Certified Pre-Owned 101


As we all know, purchasing a new vehicle is a significant investment, and buying a used car can feel like a gamble in terms of quality. Thankfully, there’s a way that you can capitalize on the features included in most modern vehicles for a fraction of the price, without sacrificing the warranties or quality-checks provided by new models. A certified pre-owned (CPO) car offers the perfect balance of affordability and manufacturer-guaranteed reliability. If you’re interested in a CPO vehicle, here are a few of the most important things to know.

What is a CPO?

When you’re shopping for a pre-owned vehicle, it’s vital to know the difference between a used car and a certified pre-owned one. According to John M. Vincent of U.S. News and World Report, the most relevant difference is that a “used” car is one that was either sold to a dealership, traded to a dealership for resale, or offered by a private seller. In contrast, certified pre-owned vehicles — while still sold by car dealerships — have undergone extensive and meticulous examinations that ensure qualifying models live up to their manufacturer’s standards.

What guarantees come with CPOs?

Every manufacturer that offers a certified pre-owned program uses different criteria to determine whether or not any given vehicle will qualify for the distinction. Even so, Philip Reed of NerdWallet points out that there are a few consistencies that most CPOs share.

The first is that the car shouldn’t be any older than six years from the current model year to make sure that safety features and creature comforts are on par with modern offerings. The second is that most automakers won’t certify a vehicle that has more than 75,000 miles on the odometer since that reduces the likelihood of serious faults in critical areas. The third is that all CPOs undergo a comprehensive, multi-point inspection to make sure that the specific unit meets manufacturer standards. Finally, and perhaps most reassuringly, nearly every certified pre-owned car comes with a limited warranty, complimentary maintenance for a certain timeframe and a full history report, so you know exactly what you’re getting.

Why are CPOs a better option?

The most often cited argument against certified pre-owned vehicles, according to Reed, is that they can cost in the neighborhood of $1,000 more than the same model without the CPO classification. At the same time, it’s important to remember that the extra cost comes with benefits that traditional used cars can’t provide. Putting aside the increased peace of mind that comes with knowing the car’s manufacturer has promised that your new ride isn’t a lemon, you’re also set to benefit from perks like free routine maintenance, warranties, and even 24-hour roadside assistance, depending on the vehicle and dealership. When it comes to used versus CPO, you really do get what you pay for.

If you have any questions about the pros and cons of used or certified pre-owned vehicles, pay a visit to your local car dealership. For information on the fiscal benefits of a CPO, consult a trusted financial adviser.

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