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When purchasing a “new” used car, most people focus on the history of the car by using services such as Carfax that compare the car’s VIN number to a listed number of repairs, recall fixes, and other damage. While this is certainly important, Carfax reports can miss a few critical things, such as repairs done at shops not participating in the Carfax reporting system or repairs done at home by owners. Thus, while Carfax reports can be incredibly useful, they may not be truly indicative of the car’s past-meaning that you don’t have an accurate picture of what may go wrong with the car. Thus, the only way to make sure that you are protected from unexpected mechanical problems is to get a warranty on your used car.

By definition, a used car contains used parts, and used parts have wear and tear, making them much likelier to break than newer ones. Furthermore, a non Carfax participating dealer or home mechanic may have installed the parts incorrectly or used cheap parts. Usually, this information is caught by dealership inspectors, but no one is perfect, and missing just one incorrectly fitted part can cost you thousands. So remember: just because your car has been “inspected” doesn’t mean you’re safe and don’t need a warranty.

There are two types of used cars: certified and non-certified. Certified used cars are usually bought at dealerships and not only been inspected, but also carry dealer warranties. Depending on the age of the car, the certified it might even still have the original (bumper-to- bumper) warranty! Certified used cars may also be given new warranties by the dealer, although under a the new warranty certain parts and labor aren’t covered. Certified used car warranties, whether original or new, often mirror those of new car warranties and can usually be brought to the dealer (or a participating repair shop) for service.

Non-certified used cars usually don’t come with a warranty, meaning you aren’t protected if anything goes wrong. This can be quite dangerous, because even though most used cars are inspected prior to being put up for sale, as I mentioned before, mechanics can miss critical failures. You may be asking what you can do if you can’t afford a certified used car but don’t want to purchase a car that will end up costing hundreds, if not thousands, in repair. In this situation, your best option is to purchase a extended warranty from an outside company.

Extended warranties are provided by companies not affiliated with the dealership, but still give you protection you need in case your car breaks. They often work the same way as a certified warranty, although make sure to read the “fine print,” as sometimes they are less likely to cover certain aspects of car repairs (such as the transmission or drivetrain). When purchasing a extended warranty, you are usually offered a choice of plans that vary in price and coverage, so make sure to take into account things like reviews and previous repairs when determining what parts of your car need more coverage.

Extended warranties cost extra, but even with this extra expense, they are still cheaper than purchasing a certified car with a dealer warranty. Often, you can also finance the cost of a extended warranty in the same way that you can finance your car, making it even more affordable. No matter what type of used car you purchase, make sure to get a warranty for it-otherwise you could be liable for thousands of dollars in repair costs.