Highway Miles vs City Miles

December 3rd, 2021 by

Your vehicle’s odometer will clearly tell you how many miles your car has driven, but it doesn’t have the capability to tell you what type of miles they are. It makes a big difference if your car drives mostly on the highway as opposed to the city or urban areas, and the debate about city miles vs. highway miles and how they affect your vehicle continues. If you have always wondered if it is better for your commute to take you down the highway or stay in town more, we are here to give you some definitive answers about highway miles vs. city miles.

What Are Highway Miles?

Highway miles are the miles accumulated on your odometer when traveling on the highway. Driving on the highway means your car drives at a consistent speed, and even though it often results in more miles on the odometer, the consistent rpm means the engine doesn’t have to shift through the gears over and over again. Drivers also use their brakes less often on the highway, and the roads tend to be smoother. 

Signs of Highway Miles

One of the quickest ways you can tell if a used car has mostly highway vs. city miles is by the number on the odometer. If it’s a new car and has a high number of miles, the previous owner most likely racked up the miles on the highway. The average number of miles per year is about 12,000. If a car is only a few years old and has almost 50,000 miles, odds are it spent the majority of its life cruising up and down the highway. 

Another way to determine if a car mainly drove on the highway is to check the body. You can often see signs of urban driving, such as dents and scrapes. Drivers are less likely to accumulate these minor dents and dings on the highway since they stay further away from other vehicles.

Although you can do a quick check on your own, the most accurate way to determine if a car has highway miles vs. city miles is to have it inspected by your mechanic. They can take a look at the suspension and the other components to determine the wear. They have the knowledge to see if a car has been coddled on the highway or driven on city streets. 

What Are City Miles?

City miles accumulate on your odometer when traveling in the city and in the suburbs. It often includes a lot of stop-and-go conditions, whether it is traffic, stop signs, or lights. Drivers move at slower speeds when driving in the city, but city streets often have potholes and other issues that can take a toll on many of the vehicle’s components. 

Signs of City Miles

One of the signs that a car has spent a lot of time driving in and around the city and urban areas is dents and scrapes. A city car will often have scrapes from curbs and tight parking garages. Since it spends a lot of time in close proximity to other vehicles, there is a higher chance it will have more wear and tear, such as wheel curb rash, dents in the door from nearby passengers and drivers swinging their doors open, and even scrapes from other objects such as runaway shopping carts.

The Problem With City Driving

Now that you know the difference between highway miles and city miles, which one is better in the long run? Most experts believe that highway mpg is much better than city miles. There are several reasons city driving can take a toll on a vehicle.


Constantly stopping and starting in urban traffic makes the engine spool up, but before it gets to its cruising rpm you have to apply the brakes at the next stop light. This means that the two are consistently working against each other and can result in wear and tear on the transmission and the brakes. 

Rough Roads

The rougher roads in the city take a toll on a car’s suspension. It can grind it down and cause its components to wear faster than if you drive over smooth roads.

Wear and Tear

There is a lot of wear and tear on a car’s components during city driving. With much of the drive time spent sitting in traffic or at lights, the engine idles at low rpm. This reduces oil pressure and causes more wear on the internal engine parts. If you spend most of your time driving in the city, you will probably need more frequent oil changes and other maintenance. Brake pads and tires will most likely not last as long and should be inspected at more frequent intervals to ensure they are working properly and in good condition.

The Benefits of Highway Driving

The miles traveled on the highway are more gentle. Getting up to speed and staying at its ideal rpm range allows the vehicle’s charging system to do its job. This helps extend the life of the alternator and the battery. Keeping the rpm at a steady rate keeps the oil pressure higher. This means more oil is flowing through the engine and protecting the internal parts. 

Highway MPG and City MPG

Silver Chevy Silverado on a plain

Image via Flickr by truckhardware

One of the most significant differences you’ll see with city driving vs. highway driving is in the fuel economy. When looking at the efficiency of a vehicle, it is almost always stated with a number for city vs. highway mpg. You’ll notice that the number of miles per gallon you can get in the city is often significantly lower than the number for highway mpg. There are a few reasons for this.

  • City driving is harder on an engine.
  • The consistent speed maintained on the highway uses less fuel.
  • Cruise control can help maintain a constant speed, which is better for the engine and increases highway mpg.

Drivers in the Youngstown, Ohio, area can come to #1 Cochran Chevrolet and find a reliable used car with highway miles or find their next new Chevrolet truck or car. We look forward to helping you find the perfect vehicle whether you need to head down the highway or need an urban commuter.

Posted in Tips