Consider condition over accumulated miles

March 1, 2010 | By Richard Prince


I am considering the purchase of a 1964 Sedan de Ville that supposedly has only 53K original miles.

My concern is with the driver side front seat which has wear and tear on the upholstery that I feel is not indicative of a vehicle with only 53K miles on the odometer, irrespective of age. This type of wear and tear is more germane to a vehicle with 153K miles. Please advise your recommendations.


When you are considering the purchase of a decades-old collectible vehicle, the condition is usually more important than the actual mileage. I have seen very old cars with extraordinarily low mileage that need complete restorations and very old cars with extraordinarily high mileage that need nothing. The design, engineering and initial build quality of a vehicle, in concert with the nature of its use, quality of storage, extent of care and good old-fashioned luck, are the factors that are most important in determining a car’s condition.

The number on the odometer may or may not reflect the vehicle’s condition, and thus the value. The car you are looking at illustrates the point I am making. If it does really have 53,000 miles from new, does that matter in light of the fact that its condition, at least in some areas, doesn’t reflect this?

If it was driven 53,000 miles on salted roads in the winter, with no engine warm-up time, infrequent oil changes and neglect of other recommended maintenance, does the low number matter? Maybe the owner was morbidly obese or perhaps he kept a huge key chain hooked to his pants, and that’s why the seat is especially worn-looking.

Or maybe the car has 153,000 miles or even 253, what? Does the engine have good compression? Does it use oil? Does the transmission slip? Do the wipers, lights, radio, horn, and other electrical parts work? Is the body rusty? Is there evidence of collision damage? How is the paint? Is the front end worn? These are the factors that you should be most concerned with, not whether the mileage indicated is the actual mileage traveled.