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What is a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle, Anyway?

The used-vehicle market is not what it used to be, that’s for sure. Looking back no more than a dozen years, say, time was that shopping for a used car was a more hazardous endeavour, to say the least. You could never be quite sure of the quality and safety of the models for sale; sadly, too many dealerships and vendors engaged in questionable practices, leading to a lack of confidence on the part of consumers.

The advent of certification programs implemented by auto manufacturers, much progress has been made in terms of quality control and customer confidence, so much so that independent retailers had little choice but to follow suit. The average car shopper today can buy their used car with a much higher level of confidence in its quality.

Different companies, different programs
Beyond the general confidence certification inspires, and rightfully so, certified pre-owned vehicle programs can vary from one manufacturer to another, so it’s difficult to even define exactly what certification means. In general, vehicles must, to quality, have under a certain amount of kilometres on their odometer and not have been modified mechanically or esthetically, and they must pass a multi-point inspection before being offered for sale. Usually, extended warranties are available on them, and the buyer often has access to preferred financing rates.

Some concrete examples
At Toyota, the certification program includes a 160-point quality inspection, a comprehensive tune-up and refurbishing process carried out by Toyota factory-trained technicians, a CarProof report providing a detailed vehicle history, special finance or lease rates through Toyota Financial Services, a 6-month/10,000 km powertrain warranty and 24/7 roadside assistance (honoured at over 1,500 Toyota dealerships in Canada and the United States), no deductible to pay, a 7-day/1,500 km exchange privilege, a free full tank of gas and first oil change included.

Certification programs offered by the other big automakers like BMW, Ford, Hyundai and Mazda are pretty similar, as are those offered by associations like the AMVOQ (Association des marchands de véhicules d’occasion du Québec). Some may offer a few extra elements, more-generous warranties or even a mediation service in case of a dispute.

Benefits?
Buying a certified pre-owned vehicle usually means you are assured of acquiring a model that is newer, in better condition, better protected by warranty and likely to have a better resale value down the road. Do make sure to ask to see the inspection forms before signing on the dotted line, and for maximum peace of mind, you should still insist on having the vehicle inspected by an independent service centre.

Check out our tips on whether you should buy a new or used vehicle.