How many miles should a new car have?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jan 01, 1991

Dear Tom and Ray:

We just bought a new 1991 car. We then realized that it had 184 miles on it. Is a car with 184 miles considered a new car, or with that many miles, would it be used?

TOM: The question isn't whether it's used, Pam, but whether it's been AB-used.

RAY: Right. There's no exact mileage that distinguishes a new car from a used car, but in my opinion, a brand new car should have less than ten miles on it. If your new car comes with 184 miles, you have every right to refuse delivery.

TOM: What probably happened in your case was that your dealer didn't have the brown car with the purple and yellow plaid interior that you wanted. So he found one at a dealership about 180 miles away. If you take a map and a compass and draw a circle 180 miles from where you live, you can probably pinpoint the dealership that your car came from.

RAY: Then you can apply this formula: Distance = Rate X Time. Divide 180 miles by one hour and fifteen minutes, and that'll tell you how fast some sixteen-and-a-half-year-old kid drove your car to get it here.

TOM: The kid may or may not have set a new land speed record in your car, but the problem is that there's really no way for you to know. And those first few hundred miles are so crucial to the proper break-in of the engine, that you shouldn't trust anyone else to do it. In fact, most manufacturers tell you to stay below 50 mph for the first 1000 miles.

RAY: So we suggest that when you take delivery of a new car, you get one with less than ten miles on the odometer. There are several things you can do to make sure this happens. The easiest is to buy a car right off the lot. If they don't have the one you want, you can order one from the factory and wait for it.

TOM: If your car isn't on the lot, and you can't wait, you could insist that a car be trucked in from an??other dealership by car-carrier. That's how the cars are delivered from Detroit (the 16 year old kids there don't get out of school early enough to make all the deliveries). If you want your car trucked, however, you'll probably have to pay for the trucking yourself.

RAY: Another option is to pay for the car, then go to the other dealership and pick it up yourself. That way, if it's abused on the way back, at least you'll know who did it.

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