Merriam-Webster Online defines it this way: Certify: to attest authoritatively: as a: confirm b: to present in formal communication c: to attest as being true or as represented or as meeting a standard.
Vehicle certification standards differ from program to program. However, most certification programs share the following common requirements:
- An inspection for safety and reliability. This inspection can entail anywhere from 30 - 300 "points" (items to be inspected). In general, the more points inspected, the more thorough the inspection and therefore more informative the results. A word of caution, however: you may see one provider who counts like this—Left Front Window Operation, Right Front Window Operation, Left Rear Window Operation, etc.—while another may see it this way—Window Operation. Obviously, a program using the prior method would have more inspection points than the latter, but it may be no more thorough overall.
- The inspection must be done by a qualified mechanic.
- The completed inspection checklist should be available for the prospective buyer to view. Note: Some dealers will share the specific information on a given vehicle (i.e. the actual inspection sheet from the mechanic and any repairs made to the vehicle) and others won't, or they may simply show you a blank inspection sheet and tell you the vehicle has passed certification.
- The vehicle must come with a nationwide warranty.
- The vehicle must have a "Non-branded" or clean title.
- The vehicle's engine and transmission must pass a scientific fluid analysis
- The vehicle must have "less than" x number of miles, or be "newer than" a certain model year.
Less risk. A certified vehicle is more likely to provide long-term ownership satisfaction. In other words, a certified pre-owned will be more reliable, less prone to mechanical problems, and an overall better buy than a non-certified vehicle.
In our view, a certification program is very much like a quality assurance program for pre-owned vehicles.
According to Wikipedia: Quality assurance, or QA for short, refers to planned and systematic processes that provide confidence of a product's or service's effectiveness.
More accurately, quality assurance is a standard for meeting customer requirements. It documents how a company will meet the requirements of a client or customer in a systematic, reliable fashion. It shows a company's commitment to delivering quality products and services to the purchaser.
Many dealers claim to sell "Certified Pre-Owned" vehicles. They may inspect the vehicle themselves, and even put an aftermarket service contract on the vehicle to protect themselves and you against future mechanical failures. We think that's a good thing, but it doesn't go far enough. In the absence of clear, written standards, this type of certification is meaningless.
We believe that one of the most important factors in a certification program is that the inspection and its results be replicable. In other words, a well-designed program should produce uniform results from one inspector to another—across town, or across the country. Whether the vehicle is inspected in Topeka or Topanga, by two or twenty mechanics, the same car should produce the same results. That is the mark of a well-designed, objective process.
Ideally, to maintain objective and unbiased results, we believe that only a disinterested third party should do the inspections. This means the inspector should not be: a) employed by the manufacturer b) employed by the selling dealer c) a local repair shop contracted by the dealer or d) a relative or friend of the selling dealer. There are simply too many opportunities and too much incentive to "fudge" the inspection results; it's a "fox watching the chicken coop" type of arrangement.