Is 'certified' used car worth extra cost?

q_v2.gifIs purchasing a certified pre-owned vehicle worth the additional cost?

a_v2.gifThis is a definitely-maybe sort of answer, but it really depends. When you pay extra to purchase a certified pre-owned vehicle, what that extra upfront cash is really buying is peace of mind.

Pre-owned is simply a politically correct way of saying used. Consumers may feel a little better about a used vehicle because it's not really used, but pre-owned. Semantics, however, provides little assurance that a pre-owned vehicle is going to perform any better than a used one. The words "certified pre-owned" attempt to provide that assurance.

There are basically two types of certification: factory certified and dealer certified. Usually dealer certification doesn't add much, if any, additional cost to the sale price. The dealer inspects a preset number of areas of the vehicle, fixing any problems found, and then usually provides a limited warranty on that vehicle for a specified period (typically no more than 90 days), during which time that same dealer will make repairs under the terms of the limited warranty. Without the factory overseeing the diligence and execution of the inspection or repairs, it is still up to the consumer to make sure the vehicle is sound. This will usually entail a trip to a trusted mechanic in addition to the dealer's certification. All the consumer really receives with a typical dealer certification is a short-term limited warranty. Longer protection will require paying for an aftermarket extended warranty -- another can of worms entirely.

Factory certification is policed by the sponsoring manufacturer. The factory decides what areas of the vehicle are inspected, overseeing the inspection and the repairs. Although some factory-certified limited warranties extend for months rather than years, others can be as extensive as the original factory warranty when the vehicle was new. Some include roadside assistance and free loaner vehicles when warranty repairs are needed. Because the factory underwrites the warranty, repairs can be made at any of its franchised dealers.

The factory certified pre-owned programs vary wildly, but you can find out more about individual programs on or A factory-certified pre-owned plan can add as much as 5 percent to the selling price of a used vehicle. You have to decide how much money some peace of mind is worth to you.

Here are this week's reader questions:
  • Which vehicles get Section 179 tax break?
  • Is purchasing a certified pre-owned vehicle worth the additional cost?
  • Where can I find a list of vehicles that qualify for the Section 179 tax break?



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