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Buying a used car is a lot more complicated than buying a new one. You can quickly judge a car’s life by looking at its odometer, however, there are numerous other things to look out for when buying a second hand vehicle; especially one with high mileage.

While most issues can be identified by a trusty mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection, they can take time and unless your mechanic is a friend, they’ll charge for the service too. Here are a few things you can do yourself to identify some big problems.


One of the biggest worries about a high-mileage vehicle is the odometer rollback. This is where the seller rolls back the odometer of the car indicating a lower mileage than the car really has. This is especially worrisome for cars that already have high-mileage because the vehicle in question could potentially have an incredibly high number of miles on it.

Some argue that digital odometers have helped reduce the risk of odometer rollback, but that’s not necessarily true.

“It still does happen but it is risky because Carfax and CarProof all record mileage now,” Said Lou Trottier, Technician and Owner of All About Imports. “The paper trail wins in this case because it keeps people honest by fear of getting caught.”

According to Trottier, the biggest asset when buying a high mileage vehicle is getting the right papers. Asking for a Carfax or service booklet and looking at the mileage of the vehicle during its maintenance intervals can be a great help.

“If a used car has all the service history and owner history, that’s a huge bonus,” said Trottier. If you have these, it should help put you at ease. Service history can help identify if oil change intervals were performed on time, and what type of oil was used. A properly cared for car should last longer than one which has a spotty service history, so make sure to look for gaps of time or mileage when servicing, or when oil changes were performed.
Check out the rest of our tips on buying a high-mileage used vehicle!

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Before you buy, have it examined by a dealer or other trusted shop of your choosing. Having an unbiased 3rd opinion on the vehicle's overall condition can find all sorts of things you may have missed during your initial inspection.

If you do buy it, follow BMW's recommended service requirements.

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In the height of COVID, I bought a '93 F-150 4WD 5.8L extended cab, 6.5' bed. Rust & Rot free, I paid $3K (typically, in my area, these are selling for $10-15K (in worse shape than when I bought it...)

Mechanics were either not working, or because new cars at lots were empty, backed-up.

My truck sat at a friend's shop for months until I brought her home.

Wound up doing $4K worth of work in parts alone myself.

If you are buying a high mileage used car, get ready to do work yourself. Even if you have a good mechanic, they DO NOT CARE as much about your car as you do. AND, ONE THING BECOMES FOUR.

CASE IN POINT - Fuel tank selector switch was broken and hanging behind the instrument panel. Replaced the instrument panel, while I have the panel apart, I see the 4WD switch socket was cracked, presenting the issue of shaking loose off road. I can gurantee you MOST mechanics would have plugged the socket back in, half-broken. Here I am, with a critical part, splicing and crimping wires for the first time ever, just so I can be sure my switch is working. You learn quick :)

I always thought I had lots of tools.... Turns out, I had zero mechanics tools outside of some wrenches and sockets... Well, let's just say, I had the WRONG tools for mechanic work.... Thank goodness for next day delivery online...

Oh, and non OEM parts are garbage... Learned the hard way with a water neck and spark plugs... Nah, I did not just do one tune-up, I did two, back-to-back, on the same car, due to Chinese crap. LESSON LEARNED: Buy MOPAR on a Dodge, buy MOTORCRAFT on a FORD.

If Amazon says it fits, check the specs. Lesson? Reach was off, so after my first tune up ever (plugs, wires, caps, distributor), I learned what a mis-fire was. Back into the driveway, off to Advanced, bought Motorcraft plugs, replaced them again (hope you have small hands with the stupid EGR valve against the passenger-side plugs), fire her up, and sweet Detroit :)

Oh, yeah, the water neck. Chinese-knock off company decided to add a plug with a bolt on the top of the water neck, serving no other purpose. When they set the bolt, they used ZERO tape or dope, so under load, guess what happens to anti-freeze and the bolt? Some boils out....

Another bloody drain of coolant, remove bolt, seal with pipe dope, re-install. Burp for f'ing system for the thousandth time it seem, clean drive way, make sure no antifreeze is left and bambi lives... Pre-mixed crap is about $30 / gallon... Guess I do not need to flush my system is the saving grace...

Don't buy Chinese crap.

I will tell ya'll... Royal Purple oil and WIX XP filters are, no joke, legit..... My F-150 ran synthetic, but after a change to RP, totally different car. Worth looking into, IMO.

I will climb off my box now...
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