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What is a Certified Car?

What makes a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle (CPO)?

The most rapidly expanding sales segment in the automotive industry isn’t Ford, Toyota or Honda -- it’s Certified Pre-Owned Cars, also known as CPO Cars and Certified Cars!

What is a CPO Car?

Certified Pre-Owned cars, often referred to as “CPO”, are used cars that have been certified through a rigorous, multi-point external and internal inspection process (often 150+ inspection points). CPO cars must meet stringent model year and mileage guidelines.

Certified Pre-Owned cars have been vigorously inspected for mechanical, safety, and aesthetic issues (including powertrain/chassis, body/frame, diagnostic codes and general interior/exterior conditions) by nationally accredited technicians, making them much more reliable than regular used cars, which do not typically undergo such a rigorous inspection process.

Besides peace of mind, certified used cars come with plenty of other benefits, including extended warranty programs, roadside assistance coverage and add-ons like satellite radio, to name a few.

To help inform you of a certified used car’s history, your certified used car of choice comes with a CARFAX or Autocheck history report. Always inspect this free car history report before purchasing a certified used car to ensure there have been no major issues or recalls that have not been properly addressed.

There are two types of Certified Pre-Owned vehicles:

  1. Manufacturer certified used cars are part of a Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Program defined by the manufacturer to hold these cars to a higher standard than other used cars. These are also referred to as factory-certified vechicles as the inspections and certifications are carried out by factory-trained technicians.

    The factory CPO certification program includes a rigorous inspection and reconditioning process to ensure the car does not have any mechanical defects. The program’s rigorous inspection process will also verify that the car has not incurred any frame damage since its manufactured date. The automaker backs a Manufacturer Certified Used Car with an extended warranty that will commence when the original warranty expires and will extend to a specified number of miles or specific amount of time. This warranty is honored by all franchised dealers across the country.

    Manufacturer Certified Pre-Owned cars are often selected from a stock of lease returns, which are usually more gently used and tend to be newer models with lower mileage than trade-ins. Certified used cars must also meet strict model year and mileage restrictions. While CPO certification programs differ, certified pre-owned (CPO) cars typically cannot be over a certain age (no more than 5-6 model years from new) and must have lower mileage (no more than 60,000 to 80,000 miles).

  2. Dealer certified used cars can also be part of a Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) program. These certifications could be carried out by large car dealership chains, or large online only dealerships, such as Carvana.

    Rental companies, such as Avis Budget, also run their own rigorous certification programs and offer extended warranties. Rental companies typically certify only the best cars from their rental fleet (newer models, lower mileage with no frame damage). Many of the rental companies’ vehicles that meet the factory inspection requirement end up at franchise dealerships and become factory certified used vehicles.

    Dealer certified cars are typically priced lower than manufacturer certified vehicles as they are typically subject to lesser restrictions, such as the ability to carry out repairs of using third party, quality party in lieu of the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts.

The Smart Choice!

There are countless reasons why a certified used car makes for a better buy than just any used car.

For starters, certified used cars…

  • Have been vigorously inspected, so they offer the peace of mind of a new car without the hefty price tag.
  • Strike a balance between high-priced new cars and unreliable used cars.
  • Hold their value longer; they won’t lose 20-40% of their value once you drive them off the lot – like a new car will.
  • Backed by an extended warranty.
  • Come with the CARFAX or Autocheck history report.

Questions and Answers

Q: Where can I take my certified pre owned (CPO) car for general service and repairs? A: If a car has been certified by its manufacturer/factory, it can be serviced at any like-branded dealership service center in the country. If the car was certified by a dealership or independent program, it will depend on the certification. Some programs dictate that the vehicle must be taken to the dealership it was purchased, whereas other programs allow for the vehicle to repaired by any ASE-trained technician, including at franchised dealerships.

Q: How long will my certified pre owned (CPO) car’s warranty last? A: Pre-owned vehicle warranties vary from one manufacturer/dealer to another. Generally, the warranty will extend a pre-determined number of miles or amount of time, whichever comes first (100,000 miles or 6 years from date of the original sale, for example).

Q: What features and benefits are included in my certified pre owned (CPO) warranty? A: As with other aspects of certified used car programs, the features of each warranty differ from one provider to another. Manufacturer certified pre owned cars include a multi-point inspection and repair process (usually with 150+ inspection points); often a roadside assistance program and special financing are included as well.

Q: Used cars or certified pre owned (CPO) cars, what’s the difference? A: Certified used cars are generally late-model cars (6 model years old or newer) that have under 80,000 original miles). Also, they have been certified using a rigorous, multi-point external and internal inspection process and follow strict guidelines. A regular used car, although cheaper, may come with a variety of undetected problems that will surface sometime after your purchase.
By choosing a certified used car, you get a quality, late-model car at a substantial discount. Most importantly, though, you get the peace of mind that comes from an extensive inspection and repair process and an extended warranty program.