Used Cars

What is a Certified Used Car?

You already know that used cars offer more value for your money since you aren’t paying for depreciation. But should you shop at a dealership or buy from a private seller? And what is the deal with certified used cars?

To help you make an informed choice about your next car purchase, we offer a short primer on certified pre-owned vehicles (a.k.a. CPOs). You’ll learn what they are, how they’re different from other used cars, and whether they’re a better deal.

So, what is a certified used car?

It is a vehicle that meets a manufacturer’s certification criteria. Automobiles that satisfy manufacturer standards are then reconditioned and certified. They are offered with incentives and benefits that aren’t typically available with other used cars.

How Does a Used Car get Certified?

Manufacturers have their own standards for determining which pre-owned vehicles are considered for certification. Typically, these criteria include:

  • The vehicle’s age (5 model years and later)
  • Mileage (under 60,000 miles)
  • The automobile’s overall condition

Cars that meet these initial benchmarks undergo a thorough inspection from factory-trained technicians. These multi-point inspections include all mechanical and safety systems and the interior and body.

Outstanding recall issues are resolved while the vehicle is reconditioned and refurbished. Once a certified car reaches the dealership lot, it has been restored to like-new condition, inside and out.

How are Dealer-Certified Used Cars Different?

A dealer-certified vehicle is backed either by the car dealership or a third-party organization. Dealer-certified car warranties often cover a shorter period than the manufacturer’s warranty, and it’s up to the dealership to offer any other financial incentives.

Dealer-certified vehicles cost less than manufacturer-certified cars, but the certification criteria differ from dealership to dealership, so it’s a good idea to understand their certification process and review the inspection report before buying.

Where to Find Certified Used Cars

When shopping for a manufacturer-backed certified used vehicle, your best bet is to visit a dealership that’s affiliated with that brand.

Dealer-certified vehicles offer more choices since they’re not limited to a single brand. Many brand-affiliated and independent dealerships now offer their own lineup of certified used cars.

You’ll have more auto brand variety with dealer-backed certified vehicles. But you should also make sure you’ve done your homework, so you’re comfortable with the make and model’s overall reliability and know what the dealer-backed warranty covers.

Are Certified Cars a Better Deal?

With supply chain issues slowing the flow of new cars to a trickle, you might wonder if you’re better off paying a premium for a certified used vehicle or saving money on a used car.

The answer is: it depends.

  • Are you risk-averse when buying a used car?
  • Do you want the benefits of buying a nearly-new car without losing money on depreciation?
  • Are you willing to spend an extra $1,000-2,000 for a certified pre-owned vehicle?

If your answer to these questions is yes, a certified used vehicle may be your best option.

The multi-point inspections alone make buying a certified car less of a risk than non-certified vehicles. Plus, there are added benefits to purchasing certified vehicles, including extended manufacturer’s warranties, roadside assistance, rental car reimbursement, and more favorable financing options.

Is a Certified Used Car Right for You?

There are many benefits to choosing a certified used cars over a used vehicle. However, those perks come with a substantially higher price tag, especially if it’s a manufacturer-certified used car. But if your risk tolerance is low, you might find the additional cost worth it for your peace of mind.


This post may contain affiliate links. Meaning a commission is given should you decide to make a purchase through these links, at no cost to you. All products shown are researched and tested to give an accurate review for you.

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