Understanding the Different Grades of Used Cars: A Comprehensive Guide

The used car market can be a labyrinth of choices, making it challenging for buyers to navigate their way to a satisfactory purchase. From the slightly used to the heavily worn, used cars come in various grades. Understanding these grades can save you money, time, and a lot of stress. In this article, Autobasics will break down the many levels of used cars, helping you make an informed decision on your next purchase.

Table of Contents

  • Certified Pre-Owned Cars
  • Dealer-Inspected Used Cars
  • Third-Party Inspected Used Cars
  • As-Is Used Cars
  • Salvage Title Cars
  • FAQ

Certified Pre-Owned Cars

Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) cars are the cream of the crop in the used car market. These vehicles have passed rigorous inspection and refurbishing processes by the manufacturers or dealerships themselves. Generally, CPO cars come with extended warranties, giving you added peace of mind.


  • Extensive multi-point inspection
  • Manufacturer-backed warranties
  • Typically, lower mileage


  • Pricier than other used car options
  • Limited customization options

Dealer-Inspected Used Cars

Dealer-inspected used cars have been checked by the dealership’s mechanics but don’t come with the official certification or extended warranty that CPO cars do. These are generally a middle-ground option in terms of price and reliability.


  • Moderately priced
  • Basic inspection completed
  • Some come with limited warranties


  • No manufacturer backing
  • Shorter warranty period, if any

Third-Party Inspected Used Cars

These used cars have been inspected by an independent third party. While not backed by a dealership or manufacturer, a good inspection report can offer some assurance of the car’s condition.


  • Potential for lower prices
  • Option for pre-purchase inspection


  • Varied quality of inspections
  • Limited or no warranties

As-Is Used Cars

“As-Is” used cars are sold without any guarantees. What you see is what you get, and any existing issues become your responsibility once you make the purchase.


  • Generally the cheapest option
  • Room for negotiation


  • No warranties or guarantees
  • Potentially high maintenance costs

Salvage Title Cars

Salvage title cars have been seriously damaged or deemed total losses by insurance companies. These are best avoided unless you are knowledgeable about car repairs or are looking for parts.


  • Extremely cheap
  • Suitable for parts


  • Significant past damage
  • Difficult to insure and finance

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the best type of used car to buy?

The best type of used car depends on your needs, budget, and risk tolerance. CPO cars offer the most assurance but come at a higher cost.

How can I check the history of a used car?

You can check the history of a used car through services like Carfax or AutoCheck, which provide details about accidents, title status, and more.

Is financing available for all types of used cars?

Financing options are generally more favorable for CPO and dealer-inspected used cars. “As-Is” and salvage title cars are often difficult to finance.

What should I look for in a third-party inspection?

Ensure the inspector checks the car’s engine, transmission, electrical systems, and overall condition. A detailed report should be provided.

By understanding the different grades of used cars, Autobasics can help you make a more informed decision and find a vehicle that suits your needs and budget. Whether you opt for the assurance of a CPO or the potential bargains of an “As-Is” car, knowing what each level offers helps you navigate the complexities of the used car market.