Over the last couple of decades, used cars are not what they use to be, at least when you walk into dealerships like Olathe Dodge Chrysler Jeep or most Toyota dealerships.
Sure, you can buy a used car. But you can also buy a certified pre-owned car.
“Typically, the way it works is a non-certified car has a 50-point check,” said Troy Reichle, sales manager at Olathe Dodge Chrysler Jeep. “You make sure it stops, it starts and it is safe. That is basically what you are looking for.
“A certified car gets 125-point inspection with basically everything about the car is gone over, including, if not all factory equipment, nothing that would impede the factory equipment from working. It has to have an owner’s manual, two sets of keys, original style floor mats. Basically, it is a brand new car with miles and a little bit of wear.”
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According to Carfax, certification programs for used cars were introduced in the 1990s and are now widely offered by many vehicle brands and dealerships. CPO vehicles are just a few years old with a low mileage. They are refurbished and put through a rigorous inspection and testing process.
A car has to be five years old or less with fewer than 75,000 miles on it. Reichle said.
“The best way to describe a certified car is it is the car you would suggest your mom buy,” Reichle said. “You want your mom to drive the best car, but not necessarily buy a brand new car. This is a new car with miles on it.”
At Olathe Dodge Chrysler Jeep, only Chrysler and Fiat vehicles on their lot are certified vehicles.
“Our service department does the certification,” Reichle said. “They are Chrysler certified mechanics.”
Reichle said Toyota was probably the first manufacturer to push the certification program.
“Chrysler has literally been doing it for 10 years, but the last few years it has really been pushed,” Reichle said.
The reason? It’s just good business.
“I think mainly manufacturers didn’t care about used cars. Now I think they realize customers are still going to be using our service department,” Reichle said. “They are still going to be using Chrysler financing. If you sell better used cars, the customer who buys that car isn’t going to think of it as used or new. They are going to think of it as their brand of car. If that car is not good, they are going to blame the dealership and the manufacturer, regardless.”
For that reason, Reichle said all the used cars his department sells at Olathe Dodge Chrysler Jeep, whether it is certified or not, are put through a rigorous inspection.
Usually, he said, half his non-new inventory is certified pre-owned cars and the other half are used cars.
As the No. 1 volume dealer in Kansas City in the Dodge Chrysler Jeep brand, Olathe receives plenty of used cars as trade-ins for new cars.
“Ninety percent of our used cars are trade-ins,” Reichle said. “Occasionally, I will buy a Chrysler in an auction and sometimes (from) Enterprise Rent-A-Car directly.”
Reichle said most car buyers today know the difference between a certified pre-owned vehicle and a used vehicle.
“But if they don’t, it is not hard to explain,” he said. “As far as Olathe Dodge goes, my feeling is if it can’t pass that inspection, it should not be a car sold here.”
Basically, it comes down to what you are looking for. Car buyers will spend a little more on a certified pre-owned vehicle.
“Consumers typically pay about 10 percent more for a certified used vehicle than they pay for a like make, model and condition used vehicle that is uncertified,” said senior analyst with AutoTrader.com Michelle Krebs in a story in Auto News.
Cars.com lists several reasons why some used car buyers prefer the certified pre-owned route.
One reason was certified pre-owned means peace of mind; with the inspection, repairs and warranty, you have saved the time and money it would have taken to find and make them yourself.
Another was because with the multipoint inspection, more details will be taken care of. For instance, if the brakes have less than 60 percent life left, they have to be replaced.
Traditionally, car sales in the Midwest slow down during the winter months. Reichle said this is the best time for customers to come to Olathe Dodge Chrysler Jeep.
“Our sales people still have rent and the same amount of food they have to buy,” he said. “Our expenses don’t change but the amount of income drops so this is the time of year to come in.
“I have seven sales people here who would love to sell people cars.”
And you have plenty of options if you are looking for a used car, whether it is certified or not.
“What I do personally (is) every car has to meet the same criteria that the certified car does,” Reichle said.