The Facts Behind Certified Used Cars

“Certified” is stamped on everything from ground beef to legal documents these days. It’s also the latest buzzword – and big business – in used car sales.


By Brooke Gilchrist


“Certified” is stamped on everything from ground beef to legal documents these days. It’s also the latest buzzword – and big business – in used car sales.

Vehicles marked “certified used” or “certified pre-owned” have enhanced the reputation of the used car market and helped increase sales. According to Automotive News, more than 1.5 million certified used cars and light trucks were sold in the United States in April of this year alone – a 6 percent increase over April 2004.

There are many advantages to purchasing a certified used vehicle – if buyers understand the certification process, know the questions to ask, and are aware of additional “perks” they can obtain. Credit union managers and loan officers have an opportunity to assist members by spreading – and clarifying – the word about certified vehicles.

The Process

The first general requirements of certification are that a vehicle has low mileage and be late model, meaning it is within the past few model years. If a member finds a “certified” vehicle that has 100,000 miles – buyer beware.

The certification process begins when a vehicle is removed from a rental fleet, the lease on a vehicle expires, an automobile is traded in for the purchase of a new one, or a dealer purchases a vehicle via wholesale auction for resale to consumers.

The dealership then evaluates the condition of the vehicle – and “certifies” it – via an inspection. Most of these inspections performed by manufacturers, dealers and other car sellers are rigorous and comprehensive – 100 points or more, including all major systems and components such as brakes, steering, suspension, transmission, electrical, and air conditioning and heating.

An example, and a popular partner to more than 1,000 credit unions throughout the country, is Enterprise Car Sales, a division of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which closely monitors its fleet of 600,000 vehicles. Before arriving on an Enterprise Car Sales lot, every vehicle undergoes a 109-point inspection by an ASE-certified technician. Enterprise, which prices its certified vehicles below NADA Used Car Guide or Kelley Blue Book suggested retail values, backs its certification program with a seven-day repurchase agreement should a customer change their mind about the purchase.

The Questions

Certification doesn’t always ensure the quality of an automobile, so buyers should be sure to verify the details of the dealer’s certification process by asking these questions:

  • Can I have a copy of the inspection check list with the mechanics’ comments attached? Notes will be made on any repairs that were made.
  • How long did the inspection take? To properly evaluate an automobile, it will take much more than 30 to 45 minutes.
  • Who, exactly, certified the vehicle? Certification can be by a manufacturer (such as General Motors, Ford, Toyota, etc.) or an individual dealer or seller. Backing by a manufacturer usually assures coverage in other service departments and states, should an individual move or have a need arise while traveling. In any case, the certification should be performed by an ASE technician.

The Perks

In addition to the peace-of-mind that buyers experience when purchasing a certified used vehicle, they often receive many of the same benefits as new vehicle customers. Many dealers accept trade-ins, offer financing and make vehicle service contracts available. Some even offer no-haggle pricing so buyers can avoid unpleasant negotiation. Then, to ensure long-term satisfaction, they back their vehicles with limited powertrain warranties and 24-hour roadside assistance.

One potential perk that credit union managers should be aware of is low-rate loans that dealers offer to buyers of certified used vehicles to capture the loan in-house. A safe haven for credit unions is Enterprise Car Sales, which guarantees that credit unions receive 100 percent of used-car loans for member purchases 100 percent of the time. For additional information, you may contact Brooke Gilchrist, National Accounts Manager at Enterprise Car Sales at 314-512-4181 or


May 16, 2005


  • I have had nothing but problems with my purchase (Chrysler 200) it had faulty airbags and now the regional manager can't find my 109 point inspection!!!! It's rediculous! I don't even want this vehicle anymore, me and my small children including an infant have been driving around with no deployable airbags for 5 months. If we were in an accident that would have been very bad. The only reason they decided to fix my airbags is because they can't find an inspection done SMH
  • Who is certifying Enterprise's used cars?
  • Awesome!
  • very imformative
  • I am glad I read this before going out and buying a car from a dealership.
  • Enterprise Car Sales is the best place to buy a car... no question! The customer service is outstandign as well as the price you pay!
  • not relevant
  • I wish i read this before buying my. van
  • Very informative article.