How Many Miles Should a New Car Have?


It’s a common assumption that brand new cars from the dealership have zero miles, but that’s rarely the case. While every new car will have at least a few miles on the odometer, there is a threshold for what is considered acceptable.

Generally, you can expect a new car to have less than 100 miles on it, purely from transport and test drivers. If the car’s mileage exceeds this limit, it may be appropriate to ask for a discounted price or a replacement vehicle.

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How many miles are acceptable for a new car?

Estimating an acceptable delivery distance is not an exact science, as the amount can vary by manufacturer and dealer. However, the general rule of thumb is that anything under 200 miles is acceptable for a new car.

This allows enough capacity for transport from the shipping port or between dealers if the car is sent to a new showroom. The car is also unlikely to experience any technical problems with less than 200 miles.

That said, most new cars have well under 200 miles, especially if the car has recently arrived at the dealership. It’s not uncommon to see new cars with between 10 and 50 miles on them right off the lot, especially if you’re the first test driver.

Ultimately, how many miles are “too many” for a new car depends on your preferences and the car’s price. No new car will have zero miles, as mileage occurs during transport.

However, if the odometer shows more than 100 miles or so, you may want to find another vehicle, as this one may have been used for test drives frequently.

Test drives and breaking in a new car

While you certainly don’t want your new car to have more than 200 miles on it, there is an advantage to buying a tested car: It’s been broken into.

If the car has been tested a few times before you get into the driver’s seat, it means the break-in process has already started. The process of driving a brand new car seals the piston rings in the cylinders and ensures that they can withstand the pressure of regular operation. Buying a vehicle that has been tested can make the break-in process faster and easier.

That said, you have no control over how the car is driven during that time, and the first few hundred miles are crucial to ensure the engine is broken in properly. Some manufacturers even recommend high acceleration limited for the first 1,000 miles.

Should you buy a new car?

Buying a brand new car has a number of advantages, including very low mileage. But before you decide to buy a brand new car, you might want to consider a few other types of vehicles. Demo cars and used cars may have higher mileage, but they usually come at a much lower price.

Demo cars

A demo car is a vehicle that has been used for customer test drives, or used for dealership employees to drive in and commute. These cars have never been registered, which means they are legally considered new, regardless of mileage.

And because demo models are often popular vehicles in demand, buying a demo may be the only way to get the car you really want.

But just because these cars are considered new doesn’t mean they’re in prime condition. Demo cars usually have significant mileage and may have wear and tear that may not be immediately apparent. While you might be able to get a good deal on a demo model, it’s not guaranteed.

Second hand cars

A second hand car is an older vehicle that has had one or more previous owners who drove the car for personal use. The biggest advantage of a used car is the price. Often you can buy a used car at a steep discount due to depreciation.

However, keep in mind that someone else was in charge of the car’s maintenance and service. You also don’t know how the vehicle was driven and treated by previous owners.

If possible, it’s a good idea to buy a used car from a dealer you trust and check the car’s records and service history before you buy it.

Ultimately, the choice between a new or used car is yours alone. Evaluate your budget and visit a trusted dealer.

However, if you’re buying new, don’t hesitate to ask for another car if you notice that the odometer is close to or over 100 miles. You’ll likely drive the car for years to come, and those first few hundred miles can have a big impact on the life of the engine.

Head shot by Elizabeth Rivelli

Finance & Insurance Editor

Elizabeth Rivelli is a freelance writer with over three years of experience covering personal finance and insurance. She has extensive knowledge of various lines of insurance, including auto insurance and property insurance. Her byline has appeared in dozens of online finance publications, such as The Balance, Investopedia,, Forbes and Bankrate.