Q: What is a Certified Car?

December 17, 2013 12:53 PM

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A certified car, also known as certified pre-owned (CPO), is a used vehicle that has been inspected and refurbished by the dealer. Certified cars lessen the risks of buying used vehicles while offering extra benefits including manufacturer-backed warranties and financing programs. It is important to learn how to recognize authentic certified cars and how to compare one certified car program to another.

When shopping for a certified vehicle at a car dealership, it's important to differentiate between the various types of certifications. Those backed only by a dealer, rather than the manufacturer, aren't as good of a deal.

A car dealership affiliated with a particular brand, such as BMW, is where you are most likely to find cars certified by a manufacturer. Unscrupulous dealers may stick a certified sticker on a vehicle and neglect to make it clear that the dealer, not the manufacturer, certified it. This can benefit the dealer since authentic certified cars can sell for up to 10 percent higher than an uncertified car of the same model.

When considering an authentic CPO car, look at the inspected elements and whether the certification process is thorough enough. The higher cost should be justified by a thorough inspection and associated refurbishment.

Inspection point details for the vehicle will be made available. Read over the list and determine how above and beyond the manufacturer went to ensure the certified car was in good condition. The checks should extend past what would typically be offered in a tune-up and exceed the legal requirements for the sale of a used car.

A major benefit of purchasing a certified vehicle is that it includes a warranty from the manufacturer, which is rare when buying used. The warranty terms can vary widely, however, and need to be considered in conjunction with the overall deal.

If the car warranty period offered is short, consider the general performance history of that type of vehicle. CPO deals are typically only applied to models that are less than five years old with fewer than 100,000 miles, so it could be sufficient to have a short warranty provided by the manufacturer. Warranty extensions are often available for further coverage, but come at a price.

Incentives may also be included with the CPO offer. These can include practical add-ons, such as roadside assistance and financing plans.

Compare the incentive offerings of different manufacturers, including the lifetime of those incentives. If two offers are nearly equal in other aspects, the incentives may offer a tipping point. The specifics of the financing plans available, including leases, can also be a final deciding factor.

Certified pre-owned cars are a low-risk way to drive out of the lot with a quality used car. A small amount of research can help make the purchasing process a smooth and fulfilling one. Don't be afraid to ask additional questions at the dealership. Leave to do further research online if you are questioning the value of a particular offer. An informed car owner is a happy car owner.

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