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The checklist: Know what’s been tested

The checklist: Know what’s been tested

At the heart of every certified used-car program is one thing: the vehicle inspection. A good, thorough inspection gives certified used cars a big advantage over traditional used cars, so pay close attention to exactly what has been checked and what hasn’t. Buyers should dig in to the details of the inspection process. Who inspected the car? What did they look at? What repairs or service were performed on it?

While many certification programs pride themselves on the number of “points” in their inspections, the total number doesn’t matter nearly as much as what’s being inspected.

For example, while a manufacturer might tout their “200-point inspection” as part of the deal, many of those points might be things that are obvious to a careful car shopper anyway. You want to make sure the inspection includes digging deep into the vehicle, looking under the hood and into all the finer points of its mechanical operation.

In other words, a good inspection will go more than skin deep. It should expose and fix problems that a buyer normally wouldn’t have the opportunity or expertise to evaluate on their own.


Ask your dealer to give you a complete copy of the inspection report. The paperwork should tell you who performed the inspection, when it was done, what things were checked, along with the condition or status of each item on the checklist.

Try to get as much documentation about the vehicle maintenance as possible. This can be important to keep after you purchase the vehicle, too. Knowing what problems were found, along with when the repairs were made, can help you keep it properly maintained over time.


Finally, see if you can get the dealer to include a vehicle history report on the car.

Many, but not all, certification programs will offer a report from AutoCheck or a similar provider at no extra charge. This can give you information about how many owners a car has had, whether it has been in a major accident, was flooded or had odometer problems, among other information.

It’s a nice bonus for buyers who want that extra peace of mind.