Used Cars vs. Certified Pre-Owned Cars

As they do with most aspects of life, words matter when shopping for a used car. As you visit dealerships, search online used car marketplaces, or explore classified ads in the newspaper, you will probably see car inventories referred to either as "used" or "certified pre-owned."

What are the major differences between used vs. certified pre-owned vehicles? Having a clear understanding of the pros and cons of both types of available used vehicles will empower you as a more informed consumer from the moment you set foot on the dealer's property. It will also give you the confidence of knowing that you have negotiated the best potential deal.

The experienced team at CarSmart, serving Farmington, Missouri and surrounding areas, has put together this guide to help you understand used vs. certified pre-owned cars.

What Does Certified Pre-Owned Mean?

Certified pre-owned describes a category of used cars that meet certain pre-established quality standards. It's a quasi "seal of approval" from the manufacturer that the car and its individual systems are in good working order based on their proprietary evaluation of its condition.

The exact terms of certified pre-owned programs will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Typically, only dealers within the manufacturer's network will sell that manufacturer's certified pre-owned vehicles as they require a thorough inspection and might require repairs to meet the quality standards. Manufacturers want technicians trained on their cars to do those repairs.

As a general statement, a car will only qualify for consideration as certified pre-owned if it is less than five years old and has run fewer than 80,000 miles on its speedometer. Since there is no single national standard for this, make sure you understand the definition of certified pre-owned as laid out by your particular manufacturer.

Not all certified pre-owned vehicles are tied to specific dealerships. Some independent dealers may also offer their versions of certified pre-owned cars based on their own standards or those put together by national organizations. These serve the same purpose, but it's good to ask questions since there may be variations from dealer to dealer.

Media organizations such as U.S. News and World Report, and Edmunds publish rankings of the best CPO programs each year. Manufacturers such as Lexus, Hyundai, Kia, Honda, Mazda, and Porsche are often at the top of those rankings. Read the fine print to learn if the program benefits match your requirements.

Pros and Cons of Certified Pre-Owned

Anyone who has ever shopped for a used car knows that the market is overflowing with options. Sales of used cars dramatically outnumber sales of new cars. With so many choices, it's obvious that quality varies greatly. The biggest advantage of certified pre-owned vehicles comes from the peace of mind of knowing that the car you are considering has been inspected and may be refurbished. You can feel comfortable the car you are buying does not have some expensive, hidden problem.

Most if not all certified pre-owned vehicles include warranty coverages and other benefits that would you would not receive on an "as-is" use vehicle. Of course, the types of warranties will also vary from one dealer to the next, but generally, you can expect coverage for your powertrain and other systems.

Certified pre-owned programs also often come with additional benefits packaged with the warranties. For instance, dealers may also offer roadside assistance, satellite radio subscription, or insurance against trip interruption. In the instance of a breakdown when you are out-of-town, trip interruption insurance cover hotels, meals, or other expenses while your certified pre-owned vehicle is getting repaired.

On the other hand, certified pre-owned vehicles will typically come on the market at a higher price than an "as-is" used car. The price difference reflects the added value of the pre-sale inspection and the warranty guarantees. One final downside is that certified pre-owned programs do not have a one-size-fits-all approach. You will typically only find Ford-certified pre-owned vehicles for sale at Ford dealers, for instance. So playing the field to find the best deal requires a lot of effort.

What is an "As-Is" Used Car?

An "as-is" used car provides its own form of value. "As is" means that you are buying the car in its current condition without any "official" guarantees that all parts and systems are in perfect working order.

An as-is used car may well go through some pre-sale inspections, but they are less well-defined than those under a certified pre-owned program. As such, "as-is" used cars do not typically include extended warranty coverages. Probably the best you can hope for is to benefit from the residual time still left on the original manufacturer's warranties. You also may have some protection from state law, but those will also vary based on the state you are in.

As a general statement, if anything goes wrong with the car once you drive it off a lot, the problem is yours. The only exception may be working with a dealer who is motivated to earn your business over the long term and is willing to make repairs for the sake of goodwill.

Price is a big plus for as-is used cars. You will probably pay less for the car because you are not paying for official inspections or receiving additional warranty coverage or other benefits.

The CarSmart of Farmington Difference

CarSmart of Farmington, Missouri maintains one of the largest inventories of used cars in the region around St. Louis. We are dedicated to providing a simple and transparent used car shopping experience that will keep you coming back again and again, year after year. Our motto says it all: It's not rocket science. Our sales team focuses on helping you find the right vehicle and the right deal. Shop our inventory online; you can begin getting pre-approved for a loan to know what you can afford. Don't take our word for it: Consider testimonials of some of our customers. Contact us online or call us today to discuss your options and set up a test drive. We'd love to work with you!


CarSmart of Jackson

2856 Sappington Dr

Jackson, MO 63755


Think CarSmart

4854 US Highway 67

Farmington, MO 63640