Keys to Buying a CPO Vehicle

Here are some key things to check and make sure you ask about when you're shopping for a certified-pre-owned (CPO) vehicle:

  1. Research the dependability of the used vehicle you are considering. J.D. Power, for example, has information about the most dependable models on the market.
  2. Research the resale value of the vehicles you're considering. Many automotive websites will give you the prices you can expect for a given make, model, model year trim, mileage, and condition. Be sure to keep this information handy when you evaluate the deal you are offered, but remember that CPO vehicles do command a premium for inspections, warranty extensions, and other perks.
  3. There are many automotive websites that compare CPO programs to help you choose the one of most value to you. Make sure you understand the differences in the various types of warranties and ask the right questions: Is the original warranty transferable? How long was the original warranty? Is the powertrain warranty extended? Is the bumper-to-bumper warranty extended?
  4. Review all the inspection points covered by the dealership technicians. Remember that manufacturers count inspection points differently (some group certain checks together), so more is not necessarily better. Make sure all major areas of the vehicle have been inspected (engine, transmission, steering, brakes, frame/chassis, airbags, powertrain, fuel system, suspension, brakes, etc.).
  5. Make sure you are given a vehicle history report. Review it and ask questions about any accident history.
  6. Learn who is certifying your vehicle. Dealers and even third parties can slap an extended service contract on your vehicle and say it has been certified. But companies providing extended service contracts can go out of business and consumers often move out of the selling dealership's service area—and another dealership may not honor it. With the manufacturer certifying the vehicle, you don't have to worry about the dealer or certification company going out of business, and your vehicle can be serviced at any of that make's dealerships. Manufacturers ensure that a rigorous list of items is inspected and reconditioned.
  7. Benefits and incentives. Some manufacturers allow you to return the vehicle within a few days. Others offer special financing incentives. Be sure to find out if your plan covers these benefits.
  8. Make sure you test drive the vehicle.

Armed with the information here, you've got a game plan for shopping for that much-needed replacement vehicle. Remember, today's CPO vehicles take much of the concern about buying a used vehicle out of the equation, giving you the confidence you need in today's real-world used-vehicle buying experience.