Used Car Considerations

used carDear Tracy,
I am currently shopping for a car, but I am limited by my budget, so I am primarily focusing  on used cars in my search. I am feeling a little daunted by the used car buying process. I have had friends highly recommend only purchasing a certified pre-owned vehicle.  I have also heard that these cost more than other used cars. How do I decide which to buy?
Gina T.

Dear Gina,
Certified pre-owned vehicles are the choice of many buyers who want to lessen the risks that come with buying a used car. Buyers usually get more car for their budget with a certified pre-owned vehicle than they can with a new car. To be considered certified, a vehicle needs to meet specific age and mileage requirements, and pass a dealership inspection. Certified pre-owned cars carry an extended limited warranty, but also go for a higher price. Many buyers are okay with paying that premium, because of the peace of mind the warranty gives them.

There  is a level of risk associated with buying any used car. While a certified pre-owned vehicle, does minimize the risk, there is no guarantee that you won’t have issues. With the certified used vehicle, you know that mechanics who are trained to spot trouble have inspected it. The manufacturers warranties vary, so it is important that you look at the warranty of each certified car you are considering. Depending on the program, you might get roadside assistance and a loaner-car when needed. Make sure you understand the extent to which the manufacturer will assist you if you need help resolving an issue at the dealership.

If you find your ideal used car and it happens to not be certified, you may not necessarily rule it out. Two resources you can use to check on the background of car, using its vehicle identification number (VIN) are CARFAX and AutoCheck. (Note: The VIN can be found by looking at the dashboard on the driver’s side of the vehicle or on the door post of the driver’s side door.)

It is also a good idea to test drive the car and if you are seriously considering it, ask your own mechanic to check it out.  To assist you with what questions to ask and organizing information, Edmunds has a downloadable used car questionnaire you can use for each car you are considering.