The used car market can be a minefield.

    A listing will appear online presenting an immaculate car with a clean bill of health and before you know it, once the seller has driven off into the sunset, you’re served an eye-watering bill by the mechanic.

    Sometimes it’s just bad luck, but in many situations preventative measures could have been taken.

    One of those measures is to buy a certified pre-owned car, rather than a lemon from a suspicious stranger on Facebook Marketplace.

    A certified pre-owned car is a used vehicle that fits certain condition criteria and passes a number of rigorous tests set by the manufacturer.

    MORE: Did you know you can sell your car with CarExpert?

    This process is undertaken by dealers, who are then able to sell pre-loved cars as certified pre-owned examples.

    Eligibility criteria varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, but the majority of brands in Australia select cars that are less than five years old and have no more than 120,000 kilometres on the odometer.

    If a car ticks those boxes, it is then put through a thorough mechanical inspection consisting of up to 190 check points in the case of the Ferrari Approved program.

    In general, manufacturers assess between 90-165 check points, with 100 being the most common number.

    Another set of pass marks qualifies the car to be sold as a certified pre-owned vehicle, which comes with a range of benefits for the buyer.

    The perks vary depending on the manufacturer, but some of the bonuses you can expect a certified car to come with include a warranty, full service history, roadside assistance, and maybe even free servicing for a set period.

    For example, Nissan Australia packages certified pre-owned cars with three years of complimentary roadside assistance, a 1000km exchange period, service benefits, and warranty options.

    Audi offers a two-year, unlimited kilometre warranty with its certified pre-owned cars, as well as two years of included servicing and roadside assistance.

    The program exists to give used car buyers peace of mind, says Brighton Automotive Group general sales manager Joshua Ferguson.

    “It provides more comfort for the buyer,” Mr Ferguson told CarExpert.

    MORE: Did you know you can sell your car with CarExpert?

    “The car has to meet a certain criteria to become a certified pre-owned vehicle. There are a lot more inspections and checks that have to be done to make sure that the car has genuine history.

    “The dealer looks over the car but there’s a set checklist provided by the manufacturer for the car to meet certified pre-owned standards.”

    Certification provides car buyers with both confidence in the history of the car they are buying and a safety net in case something goes wrong.

    No public seller can provide that guarantee, even if they follow a strict maintenance schedule and sell the car in an honest manner.

    So, what’s the catch? Certified pre-owned cars generally cost more than their uncertified counterparts.

    American automotive research company Kelley Blue Book estimates the price for a certified pre-owned car is about 1.8 per cent higher than for a regular used car, but other sources predict that figure is closer to 10 per cent.

    The difference could therefore range from a few hundred dollars to thousands depending on the price set by the dealer and the model in question, so not all certifications hold the same value.

    The question comes down to whether you are willing to pay up for peace of mind.

    Josh Nevett

    Josh Nevett is an automotive journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Josh studied journalism at The University of Melbourne and has a passion for performance cars, especially those of the 2000s. Away from the office you will either find him on the cricket field or at the MCG cheering on his beloved Melbourne Demons.

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