Should You Buy a Certified Pre-Owned Car?

Should You Buy a Certified Pre-Owned Car?

Should You Buy a Certified Pre-Owned Car?
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Do you want to save big on your next vehicle purchase?

You could go the used-car route. But shopping for a standard used car is not a simple task. To do it right, you must compare prices, review maintenance records, and pay for a pre-purchase inspection by a reputable mechanic. Although technology has made the process a little less strenuous than it used to be, you still need to devote a fair number of hours to making an informed decision.

Even after you perform your due diligence, however, there’s no guarantee that you can avoid spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on costly repairs during the first few months of ownership.  

Instead of shelling out thousands of dollars for a new vehicle or running the risk of buying a lemon, you should take a look at manufacturer-certified pre-owned programs. Buying a certified pre-owned (CPO) car is the happy medium between buying a new car and a typical used car. You avoid the uncertainty that comes with buying an uncertified used car while acquiring a relatively new vehicle at a fraction of the price of a brand-new one.

What Is a Certified Pre-owned Car?

In the early 1990s, automakers started running CPO programs to take advantage of low-mileage trade-ins and lease returns that are in pristine condition. Instead of auctioning them off, manufacturers inspect, recondition, and otherwise prepare these vehicles for resale. Extended warranties, special financing, complimentary maintenance, and other benefits are often included to further sweeten the deal.


None of the many benefits of buying a certified pre-owned car are available when buying ordinary used cars. Here are some of those advantages. 

Pro: CPO cars are preselected and inspected.

The peace of mind that CPO vehicles provide is one of their biggest benefits. These factory certification programs have strict guidelines about which vehicles are selected. Depending on the manufacturer, the cars can be no more than six years old and must have no more than 75,000 kilometers on the odometer. Selected vehicles are then screened and thoroughly inspected to ensure that they have a certain level of quality in accordance with criteria set forth by the manufacturer. Although CPO vehicles are used vehicles, purchasing one means that you have acquired a late-model car that has now been refurbished and certified to meet factory standards.

Pro: Repairs of certified cars are covered under warranty.

Dealing with repairs is a natural part of vehicle ownership, especially when your vehicle has been owned before. With certified pre-owned programs, repairs are free for the first few months of ownership. Each manufacturer handles their CPO warranties differently. Lexus probably has the best program in this regard; all of their L-certified pre-owned vehicles come with a bumper-to-bumper, unlimited-kilometre warranty for up to six years. Jaguar offers CPO buyers an extensive seven-year warranty up to 160,000 kilometres.

If you lack the skills to work on your car yourself and want to avoid expensive repair fees, purchasing a certified pre-owned vehicle may be for you. Within the period of the warranty, your manufacturer will cover any necessary repairs free of charge or with a small deductible.


Weigh these disadvantages against the advantages of owning a certified pre-owned car to determine whether buying one is right for you.

Con: Certified pre-owned cars cost more.

When a car is selected for the CPO program, it is inspected, washed, refurbished, and, if necessary, repaired. Because this process naturally takes a lot of time and resources, a CPO unit costs more than a standard used car. Depending on the make and model, the difference in price between a CPO car and a standard used car can be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.

Con: It’s still a used car, with potential for problems.

Although buying a CPO vehicle mitigates the risk of owning a used car, it doesn’t eliminate this risk. Your car may still have problems that you didn’t notice during the test drive. After the manufacturer warranty expires, you will be on the hook for any repairs that your vehicle requires.

Conclusion and Recommendations

CPO programs enable you to purchase a barely used, pre-selected vehicle that has been inspected and refurbished by the manufacturer to ensure a certain level of quality. Although COP cars are more expensive than other used cars, the former comes with many benefits that aren’t otherwise available with a used car.

Sales of CPO cars continue to increase each year. But they still represent less than 10 percent of all used car sales in North America. Whether because of the higher cost or because they simply don’t know about the program, many prospective buyers don’t regard a CPO car as a serious option. Some consumers may be comfortable performing their own maintenance and repairs; for them, a CPO vehicle isn’t worth the extra cost. For others, though, the decision to buy a CPO car is a no-brainer, since it enables them to avoid the extensive and time-consuming research required to buy an ordinary used car and to be less worried about the headache and costs of car repairs.

Once you have assessed your own situation, what you need in a vehicle, and how the CPO program can meet those needs, you will know whether purchasing a certified pre-owned car is right for you.


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