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RAV4 Certified --what to expect/not expect


I bought a 2007 Rav4 Base, certified. I looked under the car today (two weeks after buying the car) and am noticing that there is a build up of “dirt” on several parts (like it’s caked on). I’ve driven about 100 miles, park inside at home and at work, and have driven during only one rainy day. I wonder whether the underside had been looked at during the certification process. What do you think? Also, the back of the driver and passenger seats show “pilling.” I thought when I initially saw the car that, Oh, well, it’s a used car (50,000 miles). But checking the certification checklist, I see it says that there should not be excess wear on the fabric. When I saw this, I thought it should have been taken care of as part of the certification process. If you think I’m being too picky, please let me know. I really don’t know what to expect/not expect. Thanks, Beachcomber.

A lot could depend on the type of dirt, how thick it is, and where this car came from as to whether you should worry about this vehicle or not. It only has 50k miles on it but if those miles were put on by someone who lived out in the sticks and commuted over 20 miles of rough road every day that mileage could be equivalent to 150k.

Never put much faith into the word “certified” when it comes to a used car. Just like Carfax or AutoCheck that word is more of sales gimmick than anything else to convince the potential buyer they’re getting a clean problem-free car.
I’m not saying this is the case at all but a grubby vehicle can be made to look pretty good by the detail shop and sometimes they do miss a few spots.

I do not know what to tell you about this vehicle except that a thorough inspection should always be performed on any used car before buying it. This means an inspection my someone else without any reliance on their 900 point inspection of whatever it is they may be touting.

What would I do if I were in your shoes? Get a competent tech to look this car over and make sure this thing is as advertised just for peace of mind if nothing else.

the back of the driver and passenger seats show "pilling. I doubt if that would cause concern to any certification process. Who did the certification?

Dirt in the engine compartment is normal in my book.

Frankly I believe you are expecting far too much from any certification process. Unless you hired someone to do the inspection for you, you should not expect much. After all that certification process is designed to help sell the car, not protect you.

Like I need any one to “certify” the fact that it is indeed a used car. Any salesmen or women of “certified” cars need to be viewed as what they are used car sales people just one step above lawyers.

“Certified” used cars are no different than other used cars that don’t bear a certification. They all need to be checked over thoroughly by you and your mechanic before you buy them. A great many people get lulled into believing “certified” used cars are somehow better than others, and that they don’t have anything wrong with them. The bad news is that whether a used car is “certified” or not, the responsibility is yours to have it thoroughly inspected by your mechanic before you buy.

Used car inspections are like pre-purchase home inspections. If you let the seller hire and pay the inspector, there is a conflict of interest. The inspector needs to be someone who works for you so he/she knows exactly whose interests are being served.

You purchased a used car. I don’t see too much out of line. The “pilling” on the seats may be due to the type of fabric used on the Rav4 Base. The upscale models may use a higher quality fabric. Years ago, we put seat covers on cars because the upholstery didn’t have a long life. I bought a bottom of the line Rambler Classic 550 and after 3 years, the upholstery was worn, so it got a set of seat covers. Modern fabric is better, but certainly doesn’t last indefinitely.

You might want to run your Rav4 through a carwash that washes the undercarriage.

I really don’t know what certified means. Back in the old days, Chevrolet dealers sold “OK” used cars, Buick dealers sold “Owner Certified” used cars, Pontiac dealers sold “Goodwill” used cars (and perhaps Studebaker dealers sold “Salvation Army” used cars?) I have no idea what those labels meant then and I don’t know what “certified” means now.

Cheap Walmart seat covers have kept the seats in my 1998 Civic looking like new. In fact, they are the only thing left on the car that still looks like new. They were only $15/pair, but they can’t be laundered and after a few years, they start to fall apart, but I was able to vacuum all of the old sticky foam they had left behind.

You are really extravagent. I bought seat covers for my old 1978 Oldsmobile at Big Lots and paid $9.95.

Thanks for the tip. I have been shopping at Big Lots recently. I will check out their seat covers.

I don’t know what criteira Toyota or other companies use for their “certified” used cars, but Mercedes Benz will only certify a used car that has been serviced by a MB Dealer since new, and have ALL service records on hand. Then all systems checked, all maint due within 5,000 miles is done. I have bought 3 of these vehicles, currently my 99 ml320 has 215,000 miles on it & my wifes 03 ML 350 has 77,000 miles with nothing bur normal wear & tear items replaced (brakes, shocks etc), and normal service.

That sounds like a couple of reasonable minimum requirements. After all, a certified pre-owned often comes with a warranty so it is in the dealer’s best interest to be reasonably certain that nothing major will break for the duration of the warranty.

I have also noticed that there are lot of “certified” knock-offs. Everybody can call their sued car “certified” but there are only a few genuine certified programs that are backed by the manufacturer. I am not sure if the original poster got one of these Toyota certified pre-owned from the Toyota dealer or something else.

In general, I would not worry about some dirt build-up. It is to be expected. I would be more worried if the car would be spotless in these parts. A steam cleaned engine to me always looks like the seller has something to hide because it would wash away evidence of any leak.

I have seen even “manufacturer certified” vehicles have problems that should have been caught by the most cursory inspection, like non-working windshield wipers on a Ford Taurus, and a broken seatbelt on a Toyota Sienna. In my opinion, no certification, manufacturer’s or not, is as good as a thorough inspection conducted by a mechanic being paid by the prospective buyer. I will admit, however, the tight restrictions on MB’s certification might be the exception to the rule.

Another part of this could be “who is doing the certifying”?

Over the years I’ve worked for 5 car dealers; 2 small and 3 large multi-line. Of those only one of the small ones sent any trade-in vehicles back to the service dept. and most of the time this was for generic, general services such as change the oil, all filters, etc.
Only one of the large ones did what I would consider a thorough evaluation. Any half-major problems that were present meant that car was going to be sent to wholesale.

Other than those 2 dealers neither myself or any other tech in the shop would ever see a trade-in car or a purchased from auction vehicle in the shop except in a very rare and limited circumstance.

Some years ago my youngest son bought a 40k miles Lincoln Aviator that was allegedly a certified vehicle and had allegedly been “completely serviced” in the Ford dealer’s shop before putting it out on the lot.
So, a month or so later I look the thing over while he’s visiting and find the trans fluid (claimed to have been changed) had not been touched, all of the OEM filthy filters were still in place along with the spark plugs, which had also allegedly been changed.
Take anything you’re told with a grain or 12 of salt.

Thank you. Great advice. I like that you said, “it only has 50K miles.” Initially I was looking for something with less mileage, but it seems like 50K doesn’t faze people when it comes to Hondas and Toyotas. I also like your comment about having someone look at it for peace of mind. After reading Toyota’s “list” – it seemed like the underside would have been checked, and to check it, the dirt would have to have been removed (at least, some of it). Having said all this, though, the car drives great. I think if anyone saw me driving it, they’d wonder why I’m smiling. I test drove a few, and this rode/drove the best. Handles nicely. I thought that might have been because of the work done in certification. Thanks, again. Beachcomber.

Thank you. I drove my Honda for 18 years, and am sure I didn’t look underneath it when I bought it (used – 3 years as well). I think I got a little nervous because this one is so different. Everyone here on the board has made me feel wonderful – and not alone. It was a big purchase for me. As I noted above, it handles well and is super fun to drive. Thanks, again. Beachcomber.

Thank you. I think the “stamp” says that certain things have been looked at, and they need to meet a particular standard. That’s why the underside and fabric surprised me. I’m trying to focus on the important points – it’s comfortable, I have good site lines, it drives well. As a bonus, the sound system works great. I wouldn’t have made that a criteria, but it makes driving fun. Thanks, again. Beachcomber.

Great advice. Good reminders (especially about the home inspection). Thank you! Beachcomber.

Thanks, you guys. My Honda had the greatest upholstery (burgundy) and it always looked great – after 18 years! When I sold it, my 100 year old neighbor asked me why I was selling it – she said it looked new. I loved that car. I think I’ve just been nervous because this was my first venture buying a car in a long time. Thanks you all. Beachcomber.

Thank you!. I bought the Toyota from a Toyota dealer and the dealer certified it. I don’t know if the process is as detailed as MB, but it has some specifics. I think I’ve just been a little nervous because I haven’t done this in a while (18 years), and my brain might be thinking – this one has to be as good as the last – foolish, I know, but car buying has changed a lot since then. I’ll check with Toyota about the former records. I bought the certified because it gave me a reference point (everything on the list taken care of as of the date of purchase). Thanks, again. Beachcomber.

Thank you. Good comment/question. A Toyota dealer certified it. I love your closing comment – and I agree with you! Thanks, again. Beachcomber.