Certified Pre-Owned vs Used Cars

In recent years there have been a large number of car commercials advertising certified pre-owned vehicles. To the cynical, these commercials are advertising nothing more than glorified used cars. A certified pre-owned vehicle is, technically, a used car. However, certified pre-owned vehicles have become a major money maker for the automotive industry, far beyond what most used car dealer’s make. Given this recent trend the consumer might wonder, what is the difference between a used car and a certified pre-owned car?

The Main Difference

As previously mentioned a certified pre-owned vehicle is a used car-it was sold by a new car dealer, driven off the lot by a consumer and driven for a period of time before being resold. The difference is that a used car is simply a car sold to a used car dealer and resold to the public as-is. A certified pre-owned vehicle, on the other hand, is a car that has been reconditioned, inspected and resold by the original car dealer. A certified pre-owned vehicle, because of its reconditioning, will often cost more than the same car found on a used car lot.

If you are searching for a new car, but do not want to pay new car prices, a certified pre-owned vehicle is a much safer bet than a used car. In order to be certified, a pre-owned car must be of a relatively recent model. In addition to a pre-owned car’s chronological age, it must also have relatively low mileage in order to be certified. Used car dealers, on the other hand, will sell almost any car, regardless of its age or mileage and simply adjust the price to reflect wear and tear. A certified pre-owned car must also be in good shape, both in appearance and performance.


The greatest advantage to buying a certified pre-owned vehicle is in its warranty. While all used cars are covered by local “lemon laws” (laws designed to protect consumers from unwittingly purchasing vehicles that consistently fail quality standards) a certified pre-owned vehicle will have some guarantee of quality in addition to any residual warrantee from the original purchase of the car. Thus certified pre-owned cars typically come with a comprehensive level of protection for the consumer.

While the benefits of a certified pre-owned vehicle are self evident, these cars are more expensive than plain used cars. There are still some benefits to purchasing an ordinary used car. First of all, many used cars still have some manufacturer’s warranty from the original purchase. Such warranties are valid up to a certain period of time or mileage regardless of how many times the car has been resold. If you have a good eye for a car in good condition, you may be able to find a few diamonds in the rough on any used car lots. Certainly the dealer will know which cars are in the best condition, however, and price accordingly. Know your lemon law protection regardless of whether you plan to purchase a used car or certified pre-owned car. If a car’s condition is in anyway misrepresented and you can prove it, you may be entitled to compensation under local lemon laws. If a used car is sold as-is, however, in many areas you will lose protection.