What is an approved used car?

Checked, tested and guaranteed: what makes an approved used car special

BuyaCar team
Aug 30, 2019

There are used cars and there are approved used cars.

You'll find the former advertised on classified websites or on the forecourts of independent dealers. The age of these used cars varies widely, as do their condition and mileage and their history may be unknown. Find the right model and you might drive off with a bargain. But the wrong choice can prove extremely costly.

Approved used cars on the other hand are used cars that have undergone thorough checks to meet stringent quality criteria outlined by manufacturers themselves. Picking an approved used car is less of a lottery because you can be reassured that there are no skeletons under the bonnet. They also tend to come with various benefits and assurances, as manufacturers are keen to entice customers who may have a lower budget, but would be tempted by a more desirable brand. Approved used cars are often sold or supplied by main dealers, who represent car manufacturers.

A large proportion of BuyaCar's stock is made up of approved used cars. As with every vehicle on the site, these come with a 14 day money-back guarantee.

     What qualifies as an approved used car?

Approved used schemes run a standard series of checks on every car and its history, to ensure that they are in good mechanical condition, and haven't been written off, or have finance outstanding. Each 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 work to a minimum approved standard, although these will differ slightly across multiple brands. This means used cars in poor condition or with high mileage are unlikely to qualify as approved used vehicles. 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 points on the car. These will 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 expensive components for at least three months; it's worth checking the details, 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 a 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 bought 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.


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.

Vehicles tend to be no more than five years old, with low mileages and in excellent condition. There’s often a wide choice of engines, colours and trim levels too - particularly the popular combinations.

The checks and guarantees also provide an assurance that every car meets a high minimum standard.

Of course, there are plenty of non-approved used cars of a high standard too - 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 will 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 where you have a 14 day 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, whether it’s a minor scratch or an unusual specification that was chosen from new.


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