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Should You Pay More for a Certified Used Vehicle?

Should You Pay More for a Certified Used Vehicle?

By Christian Wardlaw, May 01, 2017

Buying a used car is smart. New cars depreciate quickly, and by choosing a used car that is a few years old you can avoid this rapid loss of value while obtaining a lightly used vehicle equipped with modern engineering and technology.

There are several ways to obtain a used vehicle:

1) You can buy one at an open auction, which saves the most money but also carries the most risk in terms of vehicle history and current condition.
2) You can buy one from a private seller. People often choose to sell a car on their own in order to get more money for it than a dealership will pay for it as a trade-in. Most vehicles sold by private sellers are not problems waiting to happen, but some are. When buying from a private seller, it is your responsibility to determine whether or not a vehicle is a ticking time bomb of repair and expense. In exchange for your assumption of responsibility for problems that crop up after the sale, a privately sold vehicle commands less money.
3) You can also buy a used car from a dealership, ranging from small, family-owned lots to large organizations that may or may not also sell new vehicles.

Used cars and trucks sold by dealerships are often available as certified pre-owned, or CPO, vehicles. Certified vehicles are typically backed up by vehicle history reports, complete mechanical repair and refurbishment, a thorough cosmetic detailing, and more.

2017 U.S. Customer Service Index (CSI) Study photoCertification programs can be administered by third-party companies or backed by an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). In either case, the certification process and the guarantees that are provided to the buyer cost the dealership money, and that cost is passed on to the buyer.

All OEM-sponsored certification programs are similar to one another in that they include the following:

  • Vehicle history report
  • Rigorous inspection process
  • Replacement of worn or damaged parts
  • Deep cleaning and cosmetic detailing
  • Extended warranty


Additionally, most OEM-sponsored certification programs include roadside assistance for a short period of time following the purchase, and some provide satellite radio or subscription services, attractive financing and leasing programs, and even exchange programs within a reasonable time and mileage limit.

The goal, especially with OEM-sponsored certification programs, is to bring a used vehicle as close to new condition as is possible, giving the buyer the greatest peace of mind combined with recourse in the event that a flaw may have been overlooked.

Should you pay more for a certified used vehicle? Yes. However, savvy shoppers must also remember that not all certification programs are created equally.

When buying a certified vehicle with third-party rather than OEM certification, you must perform additional homework:

  • Be clear about the program’s provisions and protections
  • Make sure the company offering the certification is financially viable
  • Adjust vehicle valuation to reflect potential uncertainty with regard to program and provider


The best certified used-vehicle programs are those sponsored by the OEM, and that is why OEM-provided certification adds the most amount of cost to a used vehicle’s price.


Additional Research:


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