100,000... 200,000... 250,000...

In a world where all things are equal, these numbers wouldn't matter at all.


A lot of folks ignore two critical things when it comes to a used car.

1) Mileage doesn't always equal age.

2) Mileage never equals condition.

At the dealer auctions, I have seen cars with only 30,000 miles that were as downright ugly as a cranky and heavily drunk Mel Gibson at a Bar Mitzvah.

I have also seen cars with over 350,000 miles that were nearly rolling pieces of perfection. A 2001 Camry with over 385,000 miles at one of the sales I recently visited went for nearly $2000.

It looked amazing.

But was it? Did the engine and transmission that propelled that car have many more miles ahead?

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I don't know, and that to me is a frustrating thing. Those miles really don't add up to an informed decision. Even for a car buying professional. But you know what would?

Engine hours.

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Take this turbocharged diesel engine for example. The 1.9 Liter Volkswagen engine you see here also happens to be have an engine life.

It's estimated life? It could be 25,000 hours. Or maybe 15,000 miles. One thing is for sure though. You won't find the answer in your owner's manual.

Nearly all cars these days don't give any indication of engine life. There are a few that do display current engine hours on the dashboard along with the odometer. Police cars and heavy duty trucks can be equipped to measure engine hours along with an odometer rating. Highway patrol cars in particular spend endless hours idling about, and all this use does wear on the vehicle over time.

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A conventional vehicle that sits in traffic for several hundred hours a year will usually have more wear than a car that simply keeps going at a steady highway speed. Idling causes stress. As does neglect and abuse.

Matt Farah's soon-to-be Million Mile Lexus (not seen here) may be a testament to the prior owner's care and Toyota's brilliant over-engineering of the Lexus LS400. But if that car were able to calculate engine hours, I really do wonder what that final number would be?

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Would that Lexus offer a number that is truly in the stratosphere of engine hours? Or would it be less than an even older Lexus that has perhaps spent more time in stop-and-go traffic?

What says you? Do you think engine hours would be useful information for a car buyer? Should there maybe be a similar measurement of longevity for transmissions? Could the technology of today maybe even go so far as to give car owners an "estimated life left" percentage that wouldn't be a legal minefield or a numerical boondoggle?

I think it would do wonders to appraising and selling a used car. What says you?