Used Cars vs. Certified Used Cars: What’s the Difference? 


So, you’ve made the decision to buy a used car. Good choice. Used cars tend to be more affordable than new cars, certainly don’t depreciate the way new cars do, and are available as either certified used or pre-owned. Which means you have another choice to make.


Is it better to buy used or certified used? The team at your Portsmouth used car dealer can help you choose either option from their impressive inventory.


But first, what’s the difference between used and certified used?


A New Old Car

A used car is simply that. A car that has already been driven, used, by someone else. Generally, used cars do not come with any warranties, meaning maintenance, repairs, and general upkeep expenses will all come out of your pocket.


This is often the tipping point pushing people to purchase new instead of used. Not knowing how much a car might ultimately cost, depending on maintenance needs, leaves some shoppers squeamish.


But what if a new car just isn’t in your budget? And how can you avoid potentially astronomical fees if your used car is a clunker?


By purchasing a certified used car.


Show Me the Cert!


Just how used are we talking?


Generally, a certified car has not exceeded 60,000-80,000 miles, and is less than seven years old.


Certified used cars offer various degrees of warranty coverage and are only available on used cars that have undergone a series of multi-point inspections.


Keep in mind, these inspections are crucial for any pre-owned car purchase and certified is not a guarantee that a car is accident free. Even Carfax gets it wrong sometimes, and so it’s recommended that pre-owned purchasers get an independent inspection before signing for a used car, whether or not it is certified.


Once a used vehicle passes these inspections, it can then be sold with an updated warranty, which officially makes it a certified used vehicle.


You’ve Got Options


There are two types of certified vehicles: manufacturer-certified and dealer-certified. Great, another decision!


The good news here is that manufacturer-backed certifications account for the majority of certified pre-owned vehicles.


Certification requirements and benefits will vary between manufacturers, but most offer an extended warranty on the vehicle, limited bumper-to-bumper warranty, and additional services, like 24-hour roadside assistance. Still, it’s important to check the fine print.


Fine Print? Check!


What does it take, for example, for Mazda to certify a pre-owned vehicle?


A Mazda Certified Pre-Owned vehicle must be less than six years old and driven less than 80,000 miles.


Benefits of owning a Mazda Certified Pre-Owned vehicle include the following:


  • 150-point inspection

  • 3-Year AutoCheck Buyback Protection

  • 7-year/100,000-Mile Powertrain warranty from the original in-service date

  • 12-Month/12,000-Mile Additional Limited Warranty with no deductible on covered components, which begins as soon as the factory warranty ends. If it is already out of warranty, the 12-Month/12,000-Mile Additional Limited Warranty starts on the certified retail date.

  • No deductible

  • AutoCheck® Vehicle History Report

  • 24-hour roadside assistance

  • Warranty coverage is transferable

  • Transferable benefits

  • Special APR Programs

  • Available Mazda Extended Confidence Coverage (CPO Wraps)


Consider Ford’s fine print, by way of comparison. After all, comparison shopping is what used car buying is all about.


Similar to the Mazda Certified Pre-Owned plan, Ford Certified Pre-Owned vehicles must also be less than six years old and driven less than 80,000 miles. The benefits of a Ford certification present some variations compared to Mazda, including a deductible:


  • 172-Point Inspection

  • Vehicle History Report

  • 7-year/100,000-Mile Limited Powertrain Warranty Coverage

  • 12-Month/12,000-Mile Comprehensive Warranty from date of purchase

  • Certified Pre-owned warranty is transferable

  • $100 deductible

  • 24-hour Roadside Assistance

  • Travel expense reimbursement of up to $500 per day for up to three days related to vehicle breakdown

  • Rental car reimbursement of up to $30 per day for up to five days if the vehicle requires overnight mechanical repairs

  • Destination expense assistance of up to $75 to cover the emergency cost of a taxi, shuttle or rental car to get you to your destination

  • Lockout assistance of up to $50 to unlock vehicle doors

  • Fuel delivery if the vehicle runs out of fuel - up to 2 gallons at no charge

  • Low APR Financing


No matter the manufacturer, with a manufacturer-certified car, the factory warranty must be honored by any dealership of that brand.


So, for example, you purchased a manufacturer-certified pre-owned 2015 Mazda CX-5 SUV from Seacoast Mazda. You take it on a road trip only to discover that the check engine light is on, though the car seems to be running just fine.


You can rest easy knowing that any other Mazda dealership, whether you’re in Maine, Montana or Mississippi will cover the cost of your repair, based on the specifications in your warranty.



What’s the Deal?


Dealer certified pre-owned cars are often only honored at that specific dealership.


So, to return to our earlier roadtrip example, if you purchased a dealer-certified used car from Seacoast Mazda and found yourself in need of a repair, you would likely, based on the terms of your dealer-certification, have to return to Seacoast Mazda for the repair.


Depending on how much traveling you do and considering how close you live or work in proximity to your dealership, a dealer-certified used car might make perfect sense for you.


While for some, this dealer-specific certification might seem limiting, there is another important perk to consider.


Although in most cases the dealer determines the warranty coverage types and terms, sometimes you can actually choose which types of coverage you’re most interested in, based on how you intend to use the car, how often you intend to drive it, or what kind of commute you have. (Basically, any factors that might predict the types of repairs and maintenance your car will need.)


Too Good to be True?


So, what’s the catch? Why, with all this talk about warranties, whether manufacturer or dealer-certified, why would anyone choose a used car over a certified used car?


No Free Lunch

Certified vehicles usually come with an additional premium, meaning you will pay more for a certified pre-owned vehicle compared to just a used car. This is especially true of higher-end and repair-prone vehicles.


But this additional cost, essentially the cost of an extended-warranty, is really like paying for peace of mind.


Depending on the car you purchase, a certified pre-owned vehicle from your Portsmouth used car dealer might still be your more cost-efficient and affordable option.


Please contact one of our departments for more information.


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