Buying a pre-owned car is one of the best investments you can make. Not only can a used car hold it's appreciation value much better than a new car does, but it can also greatly add to your quality of life when you have a dependable, efficient vehicle for commuting, running errands and taking trips.
However, there's also a certain amount of risk when buying a used car, and that's why many people choose one that has been classified as “certified” pre-owned.
But is buying "certified" really worth the extra cost? The truth is, there isn't a simple yes or no answer to this question.
First, let's take a look at what “certified” really means.
What is a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle?
There are two different ways a pre-owned car can become “certified” - by the manufacturer and by the dealer. When the manufacturer certifies a car it undergoes a standardized inspection process, and if the vehicle meets the specific criteria, it will get CPO (certified pre-owned) status.
Some dealerships will also pay the manufacturer to inspect and certify their lot of pre-owned vehicles for them, and in that case, the dealer will mark up the price to cover the fees associated with the certification.
On the other hand, some other companies will offer cars that are “dealer certified” and this should instantly raise a red flag for you as a consumer.
Some dealerships will use their own list of criteria to “certify” vehicles but unless it has gone through the strict certification process of the manufacturer, then it's not really a CPO vehicle.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
It's important to understand that not all CPO vehicles are created equal. In fact, the warranty you are buying largely depends on the brand providing it. For instance, Toyota is well-known for having very robust warranties, including on their CPO vehicles, and this is in addition to their reputation for dependable and affordable vehicles.
But not all brands offer this type of protection, so it's vital to understand the terms and conditions of the particular vehicle you're interested in.
The model year and mileage may also play an important role in any protection plan or certification – so look closely at the fine print to know exactly what you're buying.
Certified pre-owned vehicles offer a wide variety of benefits when compared to their non-CPO counterparts.
Here are some examples of the perks you might enjoy if you purchase certified:
Vehicle history report
Peace of mind (priceless)
Even though there is a long list of advantages to buying a CPO car, it doesn't necessarily mean it's still the best deal on the market. Carefully weigh the reward with the risk of paying more for a car because it has been “certified.” Even though sometimes it's worth the extra cost and other times, you'd be smarter to just save your money.
So now that we've looked at all the possible pros to buying a CPO vehicle, let's discuss some of the downsides to this investment.
Vehicle history reports aren't always accurate.
“Wear items” typically aren't included (battery, tires, brake pads, etc.)
Many late-model vehicles already have an existing warranty on them
Furthermore, just because a car has been “certified” doesn't guarantee you won't have issues with it down the road. Similarly, you don't necessarily need certification to find a well-maintained and reliable vehicle.
The Bottom Line
If you're in the market for a pre-owned car, it's a good idea to look at them on a case by case basis. Consider all of the factors listed above on each vehicle you look at before making a final decision.
A good rule of thumb is to find a car that provides both the reliability and safety you need while still being competitively priced for the current market. It might take some time, but your efforts and patience will be well worth it in the end.
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