Certification means a top-notch car at a top-notch price. But that price tag is still well below the car's original cost, and the quality and peace of mind it entails makes it worthwhile to a lot of buyers.
A particularly pleasant aspect of a car coming off a three-year lease is that, because a vehicle loses value at the fastest rate in the first three years, someone else has taken the big depreciation hit.
The appeal of these top-shelf models is one they share with their older, higher-mileage brethren. Used rides obviously are cheaper than their new counterparts, which explains why more people buy them than new vehicles. They also permit customers to purchase a larger and/or more luxurious automobile than the same bucks would get them in a new car showroom.
In addition to inflicting less sticker shock than a new car, the used vehicles benefit from the profoundly increased durability of the modern automobile. Galvanized body panels keep them from rusting out, and their engines last twice as long as their 1950s ancestors.
Why don't we get an idea of the kinds of savings that can be realized by buying late-model machinery by sampling some end-of-lease-vintage vehicles. We'll look at the "average retail price" that a dealer would charge for a clean three-year-old example with 36,000 miles on it, and compare that with the list price of its new, 2014 counterpart, according to the NADA Guides. Bear in mind that you may be able to do a bit better than the NADA number.
Hyundai Equus Ultimate.
2011 model: $39,775.
New 2014: $68,920.
The Equus is a full-sized luxury sedan that debuted here in the 2011 model year and was mildly revised for 2014. It is the largest car ever marketed in North America by the Korean automaker, and has been offered with options like heated and cooled rear massage seats and a refrigerator.
Cadillac CTS Wagon.
2011 model: $31,500.
New 2014: $52,620.
The Premium AWD wagon was introduced in 2010 to supplement the stylish, athletic CTS sedan. The wagon structure adds 25 cubic feet of storage to what is essentially a sport sedan. Power is courtesy of an advanced, 3.6-liter V-6 that develops 318 horsepower. The CTS became even sportier when it was redesigned for 2014.
Ford Flex SEL AWD.
2011 model: $22,000.
New 2014: $34,745.
The Flex is a big, seven-passenger crossover that emphasizes its practicality with a squared-off, no-nonsense body design. It is a comfortable people-mover that can also tow an SUV-like 4,500 pounds. It is unchanged for 2014.
Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring
2011 model: $25,929.
New 2014: $36,625.
This all-wheel drive model is a useful, full-size crossover and is unchanged for 2014. But it remains a versatile, well-equipped, pleasant-driving SUV that will seat you and six of your closest coconspirators.