At one time there was a considerable disparity between the quality of new cars and the perceived solidity of used cars. Sometimes it was justified. Once Mercedes-Benz introduced the concept of certified pre-owned cars over two decades ago and others soon followed, these used cars became better bets. Here’s a look at what may be the best used cars of all.
What it is. When a franchised dealer receives a particularly clean used car with reasonable miles, they can choose to inspect and repair or replace items in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines and offer it as a certified pre-owned car. A dealer may also opt for a similar inspection and preparation program, but under their own auspices, in which case the car could be dealer certified pre-owned. For this discussion, we’re focusing on manufacturers’ certified pre-owned programs.
What it means. A certified pre-owned car will probably have low to average miles, be in above-average condition and have no outstanding or upcoming needs. Items like tires and brakes will either have been replaced by the dealer or have very little wear. A generous warranty backed by the manufacturer will be included, good at any authorized dealer. Scheduled maintenance might be part of the package as well.
What it doesn’t mean. It does not necessarily mean the car will be as crisp and spotless as the day it rolled off the assembly line. It will be an extremely clean car, but it is still a used car. Very minor signs of wear and use could be evident, but nothing to detract from its overall appearance or functionality.
Who offers it. From Bentley to Buick and most others in between. The certified pre-owned program names will vary, as will manufacturer and dealer emphasis of them. Most promote the purchase of these cars, but some programs will allow leases. And while you can finance any way you like, manufacturers frequently offer their own competitive finance terms on certified pre-owned vehicles.
What buyers do. Research, shop, test-drive, evaluate, finance, negotiate and trade as they would with any vehicle purchase. A certified pre-owned car can be expected to justify a higher sale price due to the freshness of its components and the included warranty, but in no way is it a fixed price.
Any downside? Not really, provided you understand what is and isn’t covered by the certified pre-owned program warranty. You should also be prepared to pay a slight premium over non-certified used cars. Beyond that, you enjoy a like-new car with a solid warranty at a price well below that of new, making certified pre-owned possibly the best used cars of all.