What is an approved used car?

Ever seen 'approved used' cars for sale wondered what they are? Here's everything you need to know about these used cars with a difference

By BuyaCar team

If you're on the lookout for your next car and you're concentrating on the used car market, you might have noticed there are certain models listed as 'approved used'. It's an interesting term that doesn't tell you a whole lot, but you might be even more interested once you know what an approved used car is.

Basically, an approved used car is a used car, but one that has been quality assured by the manufacturer after a series of tests and checks. Whereas the used car market can be a bit of a lottery if you're scouring cars being sold privately by the current owner, shopping for approved used cars comes with an element of protection and security.

This is mainly due to the fact the car has been thoroughly checked over, meaning you can expect an approved used car to be clean, reliable and well looked after - the criteria these cars have to meet are stringent, and you can be sure no stone will be left unturned before the manufacturer advertises them as approved used. No one can guarantee that any used car will be 100% perfect but approved used cars are prepared to a high standard, which minimises the likelihood of any issues. 

Many of the used cars on BuyaCar may be approved used, but wherever they come from you will be covered by our guarantee.

What qualifies as an approved used car?

Approved used car schemes run a standard series of checks on every car and its history, to ensure the car is in good mechanical condition, hasn't been written off, and doesn't have any unpaid finance outstanding. Each manufacturers' scheme has slight differences, but there are a handful of aspects that will be pretty much universal.

Every manufacturer offering an approved used service will prepare used cars to a minimum standard, although this will differ slightly across brands. This means used cars in poor condition or with high mileages are unlikely to qualify as approved used. As a rule of thumb, most approved used cars are less than five years old.

Manufacturers will also complete a comprehensive course of quality checks on up to 120 aspects of the car. These typically include mechanical parts and paintwork, with any problems put right.

Approved used cars will also be covered by some form of warranty. If the car is still within its original warranty period then that will remain valid. If not, then an approved used car will come with an additional warranty. This will usually cover the failure of key components for at least three months; it's worth checking the exact details with any specific cars you're considering, as you may want an extended warranty that offers even more protection.

All dealers should also run a detailed history check that not only verifies the car's ownership history and roadworthiness, but also guarantee the car’s finance, mileage, theft and crash history.

Finally, most manufacturers will also promise a refund or replacement approved used car if the one you’ve just purchased develops a fault that cannot be repaired to a satisfactory standard.

It's a clear process to deal with problems without having to turn to consumer law, which allows you to claim a total refund if a vehicle, approved used or not, cannot be repaired to a satisfactory standard within a certain period.

You can feel confident that manufacturers are putting their reputations on the line when it comes to listing approved used cars for sale, so your satisfaction is likely to be a priority for them.

Is an approved used car better than an ordinary used one?

The best used cars are generally cherry-picked by main dealers for their approved used schemes when owners trade them in. These vehicles tend to be no more than five years old, in excellent condition with low mileage. There’s often a wide choice of engines, colours and trim levels too - particularly in the most popular combinations.

The checks and guarantees that come with approves used cars also provide an assurance that every car meets a high minimum standard. Of course, you will still find used cars of a similarly high quality from private sellers and independent dealers, but unless there's the same guarantee of rigorous inspection, it's not easy to tell whether you're getting good value for money.

You'll be protected by consumer law, wherever you buy your car, but the clear standards set out by approved used schemes and an established customer service department should ensure that any issues are dealt with smoothly.

There's less consumer protection when buying a car privately than from a dealership, and considerably less than buying online on sites like BuyaCar, where you're more likely to find a money-back guarantee.

What are the downsides of approved used car schemes?

In general, approved used cars are more expensive than other used cars, although the condition and guarantees that come with them will often account for the price difference.

And the fact is that no warranty or multi-point check can turn a used car into a new one. Whatever approved used car you buy, there will inevitably be some indication that the car has had a previous owner and been used to some degree, whether it’s a minor scratch or an unusual specification that was chosen from new.