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What You Need to Know About High-Mileage Cars

BY: Andrew Giorgi
High mileage truck

High mileage cars used to be considered a rarity on the road, but that has changed now that America’s average vehicle is 12 years old. The secret to keeping a used car in prime condition for longer has less to do with the number on the odometer and more with regular maintenance and breakdown protection. 

If you’re someone who’s planning on purchasing a high-mileage vehicle or looking to maintain one properly, then there is regular maintenance that you should do to keep your car in top shape.

With over 20 years of automotive experience, I’ve helped thousands of drivers feel confident on the road—especially for those who own an older car. Keep reading to see everything you need to know about high-mileage cars and used extended warranty options


What is Considered High-Mileage?

On average, drivers put up to 15,000 miles on their car per year while high-mileage vehicles exceed that amount. If you heavily rely on your car, you most likely use it daily for both short and long commutes. 

Is Owning a High-Mileage Vehicle Bad?

Although owning a high-mileage vehicle isn’t bad, they typically require special attention since they’ve experienced wear and tear from previous owners.

Before purchasing a new vehicle, you can request a Carfax report, also considered a vehicle history report, to see any major repairs the previous owner handled. You may also want to take it for a test drive to see if everything functions properly while in-use. 

You can also visit any ASE-certified repair shop owner to check out the vehicle and highlight anything that can result in a breakdown soon.

Requesting maintenance records can also provide a good idea of what’s been done to the vehicle and how often. If you’re looking to purchase a certain high-mileage vehicle but the previous owner failed to get regular oil changes, then it may be best to look at other options. 

Once you find the right vehicle for you, you’ll need regular maintenance more than ever to ensure everything is running properly. Seeing as maintenance can quickly add up, it’s best to have a plan in place to cover costs or invest in a protection plan which offers maintenance coverage, like EnduranceAdvantage™


What Problems Can Come from Higher Mileage Cars?

Like any vehicle, you’ll be required to get oil changes, annual tire rotations, and replace essential components like brake pads. Here’s a rough idea of what you can expect once reaching a certain mileage, but refer to your owner’s manual for additional information.

90,000 Mile-Mark

  • Hoses – There are various hoses in your car used to carry coolant and power steering fluid. You can expect the rubber to early signs of wear and tear that needs attention at this point in your car’s lifetime. Leaks can cause major problems, so check your hoses are in good shape and change them wherever necessary.
  • Power steering fluid – Over time, power steering fluid can break down or become contaminated. Not only does this make your steering less responsive, but it can also accelerate the wear of various parts. Because of this, it’s recommended that you flush and replace the power steering fluid approximately every 75,000 miles.
  • Ignition system – Good-quality iridium or titanium spark plugs need replacing around the 90,000-mile mark. Be careful to replace like-for-like, as cheaper spark plugs can last as little as 30,000. Even after you’ve done this, other parts of your ignition system may start to fail. If you see a ‘check engine’ light on your dashboard, get a professional to diagnose the problem.
  • Timing belt – If your car uses a timing belt, you must get it replaced following your owner’s manual recommendation. Leave it too long, and the belt could fail, doing serious, terminal damage to your engine. If your vehicle uses a timing chain instead, you might want to get it inspected to be sure the links haven’t stretched, but it isn’t urgent.
  • Fuel filter – Consider replacing your fuel filter every 30,000 miles, so at this point, you may well be on to your third. Get a mechanic to test it first, though, as it may have some life left in it yet.
  • Shocks and struts – Around every 80,000 miles, shocks and struts will need to be replaced. If you often drive on bumpy or uneven surfaces, they’ll most likely need replacing much sooner.

120,000 Mile-Mark

  • Belt tensioner – Your timing belt should still be in good shape, but the belt tensioner may not. Over time, the spring inside the tensioner will loosen, allowing the belt to jump around. This can damage your belt prematurely, so make sure your tensioner is in order.
  • Exhaust system – A malfunctioning exhaust can lead to other parts of the car overheating, causing more damage and driving down your potential mileage. If you hear any unusual noises coming from this area, or smell fumes, get it checked out straight away.
  • Body and undercarriage – Rust is one of the worst culprits in parts failing before their time. Frequent checks are always advised, but having your undercarriage rust-proofed regularly is the real key to protecting the longevity of your car. It’s just as important to keep the body in good condition to prevent corrosion below.
  • Car battery – Batteries are built to last 4-5 years, which works out at about 60,000 miles. If this is your second battery, you should already know the signs of a dying one, so get it replaced as soon as you start to notice them.
  • Brake pads and rotors – Brake pads and rotors also come to the end of their lives around the 50,000 to 60,000-mile mark. As far as maintenance is concerned, brake pads should be a straight swap. With brake rotors, you generally have the option to replace them or grind them down until they’re smooth again.
  • O2 sensors – At 120,000 miles, your vehicle has burned through a lot of fuel. This combustion results in byproducts that can accumulate on oxygen sensors and reduce their effectiveness. Get them replaced every 60,000 miles for optimum performance.

180,000 Mile-Mark

  • Headlights – Your headlights are probably looking a little rough around the edges this far in. The light adjusters may not be as effective as they once were, and the headlight lens will most likely have yellowed. It would help if you had these looked at for safety reasons alone.
  • Mass airflow sensor (MAF) – Even with regular filter changes, at this point, your MAF will be contaminated and less efficient. Cleaning it will bring it back up to par and improve your fuel economy.
  • The A/C – Like most things, the performance of your A/C deteriorates over time as individual parts wear. Debris can also build up between the condenser and radiator, further preventing the system from functioning properly.
  • Seals – Everything within your vehicle must be totally airtight, as it’s never long before a leak leads to breakdown. Seals on axles and driveshafts need particular attention, and they should be inspected regularly—especially once you’ve passed the 180,000-mile mark.
  • Brake lines – As you near 200,000 miles, you need to check your brake lines frequently. If weak spots begin to appear, they’ll need to be replaced immediately. Smoother acceleration (rather than starting and stopping sharply) can help these last longer.

Is There an Extended Warranty for Cars Over 100k Miles?

Some extended warranty providers only cover up to a certain mileage, which oftentimes excludes vehicles with over 100,000-miles on the odometer. 

Endurance offers personalized coverage that offers breakdown protection for high and low-mileage vehicles. From Select Premier to EnduranceAdvantage, you can find the right coverage for you that ensures you’re protected against major repairs and provides everyday driving benefits.

High-Mileage Extended Warranty Options for You

If you currently own a high-mileage vehicle or looking to purchase a used vehicle, the best thing you can do is invest in an extended warranty that offers breakdown protection while keeping up with regular maintenance. 

This will not only keep your car in the best shape over its lifespan, but you’ll also have a team of experts with you every step of the way. Endurance extended warranty coverage offers you the most comprehensive protection package on the market. 

Select a plan to meet your coverage needs and budget—then, whichever one you choose, you’ll get 24/7 roadside assistance, substitute transport, plus trip-interruption costs if you have a breakdown away from home. 

On top of that, you get one year of Endurance Elite Benefits for just a small activation fee, giving you access to a host of other great everyday driver benefits. Request a free, no-obligation quote today.

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