A general rule of thumb regarding mileage is that typical used cars will average 12-15K miles per year. With that math, the typical 30 year old car would have in excess of 300,000 miles on the odometer. I can only think of a handful of DeLorean cars with anywhere near this kind of mileage on them.
A quick look at eBay listings of other makes and models of cars in the same age range as the DeLorean shows few cars in excess of 200,000 and most in the 100,000 mile or so range.
Relative to other collector cars of the same general era, there seems to be an abundance of DeLorean cars with low miles - less than 30,000 miles is normal. As I briefly mention in the book, there are multiple reasons for this - some good, some bad. I also talk about how ways you can use to determine the accuracy of the mileage shown on the odometer.
A couple of times a month, I get a phone call from someone with a very low mileage DeLorean for sale - sometimes even less than 50 miles. Most recently it was a car with just 7 miles on the odometer.
The seller invariably dismisses the fact that the car has admittedly been sitting most of its life, many times in less than optimum conditions. All they see is the low miles and believe the car must carry a significant price premium over other DeLorean cars. There are several fallacies in this thinking:
- While a low mileage DeLorean car may have excellent cosmetics, it will very likely need the same amount or in some cases more (dollars and time) to be made mechanically sound as a higher mileage car. Think brakes, fuel, electrical, cooling, transmission, tires, weatherstripping, etc.
- A fair number of low mileage DeLorean cars will need cosmetic attention, as well. Headliners, at a minimum, possibly stainless repair from being used as a "shelf" in the garage or being bumped by bikes, lawn equipment and trash cans moving in and out of the garage.
- Rodent damage is more common in lower mileage cars. While they frequently leave the wiring alone, it's not unusual to see evidence of rodents in the A/C system (yes, it stinks), fusebox/relay compartment, storage cubby, jack stowage area, even under the intake in the engine - the latter of which can cause severe damage.
Compounding all that is the simple fact that most DeLorean cars today are being sold to people who want to drive and enjoy them (rather than display them). Therefore, the price premium being asked for the low mileage evaporates once the car is made to run correctly, driven and mileage begins to accumulate. This is even worse for DeLorean cars that have never been titled/registered and sold on a "Manufacturer's Statement of Origin" or MSO. As soon as the car is registered, a significant chunk of the price premium is lost without hope of recovery.
Sellers will sometimes naively believe that there is a museum or collector who will pay the premium for their ultra-low mileage DeLorean. Generally speaking, most museums are non-profits and few have the budget for something like this - and there are more sellers out there than buyers - some who will even consider donating their car for a tax deduction (or loan it for display - can you say free climate controlled, secure storage?).
The days of the car having appeal to lots of super high-end collectors willing to pay top dollar for cars to add to their collection are not here yet, either. And a smart collector know the economics discussed above and offers accordingly, as well.
So what mileage should you be looking for? In my mind, the sweet spot today is somewhere in the 20K or very low 30K range. That gives you some room to add miles - especially if you use it as a weekend/pleasure vehicle - and still have a car with less than 50K or so miles about 5-10 years down the road. Remember that a tankful of gas once a month is recommended (~200-250 miles) and if you must store the car over the winter months, proper storage is key. As more time passes, this "sweet spot" mileage number will probably rise somewhat.
What does this mean for buyer? A couple of things - don't get hung up on having a super low-mileage car, for one. They are almost always not worth the effort and added cost. That said, If you don't plan on keeping the car for long, consider your resale return. Lower mileage today with regular use means relatively lower miles at resale time. Higher miles today with regular use means even higher miles (and lower price) at resale all other things being equal.