Buying a used car? Make sure you know the meaning of certified

used car lot
Photo credit Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

This week on KMOX, we've been helping you look under the hood to find out what you're buying in a pre owned vehicle.

If you've been scouring the internet trying to find the best deal on a used car, one thing you're likely to see on dealer listings is the word certified.

"So you have to be careful," says Ronald Montoya, Senior Consumer Advice Editor at car shopping guide Edmunds.  "There's two versions of certified that you'll encounter."

"Well, it can be advertised as lots of different things," adds Brian Moody, Executive Editor, Autotrader, "What the consumer should know is that certified should apply to a manufacturer backed warranty on a car that they've inspected with manufacturer guidelines. In other words, the factory that built the car, the company that built the car, they're selling it to you as a used car now. And the full experience and weight of that brand stands behind the car that you're buying."

Moody says a factory backed certification is often much more detailed, "looking at the vehicle history, making sure there's no frame damage, there's no fires or floods, making sure that the car is in proper working order that the tires are safe.... ...and often times if it's possible when they do have to do repairs, they'll use manufacturer parts to do that, not whatever they could find."

Ronald Montoya adds, that typically means a more extensive manufacturer warranty.  "That's the ideal situation.  It's gonna have like an extension to the bumper to bumper warranty and the power train warranty.  You're gonna have some roadside assistance."

Montoya stresses the only place to get a factory certified pre owned vehicle is at that maker's dealerships.  "If you're buying a Ford, you want to go to a Ford dealership because if you're at a different brand and they're calling it certified, it's not the same thing that we have in mind."

The other type of certification is from individual dealers,  "and they've labeled it that way to kind of give you that same impression," points out Montoya, "They do give it their own inspection, but it's not quite the same. Nor does it have the same coverages and benefits."

Sometimes the dealer will offer an extended warranty to sweeten the deal.  Those can add $3,000 to $5,000 or more to the final price of a pre owned vehicle depending on the contract length.

Autotrader's Brian Moody says you have to look at each individual car on a case by case basis to weigh whether it's worth that investment. "I think you gotta do a little bit of research and figure if a new transmission on the car you're buying costs three grand and they're selling you, a warranty for six grand that probably isn't gonna be a good deal."

Both say the cost of extended warranties is negotiable.

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