What's the Deal: Certified pre-owned vs. used vehicles

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Used car buyers, listen up. There's no question that buying a certified pre-owned, or CPO vehicle comes with certain benefits, but they are also more expensive.

So is paying that premium really worth it?

Indeed, a certified pre-owned vehicle may be less of a headache than a used car with a mysterious past, but Consumer Reports has ways to not only get the car you want but the price you want, too.

CPO cars usually have lower mileage, fewer defects or needed repairs than a typical used car. And protected by a manufacturer's extended warranty, they go through inspections and history checks for potential repairs before they can be certified. Some also offer roadside assistance, free satellite radio and discounted finance rates on loans.

"These are all great benefits. Consumers are really paying a premium for peace of mind, which may not be necessary," said Jon Linkov, Consumer Reports Auto Editor.

Enter non-certified used cars. Easier on your wallet, a regular used car can cost you a lot less than its CPO equivalent. And with a little more legwork on your part, Consumer Reports says it could end up being a better value.

"First, find a trusted mechanic who can inspect the car for any hidden damages, or repairs that may be necessary," said Linkov.

Next, use Consumer Reports' list for the most reliable used cars. Search the car's vehicle identification number or VIN online to check if any revealing information pops up. You can also enter the VIN at safercar.gov to check for open recalls. And AutoCheck or Carfax can be helpful tools to check for past accidents.

This approach could save you money and be all the certification you'll need.

But do be aware, while these are all helpful tools, Consumer Reports says a clean history report does not necessarily mean the vehicle has never been in an accident. So again, do have an independent mechanic check out the car for any signs of problems, too.

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