Evaluating Mileage vs. Age: Which should weigh more heavily in your purchasing decision?

The debate as to which is more important in gauging the value, performance, and potential longevity of any used van can never be complete without some discussion of mileage vs. age. Is it better to have a newer vehicle that has been heavily used and covered lots of miles or an older one with less on the clock? In this article, we will take a look in greater detail at both sides of the debate and offer any tips and guidance we have learned over many years in the industry, putting together superb used van finance offers

First things first, let’s clarify what we mean by some of the terms involved and how they might affect the value and performance of any working vehicle.


When we talk of mileage, we are referring to the number of miles the vehicle has driven since it came off the production line brand new. The main issue with higher mileage vehicles is the ‘wear and tear’ factor in moving parts. High mileage inevitably takes its toll on certain components of any vehicle, increasing the likelihood they will need to be replaced or fixed in the near future. As a general rule of thumb, high mileage tends to refer to a vehicle that has covered 100,000 miles or more, although diesel engines and larger-capacity engines can be expected to go significantly further. 


Perhaps even more influential on the useful, reliable lifespan of any vehicle is its age. Again, we are in the realm of needing repairs with older vehicles, even if they have covered fewer miles. However, technology and standards move quickly in the automotive industry, and vehicles that sailed through emissions tests 20 years ago will struggle to do so today, potentially incurring punitive taxes. Older engines are also much less likely to squeeze every drop of power out of the fuel, meaning higher running costs. 

Mileage vs. age

The idea that lower mileage is preferable in most cases can be hard to argue against but does not tell the whole story. The quality of the vehicle itself is a huge factor to take into account. If we are looking at a vehicle considered to be at the lower end of the scale, even when brand new, it is unlikely to survive the rigours of driving long distances as well as a vehicle at the other end of the scale. Therefore, we feel confident in making the following statement:

  • If two vehicles have equal mileage, the one that started life as the higher-quality machine is the more desirable and less likely to fail. 

There is, however, one caveat to this. If the higher quality vehicle is significantly older, the desirability comes almost in line with that of its newer, otherwise inferior competition. At the end of the day, vehicles are designed to be driven and do not fare well if left unused for extended periods. A car or van may have covered only 25,000 miles in its lifetime, but if it took 25 years to get there, it must have spent a lot of time sitting immobile. The parts of vehicles that self-lubricate as it is driven risk being damaged and engines have been known to clog up when left unused for too long. 

Contributing factors

The kind of miles the vehicle experienced is also a contributing factor, including:

  • Road surfaces
  • Driving conditions/style
  • Engine size
  • Service History

A van that has spent its life rattling along rutted, potholed-riddled site tracks and other poor surfaces will be in much worse shape than one that has simply sailed up and down the motorway every day. The constant stop/starts and gear changes of city traffic with lots of sharp turns all take their toll on vehicles, as does being driven hard and fast by individuals who accelerate and brake hard. This is where a full-service history can give you crucial information and perhaps indicate just how hard it has been driven in its lifetime. 

Key features to look for in older vehicles

  • Service/maintenance record 
  • Full MOT history
  • Low-cost starting price
  • Safety features

When buying older vehicles, pay close attention to the included safety equipment. Driver-assist technologies and other safety features have come on in leaps and bounds over recent years and can leave older vehicles far behind in terms of overall safety. Consider:

  • Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) – Preventing skidding under emergency braking
  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC) – Assists drivers with spin/slide recovery when control is lost
  • Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) – Systems that monitor the road and warn drivers of potential collisions, even applying the brakes automatically if required
  • Blind-spot monitoring – Alerting the driver to unseen vehicles

There are other useful features like automatic wipers and lights, parking cameras and cross-traffic alerts to consider so do your homework in advance. Decide what features you consider non-negotiable, and don’t entertain any vehicles that fall short.


There is only one real conclusion to be reached here and it is that the best-case scenario is a vehicle with a nice balance of age and mileage. Neither should be too drastic, and it is of scant benefit if one is exceptionally low while the other is staggeringly high. Spend some time to find a vehicle with some age to it that also has relatively low mileage and has not led the life of a tractor. 

Contact us

If this article has given you food for thought and it’s time to dig a little deeper, please consider getting in touch today. Our team of knowledgeable professionals here at Used Van Finance Deals are ready and waiting to assist you and offer any honest advice and guidance you need.