If you’ve paid a lick of attention to used car advertisements, you’ve no doubt noticed the ads for manufacturer-backed “certified pre-owned” (CPO) programs offered through dealerships. In this day and age of wondrous Craigslist car ads from private sellers that promise crazy savings that seem too good to be true, there are good reasons to head to a dealer and explore the CPO market. Considering the savings to be had, you owe it to yourself to explore this attractive option.
What Exactly Is a CPO Vehicle?
Unlike most used cars, think of a CPO vehicle as a pre-owned new car. CPO vehicles are sold through licensed new-car dealers, are inspected according to the manufacturer’s standards, and they carry a manufacturer-backed warranty that usually extends the length of the new-car coverage. Also unlike most used cars, there are distinct benefits to purchasing a CPO vehicle. For example, a two-year-old CPO vehicle is typically priced about 25 percent lower than a brand-new version of the same model. And unlike most used vehicles, CPO vehicles are often available with leasing options (meaning you could qualify for a substantially lower monthly payment).
But there’s more than just money involved—there’s peace of mind. Unlike a used car from a private seller who swears he only drove it to church on Sundays and that there’s never a squeak or mechanical hiccup, CPO programs thoroughly examine its vehicles using a manufacturer-mandated checklist that can encompass up to 300 different points. And nearly every program provides a vehicle-history report as proof that the car has led an uneventful life.
If that’s not enough to put your worries at bay, CPO vehicles also feature a manufacturer-backed warranty. While the warranties vary depending on the manufacturer, they all generally extend the factory warranty. Coverage will vary, though, with some CPO programs charging a small deductible on covered repairs, and warranty periods vary by automaker. At a minimum, most will get you a coverage period of about six years or 80,000 miles from the date of the car’s original sale, while some luxury brands go as far as offering unlimited mileage coverage within the period of years that the warranty covers.
As good as the inspection programs are, not every single bolt or screw is protected. CPO warranties divide their coverage into a powertrain warranty that covers the engine, transmission and other major components, and a limited warranty for any other components the manufacturer chooses to cover. Coverage varies wildly among brands, with some programs covering infotainment systems and climate control while others stick to the mechanical bits on the chassis and under the hood. Electric vehicles or vehicles with hybrid components may be excluded from some programs or receive reduced warranty coverage, and typical wear items such as brake pads and exterior paint are almost never included in the warranty, unless the damage is the result of a manufacturing defect.
If your CPO vehicle does happen to break down in one of the covered ways, most programs include access to 24-hour roadside assistance. You’re also likely to get reimbursement for any rental cars necessitated by a long repair, and if you happen to get stranded far from home, some will reimburse you for unexpected travel expenses.
Is a CPO Vehicle Right for You?
Purchasing a CPO vehicle can be more expensive initially when compared to buying from a private seller or buying a non-certified used car, and you as the buyer will need to weight those costs against your budget and future potential maintenance costs. The benefits of a CPO vehicle, though, can far outweigh the initial cost. With generally lower mileage and warranties that mitigate any repair costs, CPO programs can ensure you’re getting a used vehicle in like-new condition.