Milestones That Affect Used Car Prices

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The odometer can play an important role in the price of a car. Whether you're buying or selling, here are the marks to pay attention to.

You probably know that new cars lose thousands of dollars in value as you drive them off the lot. That’s why we often recommend buying used cars, so somebody else takes the initial depreciation hit.

It turns out the first few miles aren’t the only time the odometer affects a car’s value. Edmunds.com highlighted three other turning points in a car’s life that affect its price. They’re worth knowing whether you’re buying or selling, and pretty easy to remember — every 35,000 or so miles.

A car’s factory warranty usually expires after three years or 36,000 miles, Edmunds says. This is also when cars usually need major servicing on parts that wear out like brakes and tires.

Clever sellers may look to get rid of the car a few thousand miles before this threshold, and wary buyers should check that the maintenance has been done or that those upcoming costs are factored into the price.

The next milestone is between 60,000 and 70,000 miles, when another major service visit — often more expensive than the first — is needed. “This is particularly true of cars that have timing belts, which coordinate the turning of the pistons and the camshaft,” Edmunds says.

After that, 100,000 is the next number to dread. While cars these days are built to last well past that mark, Edmunds says, the conventional wisdom remains that cars with more than 100,000 miles are bad news. It’s also a cutoff used by at least one used car search site, which can make it more difficult for buyers to find such a car, let alone make an offer on it.

Stacy Johnson

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