A certified pre-owned car is generally a nearly new car that has been inspected by the manufacturer and given a clean bill of health and an extended warranty. As such, a certified pre-owned car carries with it nearly the same guarantees of service and reliability as a new car, but is less expensive.
Certified pre-owned cars are attractive to buyers who want a late-model car without paying the premium for a new car, and want the security and peace of mind of a manufacturer warranty when buying a used car. Manufacturers guarantee that their certified pre-owned cars are thoroughly inspected by their mechanics and, if necessary, repaired or reconditioned to run like new.
A certified pre-owned car generally costs more than a comparable noncertified used car: about $1,000 more for non-luxury brands and up to $3,000 more for luxury brands, according to a 2003 J.D. Power and Associates study.
Look at the warranty information carefully: Some certified pre-owned cars carry warranties from third parties that might not be as comprehensive as the manufacturer warranty. In some cases, your warranty only covers work done at a particular dealership.
You also should ask to see the inspection list for the certified pre-owned car you are considering buying and an accounting of what repairs, if any, have been made to the car.