One option when choosing a used vehicle is whether or not to consider a car from a manufacturer’s certified used vehicle program.
The pros and cons are fairly straightforward: generally, a manufacturer will do multi-point inspections, offer additional warrantees beyond the original, bring the vehicle up to near-new condition and more.
Some offer 24-hour roadside assistance, and others allow you to exchange within 30 days if you’re unhappy with your purchase. However, the prices are usually higher than those you might find at a traditional used-car dealer or through private sale.
“Basically the car is like new, only three years old and half the price,” said Crystal Tost, a real-estate agent from Calgary. “I bought a 2006 BMW 530xi a year ago from Calgary BMW. I bought it because the car was reconditioned like new, such as tires, brakes, etc.”
Tost added that the dealer repainted the car’s hood to fix some stone chips, and filled holes in the bumper where an out-of-province front plate had been mounted. “The car as a whole has to live up to certain standards that you just don’t find on the resale market by a private owner.”
Tost said the car’s price was similar to other non-certified models. “Maybe a bit more, but worth it in the end. My car retailed at over $90,000 and I bought it for $44,000 with only 29,000 km. I would buy another one in a heartbeat!”
Some buyers prefer the ease of buying a certified used vehicle because it takes a good chunk of the effort and research out of the mix.
“The Toyota Certified Used Vehicle program raises the bar on what customers expect from a pre-owned vehicle,” said Warren Orton, director of Toyota Canada Inc. “Our 127 point inspection requires a minimum of 50 per cent brake pad depth and original tire tread; that’s important peace of mind for our customers.”
Jack Sulymka, general manager of Brennan’s Dixie Chrysler in Brampton, Ont., thinks the programs help the dealership provide better vehicles to potential clients.
“The key is the factory trained inspection process and reconditioning requirements,” he explained. “The service contracts that are available to the customer from Chrysler are clear … there is no grey area.”
Consumers should do their homework about certified used vehicles. First, a manufacturer will only certify its own models, so you won’t see a certified Audi at a Hyundai dealer. Second, buyers still have to request things like previous owner and crash histories, but they can have a little faith that any repairs made were done to manufacturers’ standards. Third, you can still negotiate on price, like any other used vehicle, and shouldn’t be afraid of doing so.
However, just because a vehicle isn’t certified doesn’t mean you should avoid them. There are many excellent vehicles that don’t fall within a manufacturer’s set standards for certification, which can mean a good bargain.
Most people prefer to take the lower price of a non-certified model and get it inspected independently before making their decision to purchase. There are plenty of specialist auto dealers and service shops that can provide equal or better service without the added expense.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to determine which avenue to pursue depending on your budget and confidence in spotting a potential lemon.
Expert tips for buying used
Here are five tips for purchasing a used car courtesy of Bob Beattie, executive director of the Used Car Dealer Association of Ontario.
• Do your research, and have a general idea of what you are looking for and a price range you’re comfortable with.
• For young people, check that you can be insured for that vehicle. A 16-year-old new driver will have a hard time getting a policy on a 2003 Chevrolet Corvette.
• Ask for previous owner history and accident reports.
• Read the contract carefully and fully understand how the final price was determined. If there’s anything you’re not happy with, walk away. There are plenty of fish in the sea, and plenty of good used vehicles out there.
• Sign the contract only if you are absolutely sure you want the vehicle. Depending on the province, there is no cooling off period where you can return the vehicle after a limited amount of time or if you find something wrong with it.