Buying and Selling

What’s more important when buying a used car – mileage or age?

When you’re in the market for a second hand car, there are two main factors that have a major effect on pricing - mileage and age.

Generally, the older the car is, the cheaper it becomes. Similarly, a car with higher mileage tends to cost less than one that has accumulated significantly fewer kilometres.

But what happens when you compare a three-year-old car with 100,000km on the clock, to a seven-year-old car that’s covered just 30,000km? In other words, if you're buying a car, should you be more concerned about the distance it’s covered or its age?

Ideally, you want to find the right balance between age and mileage so, in situations like this, it’s definitely worth looking into other factors such as a vehicle’s servicing and ownership history before handing over your hard-earned cash.


When buying a used car, mileage should be an important factor in your decision, but while a car with high mileage has probably had its fair share of wear and tear, there’s also a chance that it’s been looked after properly. So, if you come across a car with a few extra kilometres on the odometer, don’t discount it immediately.

Also, bear in mind that low mileage isn’t always a good thing, especially if a vehicle has been parked up over long periods of time without use, as vehicles are designed to be used - not using your vehicle on a regular basis can actually cause damage.

For example, if the brake callipers or wheel cylinders aren’t being used frequently, then they can seize. Lack of use can also affect a car’s rubber and plastic components – features like automotive hoses, tyres and dashboards – causing them to become dry and brittle.

You should always do your homework and find out a little more about the vehicle’s past life. Was it casually driven to the local shops on a weekly basis, driven regularly near a coastal area, or has it been sitting in a garage gathering dust? Once you have those answers, you can start to determine if you’re looking at a car that’s worth buying.

If the vehicle has recently been imported, it would also pay to check if it has undergone an odometer inspection to avoid any nasty surprises further down the road. Although it’s not so common nowadays, there have been cases in the past where exporters have wound back the odometer to earn a few extra dollars.

If the car is a used import, look for the AA Odometer Verified sticker on the front windscreen. The AA conducts odometer inspections on second hand cars before they leave the port with odometer verification partners Japan Export Vehicle Inspection Center (JEVIC), Bordercheck and Jacanna.

If the vehicle has been registered in New Zealand, an AA Vehicle History Report will give you the information you need to buy with confidence.


While mileage is important, age is another aspect to consider during your search for a car.

Many of us live in environments that are a just stone’s throw from the sea and, over time, salty air combined with strong coastal winds can wreak havoc on the body of a vehicle – especially if it’s not kept in a garage.

If you’re looking at a slightly older car, then keep your eyes peeled for obvious signs of corrosion, particularly around the areas which are trickier to see, such as hinges, latch panels and roof gutters.  

It also pays to consider if a vehicle is an ex-fleet or lease car. Although these cars have a few more kilometres on the dash, they’re generally later models that have been looked after correctly and hold a detailed service history. The majority are NZ new and they are one of the rare sources that may still have vehicles available with a manual transmission - something that’s becoming harder to find on the NZ used car market.

Do your research

While the age and mileage of a car is important, it goes without saying that they aren’t the only factors that should be considered during the decision making process for buying a used car.

The only way to really understand what you’re getting into is by doing the ground work. Dig a little further beyond the facts and figures provided to achieve a better understanding of the vehicle’s history.

Always take the vehicle for an extended road test, and remove any doubts with an AA Pre Purchase Inspection. Vehicle inspections can resolve any concerns, helping you buy your car with confidence.

While age and mileage of a car is no doubt paramount, it's the maintenance and upkeep of a car that is equally as important.

AA Preferred Dealers

For that extra peace of mind, the AA recommend that anyone looking to buy a used car visits an AA Preferred Dealer. The series of checks on used cars gives drivers peace of mind that the used car they’re interested in buying isn’t hiding any secrets.

For more information on AA Preferred Dealers visit

Find out more about how the AA can help when buying a used car:

Vehicle experts you can trust

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