You’ve probably heard the slogan “certified pre-owned” thrown around in television commercials, but it’s not immediately clear what it means.
What’s the difference between a “pre-owned” car and a plain-old “used” car? What’s being certified–the fact that the car has a previous owner? Something else entirely?
It seems like a lot of advertising jargon, and it is. But there is actually a meaning behind the nonsense, and certified pre-owned vehicles are a special subcategory of used vehicle.
If you stick around, you’ll learn just exactly what “certified pre-owned” means.
Sometimes a used car will find its way back to a brand-name dealership, and the dealership will subsequently attempt to resell that vehicle. However, before putting it back on the lot, the dealership will run the vehicle through a rigorous series of tests and implement any repairs or maintenance they deem necessary.
Because these things are performed at a dealership by a brand-licensed mechanic, the vehicle is deemed to be certifiably in good condition. The “certified” in “certified pre-owned” means that the brand, or at least the dealership, officially endorses the procedures performed on the used vehicle before it is offered for re-sale.
So what is the advantage to buying a used vehicle with a certification from a dealership? Firstly, you can be reasonably certain that the vehicle is in good condition.
Dealerships won’t certify or resell cars ready for the junkheap, and sometimes the only readily apparent difference between a certified pre-owned car and a brand new one is the number on the odometer. (This isn’t always the case, of course, but many used vehicles–not just certified pre-owned ones–have hardly left the lot. That’s one of the reasons that buying used is often such a great deal.)
Additionally, certified pre-owned vehicles might carry a warranty, which most run-of-the-mill used vehicles do not. The warranty might be the original one, left over from the vehicle’s first sale, or it might be a special one applied to the vehicle after it was refurbished. This can be a great help in case of accidents or other damage, so make sure to ask the dealership about any warranties that might apply to your potential purchase.
Of course, with large, brand-name dealerships come salesmen, and contracts, and all the shiny rows of factory-fresh cars begging to be looked at. Not to mention bonus offers. The important thing to remember is to entirely avoid temptations and sales pressures by knowing exactly what you want before you even step foot inside the dealership.
Know your price range; know the vehicle’s history; know that emergency roadside kits are more easily and cheaply acquired elsewhere; know that walking out on the deal is your biggest poker chip; know that nothing is official until the contract has signatures on it; know that the dealership may refer you to someone known as a “closer,” who may try to talk you into doing something you don’t want to do.
Keep your wits close about you, and do your best to remain faithful to your original intentions.
All those things to know and remember may seem overwhelming, but most dealerships treat their customers with respect and decency. (Not that you shouldn’t still be on your toes–it can’t hurt, after all.) Something else that’s very important to remember is to get a used car data check on any potential purchases from a service like HPICheck, CARFAX or AutoCheck.
Certified vehicles probably have an unremarkable history, but it’s best to be sure.
Tony Wild loves everything about cars, when he is not writing and talking about them, you can find him restoring his classic motorbike collection.