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If you want to avoid the possibility of buying someone else's mechanically compromised used car, auto dealers have an solution for you: certified pre-owned cars. Dealers have so many top-notch pre-owned cars coming off lease in like-new condition that they created a certification program.
Certified used cars have been inspected and reconditioned, have generally low mileage, and are still under manufacturer's warranty. In short, they are the cream of the used car crop. You are likely to pay more for a certified car (from a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars more).
If you are considering buying a certified pre-owned vehicle, ask for specific details and evidence about which checks were done and what kind of reconditioning took place. You should also ask about a statement of warranty.
*Any dealer anywhere can "certify" a car, since there are no legal requirements or government oversight of pre-owned vehicle certification standards.