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Used Cars: "Certified" No Substitute for Extended Warranties
Thinking about a used car extended warranty? Nervous about what's under the hood? Used car dealers are feeling your pain all the way to the bank. In an ironic twist, "pre-owned vehicle" dealers have found a way to profit from their bad reputation.
No, they're not just selling overpriced used car extended warranties anymore. They're charging a 10%-25% markup on used cars "certified" (by them) not to be pieces of junk. The accompanying "certified" used car warranties in fact usually carry much less protection than the best used car warranties, which you can buy yourself online. Who needs a used car warranty if your jalopy is a "certified" machine?
But even paying 10%-25% more won't eliminate risk. Thorough extended warranties for used cars are necessary, "certified" or not. In some cases, a half-hearted inspection means the certification may not be worth the paper it's written on. Used car problems often only appear months or years after purchase. That's why even for mint used cars, used car extended warranties are essential.
Worse, "certified" used cars don't always come with any extended used car warranty coverage. When a "certified" used car warranty is included, it usually has much less coverage than a new car warranty. Even most standard pre-owned vehicle extended warranties offer much more protection than most "certified" used car warranties.
You can almost always do better on your own. An independent inspection and a used car extended warranty provide better peace of mind, often at a lower price.
The cornerstone of a "certified" used car program is the supposedly super-thorough inspection. There are good reasons to think that the inspection does not replace an independent inspection or used car extended warranty coverage.
*Are inspections really added value? Don't you wonder why dealers aren't inspecting all their cars before taking delivery themselves? Car dealers aren't idiots, at least not with cars. Anyone who's had to haggle over a trade-in knows that. The big question is whether the dealership will disclose everything it knows. Trust is still an issue with "certified" cars.
*Certified by whom? Think about it: the same people who are trying to sell you the car are also "certifying" it. Yes, you read right: the "certification" is usually done by the dealership selling the car. If there's any manufacturer oversight, it's often just an occasional inspection of the dealer's inspection.
*Duplicate inspection. You should have any used car, "certified" or not, thoroughly inspected by an independent mechanic. You're up against an industry that demonstrates about as much trustworthiness as, well, used car dealers. Do not give up your first line of defense.
*Limits of inspections. No inspection in the world can foresee every possible problem. Oftentimes, something that breaks a few months after purchase really was fine when the car was sold--or was virtually undetectable. When--not if--something gives out, you'd better have a used car extended warranty.
"Certified" Used Car Warranty Coverage under the Hood
The implied selling point of "certified" used cars is they won't break. That kind of makes used car extended warranties seem unnecessary. Naturally, some buyers may wonder what will be happen if something does break anyway. In order to ease those inquiring minds, "certified" used car warranties often come included, or are at least implied. Sadly, too few people will inquire further about what the "certified" used car warranty covers.
*Does certified mean "under warranty"? Not necessarily. The major manufacturers' "certified" programs usually include some extended warranty protection. But oftentimes, "certified" cars sold outside of manufacturers' programs do not come with any extended warranty coverage. If it does break, tough luck.
*How good's the warranty? The GM Certified Used Vehicle Warranty is only for 3 months or 3,000 miles! Ford offers longer "certified" warranties. But they generally aren't bumper-to-bumper, covering only the "power train." Forget about the little extras like the roof or the doors. Right off the internet, you can buy extended warranty used car coverage that is generally bumper-to-bumper and lasts several years.
"Certified" Used Cars: Extended Warranties Still Needed
"Certified" used cars offer two things: an inspection and a used car extended warranty. Arguably, neither is worth the price.
*Inspection. Let's face reality. The junky used car problem doesn't exist for want of dealer inspections. Lemons get sold for one of three reasons. a) The defect did not show up in the dealer's own inspection. b) The dealer is trying to sell a car whose defects were already known. Or sometimes c) the buyer knows about the defects but is guilty of wishful thinking. In none of these cases will a "certified" inspection provide the protection of an independent inspection and extended used car warranty.
*Warranty. A "certified" used car will often cost 10%-25% more. For a $10,000 used car, that's $1,000-$2,500. An extended used car warranty from an independent auto warranty company will often cost about the same. But the best used car warranties will provide a lot more protection than "certified" used car warranties. Given that fact, you may end up getting an independent extended car warranty anyway.
Worst of all, certified used cars come with an expensive risk. They tempt you to let your guard down. Ford even issued a press release headlined "Pre-Owned Vehicle Program Reduces Customer Buyer Beware." As if that were a good thing.
Of course, in the end, you may buy a "certified" used car anyway. These days it seems there are fewer and fewer used cars that aren't "certified." Just make sure to get an independent inspection and an independent used car extended warranty. "Certified" or not, it's still a used car.
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