What Is a Certified Used Car? Are They Better Than Used Vehicles?

According to a recent report, over 41 million used cars were sold in the U.S. last year. If you're one of the millions looking for the right vehicle this year, you may have encountered the term "certified used car" in your search.

But what is a certified used car? Is it any better than a "used vehicle," and if so, how?

We've got the answer! Here's a simple guide to help you understand what a certified used car is and whether it's the right choice for you. 

What Is a Certified Used Car?

If you've decided to purchase a used vehicle, there are really two options: finding a certified pre-owned car or a used car. A certified pre-owned car comes with many of the benefits of a brand new vehicle, minus the huge price tag.

While certified pre-owned vehicles, (or CPOs), cost a bit more than regular used cars, they come with a manufacturer-backed warranty from the dealer so you know you're not getting a lemon.

When you purchase a certified used car, it has undergone a multi-point inspection by the dealer just as if it were brand new. These vehicles are not very old when they're sold by franchised dealers. 

Every used car dealer will have different requirements for their certified used cars, but most requirements entail the following:

  • The vehicle must be below a certain age
  • The vehicle must be well-maintained and have regular maintenance records
  • The car must have passed a detailed inspection 
  • The car must be below a certain mileage

Most of the time, certified used cars, wheelchair vans, or trucks are vehicles that were leased for a short time before being returned to the dealer in excellent condition. Basically, they're a way for car-buyers to purchase a nearly brand-new vehicle, without spending an arm and a leg.

What is a certified used car? It's also a used car that's guaranteed to be free from damage or past accidents. On the other hand, used vehicles may have an underlying history that's either unknown to the buyer or includes potential problems.

Things like high mileage, underlying problems, past accidents, outdated parts, and more are all potential problems buying a used vehicle brings. 

Where Can I Find Certified Pre-Owned Cars?

It's important to know that you can only purchase certified pre-owned vehicles from franchised dealers of the same brand. For example, you can only buy a certified pre-owned Honda at a Honda dealership.If you are at a Honda dealership and see a "certified" Toyota, just be aware that car won't come with a warranty that's backed by the original manufacturer.

Which Should You Choose?

Knowing the answer to "What is a certified used car?" is the first step to making the right purchase for you. When it comes down to it, there are pros and cons to both CPOs and regular used cars.

Before you make a purchase, set your budget and determine what vehicle qualities are most important to you. 

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