Used car question


Should you take the used car at the dealer to a mechanic to have it checked specifically for damage, repairs etc ? Does it apply for the ‘certified’ cars at dealers? What other options does a buyer have in this regard. I’ve heard Carfax is helpful but not a 100%. Any input ? Thanks.


Carfax is a waste of money.

This post will undoubtably raise differences of philosophy. With a late model “certified” used car from a reputable dealer, that carries a warranty, I don’t honestly think it’s necessary to have an independent check. Cars like that in my area come with a lengthy computerized list of everything that’s been checked and serviced. Those cars have been gone over pretty thoroughly, and if they find a problem they sell it at an auction to a traditional used car dealer.


Used cars are always a “crap shoot”, even with the dubious title of “certified”.

Anyone who buys a used car without having it inspected by the mechanic of their choice is courting potential problems with that car. And, judging from the negative postings in this forum about Carfax, I would say that their level of accuracy is very far from 100%.

Used cars are like buses. If you don’t take this one, another one will come along. Don’t rush into anything without a thorough inspection for both mechanical problems and body/chassis damage.


One guy I work with always takes his used cars to his mechanic before he buys. In PA there was a service for $99 they will do a complete inspection, engine compression test, etc. and give you a report. No recommendations just a report like a home inspection.




I guess not a bad idea but do dealers usually agree to this ? Should I expect some form of ‘deposit’ or security for their car ? I’ve heard you should not even give a copy of your license ,just show it to them. But wont they ask for something while you take the car away? I can leave my car at the dealer , will that do?


No, carfax is not a waste of money. I found a very nice Legend once and was to the "I’ll buy it but I wanna carfax it first stage. Good thing I did - it turned up a salvage title that had been laundered by flushing it through a state w/o a salvage field in the database.

And it also caught a salvage title on a “certifed used” Del Sol at a dealership. 'Ship pled ignorance, but I drove by the next week and saw the same car at the same price on the lot.

so that’s twice that carfax has saved me. Once from a crooked private seller and once from a crooked stealership.


Carfax is certainly a good idea but I’ve seen some people posted their bad experiences. One guy bought a relatively new car from the dealer, then was in a car accident. During estimation of repairs was found that car already had body repair with pretty good job covering it up. Car fax for this car was clean. He went back to the dealer who denied any knowledge of this. Some people recommended calling Carfax ,some advised legal action against dealership. I dont know what happened eventually.


You don’t need to take a certified used car to a mechanic, but you should make sure about a few things:

  1. Is it certified by the manufacturer? don’t buy it if it isn’t.

  2. Ask to see the repair history on the car. Don’t buy it if they can’t produce the repair and maintenance history.

  3. Ask if the selling dealer maintained the car for the previous owner.

There was a feature in the LA Times on Wednesday this week on this subject. See if it is on line at


Many new car dealers also have a used car department that does not always depends on trades for a source of cars. If you check CARFAX(typically I do on free ones available) you find many cars are purchased at auction by new car dealers typically in FL. Cars are sent to auction for a variety of reasons beyond simply being troublesome for a dealer.

CARFAX is just another indicator of a cars history. If your purchasing a used car at a dealer ask them to run the CARFAX. They have access to the tool and if they balk tell them your uneasy and walk away. They will fold to prevent the loss of a sale.

Note some certified cars spent their life as loaners at car dealers which can be good or possibly bad.


I would say CarFax is OK as a negative indicator. In other words, if there is a problem on the CarFax report you should definitely walk away, but a clean CarFax is no guarantee of anything. Some states and insurance companies don’t make their records available to CarFax and some big stuff can be totally missing from their report.


I have bought a number of used cars over the years, but always checked the history, ususally with the AAA title search service in my area. Once they came up with a an insurance write-off identification on a Ford Escort (my wife loved the color). I got supicous when the hood did not close evenly. There have been many floods in the US, and Consumer Reports warns all readers to make sure they don’t end up buying a flood victim.


Here’s the whole list, with an attribution to the author. You can see the entire guide at:

  1. Research resale values the same way you would with a non-certified used car. The Kelley Blue Book Used-Car Values pricing tool gives average values that are determined by the vehicle?s condition, mileage, optional equipment and other factors.

  2. Make sure the manufacturer ? and not just the local dealer ? is offering the certification. That way you know the CPO car meets the manufacturer?s stringent certification requirements, and you?ll be able to have your vehicle serviced at locations nationwide.

  3. Ask to see the certification checklist to make sure all major components have been inspected.

  4. Insist on a vehicle repair and maintenance history. 5. Make sure the remainder of the new-car warranty is clear and in writing.

  5. Read the fine print on the CPO warranty. Most certified used-car warranties cover only the powertrain. If you want bumper-to-bumper coverage, you may have to purchase that separately. Some warranties are much longer than others. Some warranties are transferable; others are not.

  6. Pay attention to both the age and mileage limits in the warranty. Chances are you?ll hit the mileage limit first.

  7. Get details on the return policy. Is there one? Within what time frame? Will the dealer refund registration and license fees and sales tax, as well?

  8. Take the certified used car for a nice, long test drive. 10. Haggle away. Just because a used car is certified doesn?t mean you can?t ? or shouldn?t ? negotiate on price as you would with any other car.

? Stephanie Overby,


They need a copy of your license for a test drive to prove you are valid driver and if you decide to “borrow” aka steal the car they know who you are. There is no reason to not leave them your license. Leaving your car is useless as they have no proof of who actually owns it including a bank or another person.


“certified” is a meaningless term. It means anything the seller wants it to mean.

Certified for WHAT? Certified against WHAT?

What it means is that the dealer certifies it’s a used car. If the sales contract says “sold as is” then the word “certified” means NOTHING at all…


The term can mean anything, which is why it is important to get a factory certified car. They have clearly defined programs to certify the cars they sell. Check out the URL in my earlier post to see what some of the manufacturer’s certification programs entail.


As mentioned, the word “certified” may or may not mean much. That word is used as more of a sales tool than anything else; just like the word Carfax is also used to promote sales.

Many people also mistakenly assume that a “certified” car means no problems, no maintenance, no worries, and everything down to the license plate screws is covered in the event of a problem. Not.

Also, even a very thorough inspection by a very qualified mechanic is not an indication that problems will not occur. It’s a used car no matter what and there are just too many things that cannot be inspected or tested until there is a failure. (ignition module for one.)
They can pretty much verify the general condition of the car and note any potential problems that may be visible or subject to testing, such as compression, etc.


Well stated. A “clean” CarFax report is as informative as no CarFax report at all.


“certified” garantees nothing. An inspection by an independant mechanic who is very familiar with the type vehicle in question would certainly seem worthwhile.


And a car certified by the factory is just that. Do you really think that BMW, Cadillac, or Lexus (to name a few) would just slap a label on any old car just to make a sale? It seems to me that they want repeat business. The quickest way to kill the certified used car business is to sell junk through that outlet.