Tips for buying a certified used car

A salesman shows a certified pre-owned Lexus vehicle

A salesman shows a certified pre-owned Lexus vehicle at a California dealership. (July 1, 2010) (Credit: AP)

Just because you're considering the purchase of a certified pre-owned vehicle doesn't mean you're off the hook in terms of doing the necessary research and preparing a list of questions to ask before signing on the dotted line. Here are 10 tips to help make your certified used car purchase a pleasant one:

1. Research resale values the same way you would with a non-certified used car. For example, the Cars.com Used-Car Values pricing tool gives average values that are determined by the vehicle's condition, mileage, optional equipment and other factors.

2. Make sure the manufacturer -- and not just the local dealer -- is offering the certification. That way you know the CPO car meets the manufacturer's stringent certified requirements, and you'll be able to have your vehicle serviced at locations nationwide.


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3. Ask to see the certification checklist to make sure all major components have been inspected.

4. Insist on a vehicle repair and maintenance history.

5. Make sure the remainder of the new-car warranty is clear and in writing.

6. Read the fine print on the CPO warranty. Most certified used-car warranties cover only the powertrain. If you want bumper-to-bumper coverage, you may have to purchase that separately. Some warranties are much longer than others. Some warranties are transferable; others are not.

7. Pay attention to both the age and mileage limits in the warranty. Chances are you'll hit the mileage limit first.

8. Get details on the return policy. Is there one? Within what time frame? Will the dealer refund registration and license fees and sales tax, as well?

9. Take the certified used car for a nice, long test drive.

10. Haggle away. Just because a used car is certified doesn't mean you can't -- or shouldn't -- negotiate on price as you would with any other car.

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