‘Low mileage!’ A phrase that often adorns used car advertisements with inflated prices. Cars with low mileage are regularly lauded as if this was the single feature that guarantees you a higher quality, more reliable vehicle. The truth may very well be the opposite, however.

The simple fact is that cars are meant to be driven. When they are not, things wear out prematurely. All those moving parts on your car are meant to be moving, and when they don’t, they are more prone to fail. Grease dries up, oil stops flowing properly, and rubber cracks.

This is not the only reason to be wary of low mileage cars, however. Last week, the temperatures here fluctuated quite a bit, and as a result, there was a lot of moisture in the air. I had been at home much more than usual, and so my E39 had sat parked for about ten days. When I opened the bonnet, I saw this.

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Condensation had not just formed on the body of the car, but on every surface exposed to outside air. The story was the same under the car.

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You can only imagine the other places the condensation had worked its way into. The problem here, of course, is that when cars sit for long periods of time in this kind of weather – which low mileage vehicles do – all that condensation just sits and begins to do the slow but inevitable work of turning metal into rust. When you drive your car, it doesn’t just help to keep parts moving, but the combination of wind and the heat a car generates also helps to dry out all that moisture residing in places that don’t often see the light of day.

This is not to say that high mileage cars don’t rust. Of course they do, especially if the car is infrequently washed. This is also not to say that a low mileage car inevitably means rust, as the owner may have kept it in a climate-controlled garage. But I speak from experience here: If a car has low mileage, and has sat outside for long periods of time, you probably want to steer clear. It’s not the rust you can see that should worry you so much as the rust you can’t.

Who would have thought that one of the best things you could do for your car is to drive it?

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