At What Mileage Do Cars Start To Have Problems?


If you have been to Target, Homegoods, or TJ Maxx any time in the last few years, you have probably seen one of those cheesy signs that says something along the lines of “time and tide wait for no man”.

Considering Chaucer lived about 450 years before the first modern automobiles we can safely assume his famous quote did not apply to them. Chaucer’s famous quote quite literally means no one can stop the passage of time, therefore we should not delay in doing things, as time is scarce.

Obviously, we are not going to go into a deep philosophical dive on that (yet!!). But for our purposes, we can amend this quote slightly to kickstart this topic.

I propose we change his quote to “Time, tide, and vehicle breakdowns wait for no man”.

Simple enough?

But that does not answer the titular question: at what mileage does this start?

Assuming you are a mature adult who has a few too many grey hairs like I am, you probably grew up during the time where it was 100,000 miles or bust. Back in the day, my parents always told me that any vehicle with over 100,000 miles was just too much.

My grandparents said the same thing. They always traded their cars in as they approached 100,000 miles.

Maybe you have heard the same. But the truth is, there really is not one mileage threshold that you magically cross where your car starts having problems. While all else being equal, a car with more miles will most likely have more problems than the same car with fewer miles, that’s not the real world.

Let’s take a look at why.

Your Car’s Age, And Where It’s Driven Is Important

I’m going to go out on a limb and make a bold declaration: the age of your car has a bigger impact on the reliability than the mileage.

A 10-year-old car with only 100,000 miles can be far less reliable than a 5-year-old car with 200,000 miles. There are a few reasons for this. The first is what your car is made of.

While it’s easy to look at your car and think it’s mostly made of metal, underneath the hood is a ton of rubber and plastic, both of which break down over time. Belts, hoses, gaskets, weatherstrips, and your tires are just a few examples.

Rubber does not do well with temperature extremes, direct sunlight, dry air, and many chemicals. Unless you store and drive your car in a place with a mild climate, these rubber and plastic parts will break down over time. For example, a car parked outside in Phoenix is going to have a rough time as compared to a car that’s garaged and driven in Charlotte.

There are around 145 pounds of rubber distributed across nearly 200 individual parts in your car. These break down with time more so than with mileage.

But that’s just the rubber. The rest of your car, including the metal bits are plenty suseptible as well. If you have lived in New England you know just how damaging the winter is on your car. The combination of salt and snow can do a number on your undercarriage, especially if you park outside.

The longer your car is exposed to these conditions the worse the issue becomes.

City Miles Can Cause More Issues Than Highway Miles

City miles and highway miles affect your car in different way. When you are constantly stopping and starting during city driving, your car burns more fuel. City roads also tend to be rougher on account of the lower speeds which means your suspenion works harder to handle the bumps and potholes.

At highway speeds, your engine is constantly working and never at rest, while highways tend to be a smoother ride.

Highway miles are much easier on your car even though it might seem like exactly the opposite. The varying road conditions during city driving can do a number on your car, causing more wear and tear on your suspension, mounts, and other parts.

Stopping and starting is also taxing on your engine. An engine at cruising speed on the highway can run efficiently, whereas an engine that is driven through the city must rev up and down multiple times which can cause more wear and tear.

City driving is also challenging to a car because of all the potential issues that can occur when you own a vehicle in a large city. There are more cars on the road, which means more possibility for an accident. There are parallel parking spaces, which increases the potential for wheel damage, and regular parking lots, which means you’ll get the occasional door ding. And of course, there’s also vandalism and theft, two issues you won’t encounter on the highway.

All in all, no two miles are created equal. A vehicle with 150k highway miles may be less of a concern than one with 100k city miles.

How Often You Do Your Maintenance Also Plays A Big Role

Alright, you knew this one was coming.

Maintaince is critical. I won’t spend all day talking your ear off about the major benefits of getting frequent oil changes, or washing the road grime off after a week of snow and salt.

I have heard horror stories where a person bought a new car and drove it for almost 2 years (and 30,000 miles) with no oil change. The damage was already done by that point.

What I will tell you though, is your car will last longer if you do the maintaince. Today’s vehicles are increasingly more reliable. At my repair shop, we regularly see both foreign and domestic vehicles making it to 100,000-150,000 miles with no major repairs. Of course, these are also the same people who are coming in every 6 months to make sure their vehicles are always running in tip top shape.

At the end of the day, I’ll take a well maintained vehicle with 150,000 miles on it than a poorly maintained one with 75k.

Even if that 150k vehicle is a BMW.

Be Cautious With Anything Older Than 12-15 Years Or 150,000 Miles

Now that we have the variables out of the way, it’s time to dive deeper into what “problems” your car can run into as it ages and accumulates miles.

The truth is, what ends up being a problem will depend on you.

Tires, brakes, wiper blades, belts, ball joints, boots, and filters, for example, are often cited as having issues as your car gets up there in mileage, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

All of these parts are meant to wear down with time, and it’s completely normal to have to replace them.

At Protect My Car, we don’t consider anything to have a “problem” until a major repair happens. Think of a transmission or engine replacement, or small components such as sensors or the like failing frequently and unpredictably.

Taking a look at our internal data, most cars driven at around 15k miles a year make it to 150,000 miles with no major issues. Common fixes include air conditioning, suspension related issues, brakes, and occasionally some undercarriage rusting depending on the climate.

But, as these same vehicles cross between 175-200k miles the problems do start to pile up. It’s very common for domestic (and some foreign) vehicles to need a completely transmission or engine repair around this time. You can also expect some electrical issues, issues with the heater core, suspension, and other components like brake lines, your exhaust, and whatnot.

In my opinion, if you are planning on buying a car that’s more than 150,000 miles you need protection so you don’t end up paying an arm and a leg for repairs.

That’s where we come in.

It’s Important To Protect Your High Mileage Vehicle With A Vehicle Service Contract

It’s a fact that as your car ages and the miles start to pile up that it will break down. Chances are, if you stay on top of your maintaince you will be fine up until around 150-200k miles or so, but after that, major issues can and will happen at will.

The last thing you want is to be caught offguard when your vehicle needs a $2,164 transmission repair. I know a thing or two about that, and I can tell you it’s not much fun.

That’s where a vehicle service contract from Protect My Car comes in. A vehicle service contract from Protect My Car is like insurance that protects your from the high cost of repairs to your car. Insurance covers you for accidents, and a vehicle service contract covers you for break downs.

If you have a vehicle service contract with Protect My Car and your vehicle breaks down, your car repairs are covered. That includes reparing or replacing your engine, heater core, suspension components, brake components, electrical, air conditioning, and so much more.

If this sounds like something you are interested in, just fill out the form below and click “get quote” to get your free vehicle service assessment that will show you the common issues with your car, as well as how much you could save by having a vehicle service contract.

Don’t wait until your car breaks down, because by then, it’s too late!

About Protect My Car

Protect My Car is an extended auto warranty company. Our goal here at Protect My Car is to eliminate your worry of being financially responsible for an expensive mechanical breakdown. With our extended auto warranty, you don’t have to worry about being fully burdened with the cost of a covered repair.