If you’re looking to buy a used vehicle, you’ll have to make a choice: Should you get a certified or non-certified used car?
A manufacturer certified pre-owned vehicle is a low mileage car, truck, or SUV that has been inspected from headlights to rear bumper and includes an extension of the original manufacturer warranty.
Each manufacturer sets its own standards for certified preowned vehicles. And you can only buy a certified preowned vehicle from an authorized dealer. For example, you have to go to a Honda dealership to get a certified preowned Honda Civic.
Dealers may also have their own certified preowned (CPO) vehicle programs with their own standards, so find out if you’re getting a manufacturer certified or a dealer certified used car.
A non-certified used car may not have been inspected and will not come with an extended factory warranty. You can get a non-certified used car through any auto dealer — or directly from an owner.
Will a Certified Used Vehicle Offer a Smoother Ride?
A manufacturer certified used vehicle can offer peace of mind of knowing you’re buying a high-quality used car. And you’re covered if something goes wrong down the road. Specific pluses include:
* A multipoint inspection: Requirements vary by manufacturer, but these inspections generally start by looking at a report of the vehicle’s history to make sure the car has not been flooded, stolen or wrecked in the past. The dealer then checks the outside of the car and does a test drive to verify it’s a smooth ride. If everything looks good, a mechanic will inspect the brakes, engine, transmission, steering, suspension and other components, according to J.D. Power, a consumer market research company that rates cars. The technician will also check various systems, from air conditioning and lights to the infotainment system and safety features (i.e., back-up camera). A car must pass this inspection in order to become a manufacturer certified preowned car.
* Easy repairs under warranty: Manufacturer certified preowned cars typically come with excellent warranty coverage. For example, Ford offers a comprehensive warranty that covers one year or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first — which covers more than 1,000 components — plus a seven-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. If you have a covered problem with the car while it’s still under warranty, the dealer will make the repairs at no charge. This can make it easier to get your car fixed, especially if you don’t know a good mechanic.
* Other certified preowned perks: You might get other bonuses as part of the deal. For example, Toyota offers one year of roadside assistance honored at more than 1,400 U.S. Toyota dealers. The big disadvantages are that you will have fewer cars from which to choose and will pay around 6% to 8% more for a manufacturer certified used vehicle than you would for a non-certified vehicle of the same make and model in similar condition with comparable features.
Is a Non-Certified Preowned Car More Your Speed?
On the other hand, buying a non-certified preowned car can be a better deal and give you more control in the buying process. Specific advantages include:
* Substantial savings: You will pay on average about $1,000 less for a non-certified used car than you would for a comparable certified used car, according to Kelley Blue Book. And Edmunds puts that number at $1,500. Savings can vary by type and size of vehicle, from a few hundred dollars for a basic compact car to thousands of dollars for a luxury convertible or SUV.
* Greater control: Do you like to be in the driver’s seat of car buying and ownership? You might prefer to have your own mechanic conduct an inspection before the purchase and to take the vehicle to that shop for any necessary repairs.
The main upside of buying a certified used car is lower risk. You can drive down the road and feel good knowing you’re covered by the original warranty for a while. On the other hand, a non-certified car can expand your buying options and save you money. Just make sure you get any non-certified vehicle checked out thoroughly before you buy.