Who Wants to be a Mileage Millionaire – The Ugly American (Car) Edition

My first post on high mileage vehicles for sale was so popular I’ve decided to make it a semi-regular feature, and I’ve even given it a name: Who Wants to be a Mileage Millionaire!

There was some discussion among the commenters about the over-representation of trucks and commercial vehicles in my first post. The reason for the preponderance of trucks in high mileage vehicles boils down to mission: The purpose of a truck is to carry stuff, while the purpose of a car is to carry people. Simply put, parcels rarely complain about flattened seat cushions, non-functional A/C, sloppy steering or squeaks and rattles, while passengers (and drivers) typically do. A high mileage truck is simply more capable of fulfilling its intended function (so long as it runs) than a high mileage automobile.

But we are not here to talk about trucks today. JP Cavanaugh (among others) pointed out the lack of American cars on my first list, so armed only with a web browser I decided to seek out the highest mileage American branded cars for sale in the US. Lastly, since Curbside Classic is an international concern, I’ve decided to post mileage figures in both miles and kilometers.

Let’s get started with Who Wants to be a Mileage Millionaire!

2006 Ford Focus SES – 345,611 Miles (556,207 km) – $1,593

While these posts are fun to read (and write), I believe that there are deeper truths that can be gleaned from these geriatric cars, especially if we are looking to get a car for ourselves with the highest potential for maximum life. Take this Focus: As a 2006 model, it represents the tail end of the first-generation Focus. This seems to be a common characteristic of high-mileage cars I have seen: They are often from late in the production run, when most of the issues have been sorted out. Several other cars on this list are from late in their production runs.

In researching this post, I have come away impressed with just how durable the interiors of modern vehicles are. Sure, these high mileage cars are dirty and worn, but seldom do I see a torn seat, broken hardware, a sagging headliner, or other signs of aging that were common a generation ago.

Even the Odometer still works!


2009 Buick Lucerne CXL – 361,267 Miles (584,402 km) – $4,995

It is amazing what a good detailing and a wide camera shot will do to a car. Heck, it could be mistaken for brand new! At $4,995, it is a bargain! Or is it?

I often wonder what kind of logic goes into pricing the ultra-high mileage cars. Maybe the reasoning it that because it has survived this long that it has somehow developed some sort of immunity to failure? If so, then this is flawed logic. Any financial advisor will tell you that past performance is no indication of future gain. By that logic, since I was alive yesterday and the day before, if we extrapolate that trend line, I should live forever.

The CXL was the mid-range Lucerne in 2009, and probably stickered for around $35,000. This would have been in the depths of the Great Recession, so let’s assume that there was at least five grand on the hood, and the sale price was $30K. This is an astonishing 16% residual on a ten-year-old, 361,000-mile car (assuming the seller actually gets the $5K asking price).


2005 Chevrolet Impala – 368,881 Miles (594,656 km) – $1,999

Lesson number 2: When it comes to ultra-high mileage cars, simplicity rules. You will not see a Cadillac anywhere on this list: Electrical and mechanical failures from their many geegaws and doodads typically slay these cars before long they reach this mileage level. Now take a look at this Impala: Manual air conditioning, manual seat adjustments, and a good old fashioned ignition key. I half expected to see manual crank windows.

Lesson number 3. Use proven technology. As a 2005 model, this Impala is the last model year of its production run. The W-platform underneath this Impala traces its origins back to the Clinton administration, while the 3.4L 12V V6 dates back to that of Jimmy Carter.


2004 Chevrolet Cavalier – 426,189 Miles (685,884 km) – No Price

This one honestly surprised me. While there is no odometer photo, I did confirm the mileage via CarFAX. There are so many reasons for a Cavalier not to last 15 years, much less with this many miles. Being essentially disposable cars, Cavaliers just weren’t designed to last this long. And then there is the grim reaper that eventually stalks all cars: Depreciation. Chevy Cavaliers, like most compact cars not having an “H” or “T” on the hood, depreciated rapidly. It is no surprise that the selling dealer had not yet listed a price (and yes it is a dealer, not a private seller), because, in my opinion, this car has essentially no value.

Even more unusual, this car is a two-door coupe. Coupes are about the least practical body style, and are typically more about carrying their passengers in style than they are about raw utility. Since this price range is usually about utility and basic transportation, ultra high mileage cars tend to wear much more practical clothes.

2003 Ford Taurus SE – 432,989 miles (696,812 km) – $2,484

So here we are, the highest mileage American branded car that I could find for sale in the US. This is the only photo from the ad, but the CarFAX confirms the mileage.

I was honestly not expecting to see automobiles for sale with mileage figures this high, but if any car can do it, this one can. By the time Ford did a modest refresh of the DN101 Taurus in 2000, most of the bugs had been worked out. This one has the 12V Vulcan V6: Like most of the cars on this list, pushrods rule the high mileage roost. Indeed, many examples of the fourth generation Taurus are still plying the roads today.