A comprehensive guide to certified pre-owned vehicle programs

Kim and I have been talking a lot about cars during the past few months.

She drives a 1996 Honda Accord with 226,000 miles on it. The car runs fine and has served her well, but she's begun to think about the possibility of upgrading.

I still drive my beloved 2004 Mini Cooper, but the little guy has had some issues lately. (Right now, it's in the shop because the clutch burned out. In the process of replacing that, the mechanic discovered that the transmission needed to be replaced — thanks to towing the car behind our RV for 15 months.)

To top it all off, since we moved to our new place in July, we've come to the realization that we might need a cheap compact pickup truck. (If we bought one, we'd buy a beater.)

Neither one of us is ready to make a move yet. We both believe that you should drive a car until it dies. (Although once I get the bill for the repairs to my Mini, I may be singing a different tune.) Still, it doesn't hurt to gather resources while we wait.

Earlier this week, for instance, Automotive News released a comprehensive Guide to Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle Programs. This 12-page PDF [1.7mb] includes a run-down of dealer fees, the types of vehicles that qualify, and — most importantly — warranty details.

Preowned Mini Program Details

I have mixed feelings (and experiences) about buying a used car from a dealership. Buying a certified pre-owned vehicle would allay some of my concerns.

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MC
MC
2 years ago

Needing significant repairs like transmission and clutch qualify as “dead”. If it would cost more to repair than you could buy it for it might be time to let it go with no regrets.

lmoot
lmoot
2 years ago
Reply to  MC

See I’ve never understood this concept that you shouldn’t pay more than what you would buy the car for. For most people, if the fix is part of regular scheduled maintenance, it will almost always be cheaper to fix than buying a newer or different car. At least you (presumably) know the history of the car and by the time you’ve gotten to the point where maintenance costs more than the value of the car, you’ ve already replaced most of the major parts and should be good to go (and might still be under warranty on the replaced parts)… Read more »

Kevin
Kevin
2 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

Except there are literally dozens of “major parts” that people forget about when it comes to modern cars which rapidly add up to more than the cost of a replacement vehicle. For example the driveline of your standard modern mid-sized car has the following disparate components all of which can cost more than $1000 to repair or replace: Drive Axels Suspension Transaxel Transmission internal gear changing system Engine Lower (Block and accesseries) Engine Upper (Heads, cams, valves) Fuel Delivery system (Older cars its super simple and cheap, new DI systems run at much higher pressure and require complicated engine management)… Read more »

lmoot
lmoot
2 years ago

Also personally JD, I’d like to see you keep the Mini Cooper, if only symbolically, and not to actually use. Silly, I know, but it’s such an important relic of your journey. Plus I’m a sentimental boob.

Or at least keep a nice enlarged framed photo print of it. I guess that would work too 🙂

Tired Scientist
Tired Scientist
2 years ago

This is one question I’d like to see J.D. address. Exactly what is the definition of “until it dies”? My husband and I have gone around and around on this question ourselves. We both believe in driving a car “until it dies”, but disagree slightly on the definition of this–because, unlike with the human body, almost all problems on a car are fixable given enough money. As an example, until 3 years ago, we had a 1991 Nissan NX1600 that was anyone’s definition of a “beater”. I drove it every day to work. We spent an average of $100/month in… Read more »

Daniel Winegarden
Daniel Winegarden
2 years ago

I’m willing to make larger investments in repairs in a car I for which I know the maintenance history. But a major engine rebuild or frame/unibody damage are normally out of the question. It’s dead. You can buy more reliability, safety, and other improvements by investing the same amount in the next used car. Our rule is buy used and drive long. We drive them into the ground or pass them down within the family. One other dead trigger? Electrical issues can be notoriously hard to diagnose and fix — just so much to disassemble to get at major wiring… Read more »

Daniel Winegarden
Daniel Winegarden
2 years ago

At CCRC LifeCast — Aging with Freedom, we’re cheap car fanatics as an important contributor to wealth building. One of our rules? No car is good enough to overcome a bad dealer or buying experience. It’s as important to research the seller as the car. Our cheap car fanatic rules are here: http://bit.ly/2zLooga They helped us get over the debt-free million mark on average income.

Aaron
Aaron
2 years ago

Can you expand on how towing a car behind an RV can cause this transmission to wear out? I would think the transmission would be disengaged the whole time wouldn’t it?

Commercial Loan Officer
Commercial Loan Officer
2 years ago

There are 2 reasons I justify purchasing a newer vehicle instead of repairing existing one: environmental and safety. If safety features were the same in old vehicles as in new, I would be cruising around in an old classic (which may even appreciate in value after the repairs).

It would be interesting to see the difference in crash test video between 1996 and 2016 Honda Accord.

Environmental benefit is there as well, but slightly muted. While the new engine may be more efficient, it takes a while to offset damage done by production of an entirely new vehicle.

Tim
Tim
2 years ago

Man wouldn’t it be cool if you lived in a place that you only needed one car.

Freedom
Freedom
1 year ago

Drive it until it dies….Period

Only the idea to buy a car is too tempting for many people (that’s why people spend tons of money in useless metal boxes.

If the car is really dead just fix a budget of 9K$ MAX…the sweet spot to buy something decent that you can drive for next 15-20y

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