Go Back
THURSDAY, JUNE 16, 2016
In the past, the big question for car shoppers was whether to buy a new or used car. They liked the money they saved by buying used, but feared getting a lemon. New cars were easier to shop for, but that first year’s depreciation was a budget-killer.

Now frugal car shoppers are flocking to a third choice: certified pre-owned cars, also called CPO. Introduced more than a decade ago, they keep climbing in popularity, and sales in the first quarter of 2016 exceeded last year’s first quarter by 5.2%. Some 22.4% of all used cars now sold at franchised dealerships are CPO, according to a study by Edmunds.com.

To be clear, we’re not talking about a heap on Joe’s Car Lot with “Certified!” painted on the cracked windshield. True CPO programs are backed by the manufacturer and provide “the peace of mind that comes with a new car purchase,” says Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds.com director of industry analysis.

In CPO programs, a dealer takes in a clean, low-mileage used car either on trade-in or coming off lease. Factory-trained mechanics inspect the car and recondition it. The now-CPO car is sold at a premium — about $1,400 more than a dealer’s normal price — but it includes an extended factory warranty and other benefits.

Nearly all carmakers now have CPO programs, but what they offer differs widely. The most important features are:

● Age and condition of the cars included in the program. Most carmakers won’t certify a car that is over six years old and has been driven more than 75,000 miles.

● Length of warranty extension in years and mileage. Most programs extend the warranty by two years and 24,000 miles, but many add value with longer powertrain warranties.

● Number of points in the inspection. Mechanics check at least 100 different factors and provide a written report of their findings.

● Other included benefits. Some programs give free maintenance, while others provide loaner cars and even trip interruption reimbursement.

“CPO is arguably the best way to buy a car,” says Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book. A study by AutoTrader.com (which owns Kelley Blue Book) backs this up, finding that 64% of shoppers chose CPO cars because of the certification and 57% did so because of the included warranty.

While CPO shopping nearly duplicates new car shopping, the savvy buyer still needs to know what to look for. Here’s a roundup of some special points just for CPO shoppers.

CPO buying tips

● Know exactly what the CPO program includes. Understand how long the bumper-to-bumper and powertrain warranties (covering the parts that move the car) last.

● Do your own visual inspection of a CPO car. Some have less wear and tear than others.

● If you have any doubts about the car’s condition, ask to see the CPO inspection report and ask the salesperson for the vehicle inspection report.

● Carefully check CPO pricing on sites such as Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds.com or the National Automobile Dealers Association before you begin negotiating.

● Be ready for the upsell when signing the sales contract. You already have an extended warranty but it can be lengthened — for a price, of course. Paint and fabric protection, anti-theft devices and other items are also likely to be pushed.

Find Your Car

of

Testimonials

"CertifiedCars.com was the answer to our certified needs. Site was easy and simple to use. Our car was clean and low mileage.”
Thomas B.

“We love the certified truck we found through CertifiedCars.com. It's like a new car at a used car price.”
Mike R.

“We were in the market for a new vehicle and found CertifiedCars.com. We ended up purchasing a certified vehicle and it was the best decision we have ever made.”
Susan J.