Literally, mileage is the distance traveled in miles. In automotive parlance, it’s the number of miles a car has traveled or can travel on a given quantity of fuel. For simplicity, always remember, mileage comprises of 2 words: ‘mile’ and ‘age’. It’s measured by an odometer: the counter on your dashboard which reveals the distance this car has traveled, often in miles (and in some cars, in kilometers). The good thing about mileage is that it gives you a snapshot of how far a car has traveled since it was manufactured (if the odometer has never been reset or rolled back). This is supposed to be one of the indicators of how barely or very used a car has been. The problem really is that most people use mileage as the only determinant of how good the car they are buying (or selling) is.
In many countries around the world, including UK, US and Nigeria, one of the most common crimes, is odometer rollback (busting miles as it’s known in UK). Odometer rollback is the use of certain criminal techniques to reduce the mileage of a car. This creates the false impression of a car that’s not far gone in usage.
At MyNaijaCars, we get a lot of calls requesting for details of a car and the most often asked -especially by women- is “what is the mileage?” and when you respond enthusiastically with what you believe is a realistic mileage, you hear “I’m sorry, that’s too high”. There’s nothing wrong with running away from high mileages, it’s just necessary however to know what is high and what’s questionably low for a car of a certain year.
The average number of miles a car should have done in a year ranges between 10,000 to 14,000 miles. This doesn’t mean it can be a bit less or much more, it’s just the normal average. It thus means that a car manufactured in 2004 with a mileage of 72,000 by 2010, has a very reasonable mileage. There is certainly the likelihood of seeing same car with a mileage of 100,400miles. In such a case, it would help to verify if this car has been travelled often with. Were this to be the case, then such highway mileages are fine. It is however unrealistic and possibly dangerous to be out looking for a car that was manufactured in year 2000 with a mileage of 47,000miles in 2016. From our experience, this is a very common expectation in Nigeria. What this leads most car dealers to do is rollback the odometer to ‘meet the need’ of these clients.
The major consequence of very high mileages is that most parts of the engine and transmission would have duly served and would require replacements. Where regular maintenance has taken care of that, high mileages become the proverbial case of “age is just a number”. It would benefit you more to find a 2007 car with a mileage of 137,000 miles yet has been serviced at every 5,000 miles, than a car of same year with a mileage of 69,000miles that only visits the mechanic when there is a major problem. The problem with the latter is that it is a time bomb, waiting to explode, mileage regardless.
We are definitely not against low mileages, we are only hopeful that you are not beguiled into buying a ‘dead’ car just because the mileage appears low and the body looks neat. This won’t get you going when the car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. What you need is to find a car with a reasonably low mileage, functional engine parts and a service/maintenance history, whether or not the mileage is impressively low. To verify true mileages, do a VIN check for cars that were sourced from countries like USA and Canada and this might help you verify the truth about the mileage on the dashboard.
When next you are shopping for a car, please look beyond the low mileage as by now you know that not only is it not a true indicator of the state of an engine, but fraudulent car dealers know that many people are ignorant of odometer rollback and as such, take advantage of that to deceive you into a bad deal. Beware!!!