There are more than a few things you should know before buying a used car, but with a little luck you can find a vehicle that represents an outstanding value. In recent years, a new category has appeared, one that helps inspire confidence while offering a great value. It’s not new or used, but certified pre-owned (CPO). These vehicles are held to a higher standard, and not all make the cut. Here’s what you need to know about them.
WHAT IS A CERTIFIED PRE-OWNED VEHICLE?
A certified pre-owned vehicle is a used vehicle that meets a strict set of requirements, often determined by the manufacturer. Each program has its own guidelines, and those guidelines typically focus on age, condition, and mileage. It’s common to find recent models that are off lease, which are more likely to be well-maintained at the dealership. This all adds up to a more confidence-inspiring ownership experience.
Most certified pre-owned programs require a multi-point inspection, often by factory-trained technicians. In addition to a road test, they’ll check for wear and damage throughout the vehicle. Any parts that don’t pass the inspection may be repaired or replaced. You don’t have to take the dealer’s word for it, either. You can review a CPO vehicle’s inspection report along with a vehicle history report.
The benefits of buying a certified pre-owned vehicle continue even after you drive off the lot. You can generally expect a limited warranty providing powertrain coverage for seven years or 100,000 miles, the industry standard. It’s important to know that this is determined by the vehicle’s age and mileage, not your date of purchase. Non-powertrain coverage may also be available, typically for 12 months or 12,000 miles for non-luxury brands.
WHAT ARE THE PROS OF BUYING A CERTIFIED PRE-OWNED VEHICLE?
Certified pre-owned vehicles can offer the value of a used car with the extra peace of mind that comes from being backed by the manufacturer’s limited warranty. And with free inspection and history reports, you’ll have a better idea of the vehicle’s condition. That means you don’t have to worry about taking the vehicle in for a pre-purchase inspection.
If there’s a mechanical problem with the vehicle early on during ownership, it may be covered by a limited powertrain warranty. CPO programs from major automakers include a limited powertrain warranty, which covers important components such as the engine and transmission. This can help save you money on what would otherwise be a costly repair.
Many certified pre-owned programs also include other perks, such as roadside assistance. A few even include complimentary maintenance. If you’re shopping for a luxury vehicle, you may also enjoy benefits such as trip protection and concierge services. So, whether you’re at the dealership or out on the road, owning a certified pre-owned vehicle can make you feel like a VIP.
WHAT ARE THE CONS OF BUYING A CERTIFIED PRE-OWNED VEHICLE?
Buying a certified pre-owned vehicle can be a smart decision, and there are few drawbacks to owning one. However, choosing between new, used, and certified vehicles can be a big decision. Cost is generally the first factor to consider. A CPO vehicle will be priced higher than its used equivalent, so you’ll have to weigh the program benefits. If you’re shopping for a vehicle with a reputation for reliability, you may not need to bring it in for repairs often.
If you’re shopping for a specific trim and color or a low volume vehicle such as a sports car, it may be harder to find the exact CPO vehicle you want. Combine that with a global microchip shortage, and you may need to be patient if you’re set on going certified. Need a vehicle soon? Let your dealer know what you’re shopping for, and they can notify you when they find a match.
A certified pre-owned vehicle may not make sense for every type of car buyer. Only recent model years qualify for certification, so you may have fewer options if you’re shopping on a tight budget. And if you can hire a mechanic who knows what to check for before buying a used car, you may be able to find a reliable vehicle without going through a CPO program.
IS A CERTIFIED PRE-OWNED VEHICLE RIGHT FOR ME?
If you’re looking for a great value and a confident ownership experience, consider shopping for a certified pre-owned vehicle. Compared to a new vehicle, you may be able to save on your purchase or upgrade to a higher trim. You may also have the option to lease a CPO vehicle, which can add flexibility.
Luxury vehicles can be an especially compelling option when shopping for a certified pre-owned vehicle. After a few years, many of them experience significant depreciation compared to their original MSRP. And although luxury vehicles are more expensive to repair, the manufacturer’s limited warranty helps minimize those costs during the coverage period.
Shopping for a plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle? A certified pre-owned vehicle can be a great choice, although all automakers provide a battery warranty of at least eight years or 100,000 miles.
WHICH AUTOMAKERS OFFER CERTIFIED PRE-OWNED PROGRAMS?
Virtually every major automaker offers a certified pre-owned vehicle program. Non-luxury brands include Chevrolet, Dodge, Fiat, Ford, GMC, Honda, Hyundai, Jeep, Kia, Mazda, Mini, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Ram, Subaru, Toyota, and Volkswagen.
Luxury automakers also offer certified pre-owned programs, typically with more benefits. These brands include Acura, Audi, BMW, Buick, Cadillac, Chrysler, Infiniti, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Tesla, and Volvo.
This content was created in partnership with TrueCar