We examine the latest list from Autotrader and reveal the best certified pre-owned programs for consumers with less than perfect credit.

Certified used cars

Credit-challenged car buyers will typically choose to finance a used car because they're more affordable. But these days they'll often be given a choice with the type of used car - either a regular used car or a certified used car.

Certified used cars are trade-ins, lease turn-ins or auction purchased vehicles that meet manufacturer-specific age and mileage requirements to qualify for an inspection program. Following the replacement of specified worn, broken or defective parts, dealers can then sell them with a factory-backed warranty (that is, a used car service contract from the manufacturer).

Because of the added costs involved, these certified used cars (also known as certified pre-owned or CPO) are then sold at a premium over regular (non-certified) used cars. Since the coverages and terms can vary, the experts at Autotrader took it upon themselves to rate the various manufacturer programs.

Editors at Autotrader, including Site Editor Brian Moody, considered the following primary factors:

• Warranty length: "The longer, the better," Moody says. "Many of the best CPO programs offer coverage up to 100,000 miles."

• Transferrable: Editors felt that warranties that are transferrable to the next owner were desirable as it essentially improves that car's resale value and speaks to the manufacturer's confidence in the vehicle's quality.

• Little or no deductible: The best warranty programs have no deductible for covered repairs, however editors included some programs that were otherwise compelling even if they have a small deductible (less than $100)

We then took this list and deleted the programs from the luxury manufacturers, since these vehicles, even used ones, are typically too expensive for borrowers with bad credit.

The best (in alphabetical order):

• Hyundai
• Kia
• Volkswagen
• Mitsubishi

Honorable mention (programs that are also worth a look):

• Mazda
• Nissan
• Subaru
• Toyota

One more thing

We should also mention that in addition to the benefits there is a downside to buying a certified used car, primarily because they can cost hundreds of dollars more than their non-certified counterparts. Because of the pricing difference, it always pays to research the specific vehicle you're considering.

The Bottom Line

Since certified used car programs differ from manufacturer to manufacturer, it pays to do your home work before choosing a vehicle – especially if you have poor credit and are on a tight budget. Thanks to the editors at Autotrader, this process has been simplified, making it easier for consumers to make a buying decision.