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Certified Used Cars May Cost Less Than You Think

Jerry Edgerton / October 31st, 2019

Certified used cars—with a special inspection and new warranty—can be a good, less expensive alternative to buying a new car.

Certified cars can indeed be a bargain versus a new alternative of the same model. But certified cars are still used cars, and you need to shop carefully and pay attention to all details of the transaction.

If you think a certified used car sounds like a good idea, keep these points in mind:

  • Certified cars may cost less than you think. A popular notion is that certified cars may cost thousands of dollars more than regular used cars. But a study by the research website looking at 3.5 million used cars found that dealers in all brands charged an average of just $722 more for a certified used car than a comparable car without certification. But differentials tend to be higher for luxury brands. Lexus certified models sold for about $1.400 more than noncertified. And the premium was $1,600 for BMW, which advertises its certified program on television.


  • Not all certified programs are equal. Dealers may clean up a used car and call it certified—based only on the dealership assurance. But with that situation “Nobody is holding them to standards in order to be in the certification program,” says Phong Ly, CEO of Check to be sure that a certified program is backed by the manufacturer, he advises. In that case, Lexus or Ford or other manufacturer will require an inspection of 150 or more features of the car. And the parent company will stand behind the warranty.


  • Details can vary greatly even among manufacturer certified programs. For instance, Fiat Chrysler models—including Jeep, Dodge, and Chrysler—add just three months or 3,000 miles coverage in the new comprehensive warranty that goes with the certified car, but does add a 7-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty from the date of the certified sale.  However, there is a $100 deductible if you bring the car in for repair. Chevrolet and other General Motors brands add a 12-month, 12,000 miles new certified warranty and a five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty from the date the car was first sold as new. The GM warranties have no deductible.

Are certified used cars worth considering? If you do your homework carefully, the risk of problems is less than with regular used cars.

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