The Honest John Guide to manufacturers' Approved Used car schemes
What is an approved used scheme?
Car manufacturers' best used cars are usually marketed under a separate brand and come with guarantees, warranties, exchange policies and have been rigorously inspected. Most are low mileage too. Each manufacturer has its own name for these schemes. Most opt for something like Approved Used or Used Approved, though others have something more specific like Selected Used Cars, Approved Pre-Owned or, in the case of Vauxhall (the most famous of them all), Network Q.
Expect to see words like trust, standards, quality, reliability and assurance used a lot in the literature for these schemes.
What can you expect?
All schemes offer a mechanical inspection, and some will make a big deal out of how many checks they make. But that doesn't mean to say that a 120-point check is any better than just a 60-point one. It's the scope of what they're checking that really matters.
Every approved used scheme will offer you 12 months warranty, while the better ones will offer you two years. If you're buying from a manufacturer that has a longer warranty, like the five years offered by Hyundai and Toyota, or the seven years from Kia, you will get the balance of that warranty instead: there is no need for a new one.
Many of the warranties that are offered in approved used schemes are unlimited mileage, but a few place restrictions on them. Be careful, the limit - say 60,000 - applies to the total mileage, not what you cover. That means that a 60,000 mile warranty is worth more on a 30,000-mile car than it is on a 50,000 mile car.
All the warranties offered by manufacturers play fair when it comes to what's covered. Better warranties, like Network Q, will also cover things like the battery.
Breakdown Cover is usually provided by the AA or RAC, though some manufacturers operate their own schemes. In reality, most of these are provided by a firm called Mondial, who 'white-label' their services. Sometimes there are added benefits with these services, like European breakdown cover.
Is an approved used car more expensive than an ordinary one?
It usually is, but not by as much as you think. Whether you think the scheme justifies the premium, depends on how much you value the peace of mind that comes with the checks, inspections and warranties. If you're just looking for a decent warranty and have breakdown cover, for example, it may be worth buying a car outside of an approved used scheme and getting an aftermarket warranty from a company like Warranty Direct.
The premium that you pay for opting for an approved used car varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Sometimes it starts from just a few hundred pounds, sometimes it's significantly more.
Many - though not all - manufacturers offer added benefits to make an approved used scheme all the more tempting. Some - like Mazda and Ford - offer a week's free insurance cover, while Lexus used cars are completely re-conditioned off-site at a dedicated preparation centre. Although welcome, try not to be blinded by these extras and work out what the benefit is to you.
Choose a manufacturer from those below for in-depth details on each individual scheme: