From the October 2003 issue of Entrepreneur

If your budget is bust, but you need to replace company cars, you can save thousands of dollars by buying certified pre-owned vehicles. They go through a rigorous inspection program by the original manufacturer before dealers resell them. While prices are negotiable and usually no higher than those of comparable noncertified used vehicles, most aren't more than 5 years old, have fewer than 50,000 or 60,000 miles on them, and look brand-new. Most certified vehicles can be leased or purchased outright, often with the same interest rates, incentives and rebates as new cars and trucks. Manufacturers' 100-plus-point inspections include checking the powertrain, chassis, underbody, all interior and exterior systems, hardware and functional components.

Lexus' 128-point bumper-to-bumper inspection includes replacing tires, brake pads and other parts as necessary; there's also a warranty and roadside assistance for three years or 100,000 miles. If the car has been serviced at a Lexus dealer, the dealer can provide the car's history of repairs, damages and maintenance. Although Lexus no longer has a fleet program, its dealers, like other brands, may still offer volume discounts. Mercedes-Benz' Starmark certified pre-owned cars have a roadside assistance program with no mileage limit, a 132-point inspection and a transferable warranty. Ford's certified vehicle program includes a 115-point inspection, a travel expense reimbursement program of up to $500 a day for three days, and a six-year/75,000-mile warranty.

How big are the savings? On a 3-year-old certified Lincoln Town Car vs. a brand-new one, as high as $25,000. On Lexus' flagship sedan, the LS400, the savings range from $20,000 to $24,000. Find deals at the manufacturers' Web sites, at www.kbb.com (Kelley Blue Book) or www.edmunds.com.


Editor and consultant Jill Amadio has been reporting on the automotive industry for 24 years.