The Pros and Cons of Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles

One of the primary concerns for most consumers when buying a car is price. The lower sticker price of used and certified pre-owned (CPO) cars can be very attractive to buyers on a budget or for those looking to get a little extra value. However, to the average consumer, the differences between used and CPO may seem confusing. If both labels mean a car has been previously used, why can a CPO car cost thousands more than one labeled “used” and when is it worth it to buy a CPO car?

CPO Car Pros

  • Usually Higher Quality: Vehicles eligible for Certified Pre-Owned programs typically are recent models with low mileage in good condition.
  • Multipoint Inspections: The vehicle will have been inspected by a professional from the certifying organization to make sure critical parts and systems meet minimum standards.
  • Refurbishment: Professionals have made necessary repairs and updates to address any issues found in the inspection process.
  • Warranties: Extra coverage from either the dealership or the manufacturer provides some of the peace of mind of a new car purchase.
  • Vehicle History Report: This report will show if the vehicle has been in any major collisions, if it has been damaged by flooding, and other significant issues which may not be immediately obvious.

CPO Car Cons

  • No Standardization: Unfortunately for consumers there is no standardized definition of what is covered under a Certified Pre-Owned program. This makes doing your own research about each CPO program important.
  • Potential Conflicts of Interest: Manufacturer and dealership certification may be carried out by employees of the same dealership selling the vehicle. This may tempt dealerships to be less thorough in the inspection and refurbishment process as an uninvolved third party.
  • Varying Inspection Criteria: Because programs are not standardized, knowing what is covered and what is not covered can help you ask questions about items which are not included in the CPO program’s multipoint inspection before you buy.
  • Different Warranty Coverage: From a few months to several years, some manner of warranty is typically included. Be sure to get written documentation for any warranties or program promises so if an issue does arise later you can more easily resolve the issue with the dealership.
  • Increased Cost: CPO vehicles may be several hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars more expensive than similar used vehicles to cover the cost of servicing and warranties.

Other Questions to Ask

  • Have All Manufacturer Recall & Technical Service Bulletins Been Addressed? You can check the manufacturer’s website to see any issues that might apply to the vehicle.
  • Ask to Have the Vehicle Inspected by a Mechanic You Trust. A second set of knowledgeable eyes can help you verify that topics in the multipoint inspection and beyond are in the condition claimed.
  • Ask for a Test Drive. It’s not all about the facts and documentation, get in the driver’s seat and see how you feel driving it!