Lemon Law Attorneys Blog


The Truth About "Certified" Used Vehicles

           May 13, 2021 by Karl Heil

Certified Pre Owned Vehicle

Carmakers and dealers sometimes claim that their used cars are “certified.”   However, what “certified” actually means varies from manufacturer to manufacturer or dealer to dealer.  Generally, though, certified vehicles are recent model-year vehicles, have undergone an inspection, have been repaired or reconditioned, and may come with some kind of warranty.

So, in theory, a certified vehicle’s major components are inspected, repaired, or reconditioned.  Vehicles certified under a manufacturer’s certified used car program typically undergo a more rigorous inspection/repair process and are backed by the manufacturer’s warranty.  Vehicles certified by the dealer may undergo a more limited inspection/repair process and may not have a warranty.  

Auto manufacturers and car dealers do not certify vehicles out of generosity.  Instead, they certify used vehicles in an effort to increase their profit from the sale of used vehicles.  Manufacturers and dealers see the certification process as a way to increase used car sales as well as profit per used vehicle. 

In addition, if a manufacturer or dealer fails to inspect and repair a vehicle prior to selling it as a certified vehicle, a buyer’s recourse will vary from state to state.  Many states have no laws specifically regulating the sale of certified used vehicles.  Buyers in those states may have to prove fraud—intent by the manufacturer or dealer to cheat them—and the certifier can always argue that it simply made a mistake.  Otherwise, the certifier may be held only to the terms actually appearing in the written contract or warranty.  Other states, like California, have enacted laws that regulate the advertising and sale of certified vehicles.  California, for example, prohibits vehicles with certain kinds of damage and odometer discrepancies, among other things, from being certified and requires sellers to provide buyers with a copy of the certification report prior to the sale.

In short, the mere fact that a vehicle is being sold as a “certified pre-owned vehicle” does not mean much.  A consumer should still find out:

  1. Which components were inspected,
  2. Which components were repaired/reconditioned,
  3. Whether the vehicle was in an accident,
  4. Whether the vehicle sustained flood damage,
  5. Whether the vehicle comes with a warranty from the manufacturer,
  6. How long the warranty lasts, and
  7. Which components are covered by the warranty.

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