What do you think about the "certified pre-owned" programs that dealers brag about?

buying, dealers, used cars, warranties
Dear Tom and Ray:

What's the real skinny on this manufacturer's "certified pre-owned" business that dealers sell? I know they talk about 125 inspection points that they "rigorously put their cars through." What do you guys think of this scheme? It seems somewhat safer than going to "Fly-By-Night-Used-Car-Sales." But then again, the price is higher. What's your advice? -- Paul

TOM: Well, the 125 points of light on their own are not that appealing, Paul. But the warranty that comes with them can be.

RAY: The inspection is nice, but -- no matter what -- I would always have a used car inspected by my own mechanic before I bought it. I don't care how rigorous an inspection the seller claims to have done. He's still trying to sell you the car, after all.

TOM: However, if the "inspection" allows him to sell the car with a significant warranty -- above and beyond what's left on the manufacturer's original warranty -- then it's worth something.

RAY: And you're absolutely right. An inspected and, more importantly, warrantied car is preferable to an uninspected, unwarrantied car. And because of that, you'll pay more for it.

TOM: Dealers generally start out with the cream of the used-car crop, anyway -- mostly the off-lease vehicles that are two or three years old and still have low mileage (because the lease threatens to charge the poor schmoes $1.25 a mile if they drive more than 36 miles a year). And the dealer is particularly well-qualified to fix any problems on its own makes and models. So it's not much of a stretch for dealers to fix the small things that are wrong with these low-mileage cars and sell them as "certified" with warranties.

TOM: And when you're in a business as disreputable as the used-car business, using terms like "manufacturer," "pre-owned" and "certified" does provide a patina of trust that can help sell your cars. Not to mention that by calling your cars "certified" and "pre-owned" cars, you automatically imply that everyone else's cars are "neglected" and "slept-in."

RAY: But as long as this mostly marketing device is backed up by an airtight warranty, we have absolutely nothing against it, Paul.
Tags (Browse All)
buying, dealers, used cars, warranties

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login / Signup
Support for Car Talk is provided by:

Donate Your Car,
Support Your NPR Station

...and get a tax break!

Get Started

Find a Mechanic

Promo tile

Rocket Fuel