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Certified vs. Non-Certified Pre-Owned Cars: What’s the Difference?

May 6, 2020

Many people choose to purchase a used car rather than a new car in order to save money. But other car shoppers are afraid to purchase a used vehicle because they worry that the car will have problems since it’s already been driven for so many miles. The certified pre-owned designation was created to make these car shoppers feel more comfortable with the idea of purchasing a used vehicle.

If you’re looking to buy a used vehicle, you’ll have to make a choice: Should you get a certified or non-certified used car? What is the difference between a certified car and a used car? What are the pros of cons of purchasing certified pre-owned cars vs. used cars?

What is the Difference Between Certified and Pre-Owned Cars?

Do not start shopping for a used vehicle until you understand the difference between certified and pre-owned cars.

A manufacturer certified pre-owned vehicle is a low mileage car, truck, or SUV that has been inspected from headlights to rear bumper and includes an extension of the original manufacturer warranty. 

A non-certified used car may not have been inspected and will not come with an extended factory warranty. You can get a non-certified used car through any auto dealer — or directly from an owner.

Will a Certified Used Vehicle Offer a Smoother Ride?

A manufacturer certified used vehicle can offer peace of mind of knowing you’re buying a high-quality used car. And you’re covered if something goes wrong down the road. 

Specific pluses include: 

There’s no doubt that there are many benefits to purchasing a certified pre-owned vehicle. It’s important to remember, however, that a certified pre-owned car is still a used car. You should do your due diligence before purchasing any used vehicle, regardless of whether or not it is certified. Do not assume that there are no issues with the vehicle simply because it has met the manufacturer’s certification standards.

Is a Non-Certified Preowned Car More Your Speed?

On the other hand, buying a non-certified pre-owned car can be a better deal and give you more control in the buying process. Specific advantages include: 

What is the Price Difference Between Certified Pre-Owned and Pre-Owned Vehicles?

There are a number of benefits to choosing a certified pre-owned vehicle instead of a non-certified pre-owned vehicle. But you must be willing to pay more to enjoy the benefits of owning a certified pre-owned vehicle.

The price difference between certified pre-owned and pre-owned vehicles can be substantial. You will pay on average about $1,000 less for a non-certified used car than you would for a comparable certified used car, according to Kelley Blue Book. And Edmunds puts that number at $1,500. 

Savings can vary by type and size of vehicle, from a few hundred dollars for a basic compact car to thousands of dollars for a luxury convertible or SUV. According to the Senior Vice President of Black Book, you should expect to pay about $850 more for a certified pre-owned mid-size vehicle and about $3,000 more for a certified pre-owned luxury vehicle.

Can You Negotiate the Price on Certified Pre-Owned Cars?

Certified pre-owned cars are typically priced higher than non-certified used cars. But this does not mean that their prices are set in stone. The price of any used vehicle—regardless of whether or not it is pre-certified—is negotiable.

If you are thinking about purchasing a certified used vehicle, it’s in your best interest to approach price negotiations just like you would if the vehicle wasn’t certified.

What Requirements Must A Vehicle Meet to Earn the Certified Pre-Owned Designation?

Each manufacturer sets its own standards for certified pre-owned vehicles. And you can only buy a certified pre owned vehicle from an authorized dealer. 

For example, you have to go to a Honda dealership to get a certified pre-owned Honda Civic. Dealers may also have their own certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicle programs with their own standards, so find out if you’re getting a manufacturer certified or a dealer certified used car. 

What Does Honda Certified Mean?

Every manufacturer also establishes its own benefits program available to those who purchase certified pre-owned vehicles.

To better understand the meaning of the certified pre-owned designation, it’s helpful to look at the standards and benefits established by one automotive manufacturer.

For example, if you purchase a Honda certified pre-owned vehicle, this means:

Because each manufacturer has established different standards and benefits related to the certified pre-owned designation, it’s important to do your research before purchasing one of these vehicles. This way, you can make sure you are satisfied with the specific standards and benefits established by the manufacturer before purchasing a certified pre-owned vehicle.