Generally speaking, certified used cars are:
- Vehicles that have passed a thorough inspection which makes them eligible for an improved warranty and special financing.
- Less than five years old with less than 50,000 miles.
- The certifying authority (usually the dealership) must have made sure that all the maintenance is up-to-date, which means that all the oil changes and transmission flushes, etc. (normal maintenance) should be complete.
- The vehicle’s wearable parts (brake pads, tires, etc.) must have at least 50% of their life left.
Once the inspection has been done and all the maintenance is completed, the dealership will declare the vehicle “Certified”. Certified used cars have a better warranty than a normal used car, and often times they qualify for better than average used car financing rates.
In most cases, certified used cars are a good deal, and you should buy one if you can. However, before you buy a certified used car there are a few things you need to watch out for.
1) Certified used cars that are under one year old are almost always used rental cars.
Rental cars aren’t necessarily bad: they’re usually well maintained and an excellent value, but they’re not for everyone. Check out our advice about buying used rental cars if you’re not sure.
2) Remember that not all certifications are created equal.
If you’re at Dealin’ Dave’s car lot and they have certified a car, that might not mean anything. Dealin’ Dave’s certification may just be a sales gimmick. It’s better to buy a vehicle that has been certified by an auto manufacturer like Ford, Toyota, GM, BMW, etc. They all have superior certification programs, better than you would find at any dealership.
Finally, before you buy a certified used car, always ask for the “vehicle certification inspection” report. The inspecting mechanic fills out this report, and it gives details of his/her opinion of the various parts and functions of the vehicle. Dealerships are required to keep these reports on file after they certify a vehicle, and a lot of times they also have to give you a copy when you buy the car. If the dealership doesn’t have this report (or if they won’t show it to you) go somewhere else.
As always, take your time when buying a used car. Do your used car research, get multiple used car financing quotes, and feel free to contact us with your questions.