Determining the average mileage per year for a car depends on who’s asking. One answer relates to standard mileage allowances for leases, warranties, and determining the value of a used car. Another answer, however, applies to the question of how many miles an average car is actually driven annually.
Vehicle leases are built around an annual mileage allowance. Most leases are structured around an annual allowance of 12,000 miles. Exceeding this annual mileage limit results in additional costs; usually in the ballpark of $.10 per mile. Auto warranties are also built around an average of 12,000 miles per year. For example, a warranty might be good for 3 years/36,000 miles or 5 years/60,000 miles.
The 12,000 miles per year standard also applies when calculating used vehicle values. Cars exceeding an average of 12,000 per year have a reduced value, while cars with an average mileage of less than 12,000 miles per year have an increase in value.
Why is a car’s mileage such an important factor in determining its value? The mileage of a vehicle is widely considered to be an indicator of its mechanical age. The more miles a car has been driven, the greater the chance that certain parts or systems will need repair or replacement. Someone looking to purchase a used car, however, should check the vehicle’s repair history carefully whenever it is available. If certain components of the car have already been repaired or replaced, this could negate the reduced value due to high mileage and actually increase the vehicle’s value.
Total miles, though, are not always the whole story. Many believe that where the miles occur is a key factor. Highway miles, for example, are thought to be less damaging to a vehicle than city miles. Stops and starts are responsible for a majority of the wear and tear on a vehicle’s mechanical systems, and highway driving typically involves fewer stops and less hard acceleration. In most cases, highway surfaces are smoother and less damaging to vehicles as well.
While the 12,000 miles per year average applies to many aspects of car ownership, not everyone believes it to be accurate. With the number of Canadians who live in suburbs and commute to cities, some believe the annual average mileage for most cars is closer to 18,000-20,000 miles per year. If, for example, someone lives 30 miles from their workplace and commutes five days per week for the full year, that equals 15,600 miles per year for commuting miles alone. Add to that just 100 miles per week for personal use, and the average quickly increases to the 20,000 mile mark.
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