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Vintage Vehicles

Manufacturers' inspection programs make it worth your while to buy used.

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 (Kelley Blue Book) or

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

This story appears in the October 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »