People sometimes, will pay full sticker price and buy a new car instead of going with a gently-used old car, just for the simple reason that the idea of dealing with the unpredictable nature of the used car business makes them deeply anxious. It isn’t just that they are afraid that they’ll be sold a lemon. It’s the whole process that goes into doing everything in their power to make sure that they get a fair deal. It just seems to be too much of a hassle.

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Any used car buying guide will tell you what to look for; but it is still up to you to make sure that you put all the advice you get in that used car buying guide to practice. So if that is all it is, why don’t people go buy a certified pre-owned car? The company that made the car in the first place is the one buying it back from an owner, refurbishing it, slapping on an extended warranty, and selling it to you. Why, they even give you roadside assistance for a long, long time. Shouldn’t everyone just pick a certified pre-owned car and be happy with the deal they’re getting?

Of course, that peace of mind that a certified pre-owned car gives you comes with a price tag. They are typically 10% more expensive than an uncertified car from any old used car dealership. And they’ll cost you 20% more than if you bought them from individual sellers. But many times, the thousand dollars or so that you pay a certified program is well worth it. It allows you to buy a used car with confidence and save thousands over the price of a new car.

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But not all certified pre-owned programs offer you the same level of confidence or coverage. One car manufacturer may offer you a very generous 6-year guarantee, roadside assistance and even reimbursement for a loaner, while another dealer may offer you just 10,000 miles and nothing else. You’ll need to do a little research to find out about the programs that make the most sense for you. The used car buying guide at Edmund’s has detailed information.

When you are out there trying to judge one choice of car against another, the kind of terminology they use to describe their offerings can often be very confusing. What do you do if you are confronted with what seems like a very good deal, and the car has a sticker on it that says that it is Dealer-Certified? That’s just the same thing as “certified pre-owned”, right? Not exactly. When you buy a certified pre-owned car, it’s the manufacturer of the car who’s doing the certifying. Those tests are far more comprehensive, and you can trust a large company to do the right thing most of the time. There’s only one way to be sure what exactly you are getting. It’s only a dealership attached to a specific manufacturer that is ever allowed to sell certified pre-owned. An independent car lot will never sell manufacturer-certified pre-owned.