The term... "certified used car" supposed to mean a used car that's in well above average condition, has had extra servicing to put it in tip top shape, with a warranty similar to a new car. That's why certified used cars are rising in popularity. But, not all certified programs are the same. So, come along as our FYI reporter Stephanie Hart explores the ins and outs of buying certified.

STEPHANIE HART: “Typically, a certified pre-owned vehicle will have a number of advantages. Primarily it’s been thoroughly inspected, it has lower miles than your average used car and it’s in very good condition with little wear. Here are the major pros and cons of buying a certified used car:”

They come with extended warranty coverage and benefits, such as roadside assistance. They’ve gone through a multipoint inspection and repairs were made where needed, free vehicle history reports come with the vehicle, some include buyback protection if the buyer later discovers the car had flood or fire damage or a rolled-back odometer.

On the downside, a vehicle history report may not include all accidents and you may not know how the car was treated by the previous owner or even if they ever changed the oil. Some CPO vehicles were rental cars-which means they had hundreds of different drivers, some of whom didn’t care how they treated the car. A multi- point CPO checklist doesn’t guarantee the dealer did anything more than look at the car. “wear items;” like the battery, tires, brake pads and rotors are usually not covered by the CPO warranty and may need to be replaced.

Rachel Hashoian weighed those pros and cons before buying her certified pre-owned vehicle.

Stephanie Hart: You saw the checklist?

Rachel Hashoian: Yes.

Stephanie Hart: What did you think?

Rachel Hashoian: I really liked knowing where my car came from and what it was used for before. My car was a previously leased vehicle in Puerto Rico so it was nice seeing that. I think they even had the record of maintenance for my car and I liked seeing all the spots and measurements they took.

Stephanie Hart: Peace of mind, in the form of a certificate, for Rachel and other CPO buyers.

CPO car owner: It’s always good if you’re looking for a used car and don’t want the hassle of the unreliability of not knowing what a good car is.

Stephanie Hart: However, experts warn even with a multi-point inspection the CPO buying process can be overwhelming.

Joe Wiesenfelder: Sometimes people get caught up in how many points are in the inspection and it’s easy to kind of lose track of what matters- don’t pay too much attention to that. One program may have a 100 point inspection and another may have a 300 point inspection sometimes that is just how they count. Really all you need to know is the vehicle has been inspected, but we always recommend when you buy a used car whether its certified pre-owned or not that you have it inspected yourself by your own mechanic.

Stephanie Hart: “Certified pre-owned vehicles are more expensive than non-CPO cars. The difference ranges from several hundred dollars to a couple of thousand dollars, so you want to weigh the benefits versus the extra cost and decide what’s best for you. But before signing on the dotted line, keep these tips top of mind:”

Make sure you know if the car is certified by the manufacturer or the dealer and who is authorized to fix problems. Ask to see the certification checklist to make sure all major components have been inspected. Insist on a vehicle repair and maintenance history report. Make sure any remainder of the new-car warranty is clear and in writing. Read the fine print on the extended CPO warranty.

Joe Wiesenfelder: The gold standard of a certified pre-owned vehicle is the manufacturer certified pre-owned vehicle that have an extension of the factory warranty it’s essentially the same warranty you would get from the manufacturer if you bought the vehicle new. There are also certified vehicles from third parties there’s really nothing stopping a dealership from certifying a vehicle… what we recommend is that you make sure you know who certified your vehicle and be sure it’s someone you can trust.

Stephanie Hart: Who doesn’t love driving a brand new car, but certified pre-owned vehicle offers big savings thanks to depreciation. The average new car loses 35-percent of its value in the first three years. So, buying certified and driving an almost new car is clearly a smart way to go.