Buyer Tips Used Cars

4 Car Mileage Reading and How it Affects Buying a Used Car

By Daisy Emah-Emah Updated: 07/26/2022 Posted: 05/27/2021

When planning to buy a vehicle, would you consider an odometer reading of 150,000 – 200, 000 a good deal? With wholesale auctions, car mileage is a super important factor to consider when planning to buy a used car. Especially if you are one to get carried away by the look and feel of the car.

For first-time buyers, an odometer is an instrument that measures the total distance a vehicle has traveled. Before purchasing a used vehicle, you need to check the type of odometer reading. There are different odometer types of reading which you will find on the vehicle’s title.



Understanding Car Mileage and Odometer

Car mileage is the distance covered by the vehicle since it was manufactured which is usually between 12,000miles to 19,000 miles yearly. If it is higher than this, it is considered high. You can check your mileage by reading your odometer. 


You should expect to replace some components of your vehicle if you purchase a high mileage vehicle. Automatic transmission failure is likely to occur when the mileage reaches 100,000 miles and will require a change.

Components like the timing belt, water pump, the fuel pump may need routine replacement when you purchase high mileage vehicles.  Most of these components have a lifetime usage often measured by how far the vehicle has traveled i.e, mileage. 


If you are looking to sell off a vehicle to be able to purchase another, your vehicle’s mileage/odometer reading is likely to affect the resale value and maintenance cost of the vehicle. This will likely influence how much a potential buyer is willing to offer for the vehicle. Vehicles with higher mileage are much cheaper than those with lower mileage. Don’t get your hopes up if you are selling an old car. 


But if you are buying, then you are in luck. Oftentimes, high mileage means less competition and as such lower prices and vice versa.



Car Mileage Fraud

Sometimes odometer recordings are incorrect due to wrong reading or fraud. Odometer fraud occurs when sellers try to sell faulty used vehicles. Before buying a used vehicle it is advisable to download the vehicle’s history report (VIN). The vehicle history report contains information such as sales/ownership, accident/damage history, title, service records, mileage, etc. 


A vehicle’s mileage is documented overtime during state inspections, state registrations, service appointments, or when there is a change in ownership. With the vehicle history report, you can compare the mileage on the odometer reading and that of the vehicle report. 

One thing you also want to be watchful for is odometer rollback or mileage fraud. 


Car mileage fraud occurs when there is a rolling back of the odometer by sellers to reduce the mileage in order to get higher prices. The history report can also indicate if there is a possibility that the odometer has been tampered with. 


This report will help you detect odometer fraud because it will have a record of all readings in the vehicle’s lifespan. If you have doubts about a vehicle’s odometer reading, the VIN report will confirm this for you.   


Wholesale auction listings try to assist buyers in understanding the mileage/odometer readings of vehicles. It is not uncommon to see the following beside readings in vehicle listings at wholesale auctions.




Types of Car Mileage or Odometer Reading on Title

1. Actual (A) 

This is the exact travel distance of the vehicle as seen on the odometer. It can be in miles or kilometers. When this is recorded on the vehicle’s title it means there are no discrepancies with the reading. 


2. Exempt (O) 

Most states in the US, have passed laws to agree with the Federal Odometer Act. This law exempts vehicles that are 10 years and above from reporting mileage at the time of sale. 

A used vehicle marked “exempt” it means that the vehicle is 10 years or older and its mileage isn’t reliable. 

For all of these reasons, most states, have passed laws to coincide with the Federal Odometer Act. The law exempts cars 10 years or older from the requirement of having mileage reported at the time of sale. 

When a car is sold in this scenario, the mileage is marked on the title as EXEMPT. This is simply stating that the car has been around too long to reliably verify its mileage.


3. Not Actual (N)

This means that the reading on the odometer is not the actual mileage because the distance the vehicle has traveled is not known. This reading doesn’t reflect the actual mileage. The title will have “Not Actual” in the odometer reading and this affects the resale value of the vehicle. 

Not knowing the vehicle’s actual mileage could be because the odometer has a malfunction or was replaced. It could also mean that the vehicle’s owner has no knowledge of the vehicle’s mileage. 


Further Reading

  1. 5 Helpful Sites you Need to Check Before Buying a Used Car Online
  2. How to Save Money While Driving your Car
  3. What to Look at When Buying Used Cars Online


4. Exceed Mechanical Limits (E)

If the vehicle’s title has this under the odometer reading, it means that the reading has reached the highest point mechanically available and has returned to one (1). 

The vehicle’s mileage cannot be determined by the odometer reading because may have turned. The odometer reading is not reliable because you may not know the number of times the reading has returned to 1. 

The vehicle title will have “Exceed” under the odometer reading which also affects the resale value of the vehicle. 


When buying a used vehicle it is important to ask to see the vehicle’s title and compare the mileage on it with that on the odometer. You can download the vehicle’s history report to check for discrepancies in the odometer reading for a fee. 


How high or low a vehicle’s mileage is will usually affect the demand for the vehicle. In turn the final purchase price of the vehicle. Understanding the mileage is key to getting a good deal, avoiding a lemon, and understanding your possible maintenance cost.