Tips for buying a car with 60k "highway miles".

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jan 01, 1993

Dear Tom and Ray:

I know that one year to a human is like seven years to a dog. But how many highway miles equal a city mile? A local used car dealer has several 1990 Dodge Dynasty fleet cars for sale, all with about 60,000 quote--highway miles--on them. How can I tell if I'm getting a dog in a high mileage car?

TOM: Great questions, Greg. First of all, to find out if you're buying a dog, check the nameplate on the back of the car. My 1963 Dodge Dart lost a "D" and an "E" over the years, and now it actually spells "DO G!"

RAY: And how many highway miles equal a city mile? Well, Paul Murky, of Murky Research?? has done extensive testing at Lawrence Liverwurst Laboratories, and after many years of painstaking research, he has determined that the exact ratio is 1.8372:1.

TOM: C'mon, Greg. Did you really expect that we'd have a actual number for you? But we can tell you that highway miles are better than city miles. When you drive on the highway, you do a lot less starting and stopping. You do a lot less turning. You (usually) go over fewer potholes and run over fewer supermarket carts.

RAY: And those are the things that make cars get old fast. All that rough treatment. All that jerky, bouncy driving.

TOM: So in principle, a car with 60,000 highway miles should be in much better shape than a car with 60,000 city miles. But here's the problem: How do you know they're highway miles? Do you believe the salesman?? What do you expect him to say? It's got 60,000 of the roughest inner city miles any car has ever experienced, and was driven exclusively by a 16 year old Domino's Pizza Driver?

RAY: So our advice is always the same when it comes to used cars. Pay a mechanic you trust to do a thorough, independent inspection before you buy anything. And in particular, have him check for signs that the car was in an accident.

TOM: It may be a great deal, Greg. But we wouldn't take anybody's word for it, and you shouldn't either. Get it checked out. Good luck.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One