst) times to shop AND tips to find a reliable ride!

Basically, the goal is to provide you with all the information you need so you can shop ‘til you drop and walk away with the perfect ride for you. What more could you ask for?

Average Miles Driven Per Year

Let’s start by covering the average miles driven by Americans each year. Lucky for us, The Zebra compiled a list of the average miles driven per state, so here are our Say states.

  • Colorado – 12,899 miles
  • Kansas – 14,781 miles
  • Illinois – 12,581 miles
  • Indiana – 18,024 miles
  • Missouri – 18,521 miles
  • Tennessee – 15,287 miles

Missouri takes the lead for most miles with 18,521 and Illinois trails at the bottom with 12,581. A lot of factors go into these averages like gas prices, population density, traffic, urban vs rural, and more!

Good Mileage for a Used Car

Knowing these averages is important in understanding what mileage to look for when searching through used cars. So, in the past, companies like said, “Depending on who you ask, the average miles driven per year is 10,000 to 15,000, with around 12,000 the most common yardstick (most leases allow 12,000 miles per year).”

With 12,000 as a reference point you can do simple math: a 6-year-old Chevy Silverado with 72,000 miles on it might be a better bet than a 5-year-old Buick Encore with 120,000.

While this is not 100% fool-proof and you should consider other factors like recent maintenance and previous accident records, this average mile count can help you decide how much potential work you’ll be stuck with after purchasing.

Try using those recent numbers from The Zebra when calculating risk! This calls for less simple math than the even 12,000 we mentioned earlier, but hey, if it works, it’s worth a little chicken scratch on a sticky note.

Important Notes when Purchasing a Used Car

We can’t stress enough that although mileage is a quick check for overall use of the vehicle, you should always look at additional factors like:

  • Condition of important parts such as engine and brakes – These parts are crucial to your car running (obviously), so it’s important to see if/when they were last replaced or if they have any damage.
  • Location of car for majority of ownership – Maybe your car was beach bumming it in CA or snuggled up in the mountains in Minnesota. On either end of the weather spectrum, you could have certain concerns about the wear on the vehicle.
  • Maintenance records – See if the previous owner kept and records of previous service trips for oil, air filters, tire rotations, etc. This will give you a little insight into the care given while they owned it.
  • General wear and tear – Look for rusted wheel casings (the part of the vehicle surrounding the tire) or worn-down seats/leather on the inside. Don’t just skim over it, you’ll be hopefully riding this baby for a while, so you want to be sure to get the most bang for your buck!

If you’re looking at this list and thinking, “Say, how on earth do I know what to look for when investigating the brakes or maintenance records?” No stress! When purchasing a used car, you can have your favorite mechanic or auto shop look at it first to give you a report of these basic parts and their current conditions.


To conclude, good mileage for a used car varies based on location. However, a solid starting point is around 12,000 – 15,000 miles per year. Using this number and additional factors like condition of important parts and maintenance records, you can find the car of your dreams and ride off into the sunset!

Do you have more questions about shopping for used cars? Share your questions on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and we’ll get them answered!

Madeline Klein is Say's Digital Content Producer. She graduated from the University of Missouri with a Bachelor of Journalism, emphasis in Strategic Communication. Her experience is in writing and digital media. Madeline loves using her creativity to write and design new and exciting pieces of work for Say!