capngrog

What is "Low Mileage"?

Recommended Posts

Recently there have been a couple of threads on this forum that discussed the "low mileage" of a particular car and how it enhanced the value of the car.  I did a search of the forum to determine if this question had been discussed before, but I was unable to find a similar thread.  I think that I understand that "low mileage" means different things for different cars: for example, "low mileage" for a 2010 SS-XXXX might be anywhere from 05 miles to 5,000 miles.  "Low mileage" for 1940 Ford might range from 5,000 miles to 20,000 miles (or more).  Is the term "low mileage" a totally subjective term based on the vintage of a car, or is there a more well defined definition of "low mileage" out there somewhere?

 

Once the claim of "low mileage" has been made for a particular car, how can it be reasonably verified by employing a visual inspection only?  Since "low mileage" seems to command a premium price, it would be important to be able to verify (within certain limits) "low mileage" status.  In another thread, several suggestions were made on how to verify the "low mileage" status of a vehicle, and these suggestions included the following:

  1. Foot control pedal wear;
  2. Scratches on retractable windows;
  3. Seat upholstery wear;
  4. Tire wear;
  5. Scratches on door sills;
  6. Pitting of chrome;
  7. Windshield pitting;
  8. Rust/corrosion of the undercarriage;
  9. Accumulated "crud" on the engine;
  10. Low speedometer reading (this can be easily altered on older cars);
  11. Carpet wear at the accelerator base;
  12. I'm sure there are many more that can be suggested by folks who are more knowledgeable than myself.

 

Given the above (and other) mileage "tells", can they and others be repaired/refurbished/detailed to reflect a bogus "low mileage" status?  For example, the difference in wear between a 500 mile care and a 5,000 mile car could be relatively easily erased by rolling back the odometer and detailing/refurbishing certain wear points.

 

My guess as to an answer to the question posed by this thread is that it is a subjective definition that can only be established as true for a certain vehicle by inspection performed by a very knowledgeable person.  As "they" say, "let the buyer beware".

 

Cheers,

Grog

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Who was the person on here that had the tag line "If your not going to drive it you should collect clocks" ?  I totally agree with this statement. To buy a car of any type just to look at it in a garage is in my mind a crime against this great hobby.  That person would be better off just going to a car show or someones collection if all they want to do is look. Just my .02 worth. 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

average mileage for annual driving when these old cars were new was no more than 10,000 miles per year. i remember being so car happy when my dad bought me a 1962 impala in 1972, i drove it 10,000 miles in the first six months that i had it. when i bought my 1953 pontiac chieftain custom catalina in 1973 from it's original owners, it had 113,000 miles on the odometer, about 5,600 miles per year then. 

 

charles l. coker

1953 pontiac tech advisor

tech advisor coordinator

pontiac oakland club int'l.

53 2537sd with factory ac 002.JPG

53 2537sd with factory ac 010.JPG

53 2537sd with factory ac 009.JPG

santa monica 1973 001.JPG

santa monica 1973 002.JPG

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Larry I would pay more for a 79 vett with 20,000 miles than I would for one with 2000 that hasn’t been driven in 40+ years. It’s a shame your parents haven’t had the joy of driving that car. I would bet it needs a complete engine, trans, fuel system and brake rebuild before it could be put back on the road. Cars are meant to be driven. I’m not trying to scold you or be an ass I just hate seeing something like this happen. Maybe some day it will be yours to have the fun of rebuilding it and getting it back on the road. 

Edited by SC38DLS (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The car will go to either my brother or sister.  I would doubt that it would need a complete rebuild but it would need the fuel system completely gone through from the carb jets to the fuel tank filler. Then the brakes would need to be checked and all of the fluids replaced / checked.

 

My wife has hers (ours), a '76 with about 70,000 miles. We bought it 40 years ago as a wedding present to ourselves.  We used to drive it more years ago, but since we got the '15 Buick truck we drive it more than the Corvette.

Edited by Larry Schramm (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It’s great a car like that will stay in the family. I would worry about all the seals being dried out. Hopefully I’m completely wrong. A picture of it would be neat to see. 

Sounds like your wife and yourself have enjoyed your vet and the truck. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I bought my first Reatta that had averaged less then 6,ooo miles a hyear. Now at 29 years that total average is a bit less then 10,000 miles per year. I bought it to drive and drive it I am...

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Let us not forget to mention a frame off restoration where not only is the car total redone but the engine is rebuilt. In this case the restorer typically resets the ODO at zero once complete. Done right I would say those are true miles. It accurately represents wear and tear on all components which is what mileage is all about.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I remember that several years ago, well known author

Tim Howley wrote an editorial for the Lincoln and Continental

Owners' Club about the pitfalls of low-mileage cars.

He pointed out, as some of the above members have,

that a car often has low mileage because it was stored

for a long time, and usually not stored well.  When it is 

finally brought out of storage and sold, it looks beautiful,

but all sorts of things are likely to go wrong.  So he advised

not to put so much emphasis on the low mileage of a car.

 

A dealer friend of mine advised that "low mileage" collector

cars were worth 10% to 20% more, in his experience, but

they certainly weren't a gold mine.

 

Yes, Mr. Grog, low mileage is a relative term.

A point which I noticed:  Cars of the 'Teens and 'Twenties

were not driven nearly as much as cars of later years:

Roads were usually dirt, and few people made long trips.

Therefore, it's COMMON to find an early car with 20,000 or so miles.

Edited by John_S_in_Penna (see edit history)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Our all-original 1937 Buick Roadmaster Phaeton (Convertible Sedan) 80C came to us around 2009 with slightly over 7,000 miles. She did require attention to all safety items as well as the fuel system. We have shown her and she has been awarded AACA HPOF and HPOF ORIGINAL recognition. We've also driven her on several national tours and passed 13,000 miles earlier this month.

1937 Buick at St Bernard - right rear.JPG

1937 Buick at St Bernard - front.JPG

1937 Buick at St Bernard - right front.JPG

1937 Buick Front Left Quarter.JPG

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Marty;

 

How were you able to confirm the low mileage status of your car as opposed, for example, an expert restoration done in the '70s or '80s?  I would imagine that a beautiful rare car like your 1937 Buick Roadmaster Phaeton would have excellent documentation.  What sort of documentation would one look for to document extremely low mileage in a 72 year old (at the time of your purchase) car?  By the way, I like the way you have put her back on the road.

 

Cheers,

Grog

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, old car fan said:

We have a 57 Buick with 5800 actual miles,i would invite anyone to contest it.

 

How would you prove to a prospective buyer that your 60 year old car had been driven an average of just under 100 miles per year?  I would think that a combination of documentation and a car in excellent (nearly new) condition would be required.  What sort of documentation do you have?  By the way, I'm not contesting the low mileage of your car, I'm just genuinely interested in the overall "Low Mileage" status part of our hobby.  It seems that some folks really value a "low mileage" vehicle and are willing to pay big buck$ for such a vehicle. 

 

True "low mileage" usually equals excellent condition in my opinion, and I believe that the over all desirability of an older vehicle is predicated upon: "Condition, Condition, Condition".  Maybe that's the heart of the "low mileage" question:unsure:

 

For example, at one time I owned a 1938 Chevrolet Master Deluxe with under 10,000 miles on the odometer.  The car was 75 years old when I bought it and appeared to be in excellent condition for a car of its age; however, there was no documentation with the car so I was unable to prove "low mileage" status when I eventually sold the car.  I had carefully examined the car and had friends (who were more knowledgeable) also look her over.  We all agreed that it was a low mileage car, but without documentation or knowledge of the history of the car, I was unable to confirm low mileage status.  With all of that said, although I considered the car to be in excellent condition, its exterior paint was rough, so it was a true survivor, but not a real show car.

 

Cheers,

Grog

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was just noticing that my '60 Electra is approaching 90,000 miles. I bought it in '02 with 69,000 on it. If the old thing rolls over 100,000 miles I may drive it less.

 

Ever hear the story about Sam, the used car lot owner, who went back to Italy for a visit to the family? His Uncle Tony had a Fiat with 120,000 miles on it and he asked Sam to roll the clock back so he could sell it. Sam put it back to 55,000 for him.

Sam called from the US when he knew they were all together celebrating Christmas. He got his Uncle on the phone and asked how he made out with the sale of the Fiat. Tony replied "Sell! It only has 55,000 miles on it. I haven't even come close to getting my money's worth. It is a great car!"

 

What is mileage in the grand scheme of things? It is all relative, anyway. Like Uncle Tony and Uncle Al.

Einstein1.jpg

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, zipdang said:

I'm interested in hearing a response to capngrog's original query.

 

 I think Pontiac53 said it best.  I personally always figured anything below five to eight thousand a year. Of course, even that on a forty year old car driven for the entire time is a LOT.  grog's thought that low is subjective is probably spot on.

 

  Ben

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a 2009 Ford Ranger PU with 25,000 miles on it.

It has low mileage but unlike most of the trucks here I use it like a truck, so it has scratches, dings.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I saw a 30 year old Volkswagen at Fall Hershey this year with around 200 original miles on it. 

 

Cannot get much lower mileage than that at around 7 miles/year.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

capngrog, I don't know how one would document it but the 1934 Diamond T 211 truck that my Grandfather drove from 1934 until 1963 when he retired had 2,700 miles on it.  Used almost exclusively to haul case goods from the railway yard to the wholesale warehouse.  It was only out of the city of Winnipeg once and then only 40 miles.  It's usual round trip was less than 2 miles.

 I have several registration cards for it during its 29 year run.  They show a gradual increase in mileage each year but there are some gaps.  Would these qualify to call this a low mileage vehicle???

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Odometer readings on old 5 digit odo's need to be taken with a grain of salt. I often see ad's where "low mileage" is written and then a description of a full body off or completely restored follows. If it's really true, why was  the restoration necessary?

The condition of the car is a much better indicator than the numbers on the odometer

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To prove low mileage you would use repair receipts which show date and mileage, registration cards as noted above as well as general condition.  A low mileage car has value if the vehicle can be used as is or makes for an easy restoration.  I currently have a 1939 car with 82000 on the clock, I think of it as low because the mechanical condition shows mostly original parts although it has been repainted and upholstered.  I also have a 100 year old car which shows 18,000, very little wear on the parts like cylinders and shackle pins so I am restoring the car easily.  I know the history of the car from new and can prove that with documentation but have no idea of the true mileage.  Doesn't matter, the car is being restored with modern bearings, seals, single stage eurathane paint, new nickel, etc.  Still has 95% of the original wood frame with part numbers stamped in.  Gary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now