What Is a Certified Pre-Owned Used Car? And Are CPO Used Cars Worth It?
The debate over new and used cars is as old as time. The price premium ordered by new cars includes guarantees and benefits; buying a used car means spending less money and avoiding the massive depreciation suffered by new cars, but there is some uncertainty about its mechanical condition and ownership history.
What is a certified used vehicle?
A Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle (CPO) differs from other used cars in that it has been thoroughly inspected and has all the qualifications required by the certifying party. The idea is that you will spend less than you would on a new car, and avoid some of the uncertainty of a used car. The best of both worlds, right? These programs are operated by car manufacturers or third party groups, including dealerships and outlets like MotorTrend.
Each program varies, but in addition to passing an inspection, they may include requirements for vehicle age, number of miles on the vehicle, accident history, etc. Most programs also offer incentives to sweeten the deal and justify the extra price over an uncertified used car. Extended warranties, 24-hour roadside assistance, rental car allowances, and free maintenance plans are all on the table.
Is Buying a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle Worth It? Advantages and disadvantages
A CPO vehicle certainly has its advantages. Especially for a model that hasn’t changed much recently, a CPO example will offer significant savings over a new car while still maintaining a similar driving experience as the new model. Choosing a sorted, high-quality example of the car you are looking for takes a lot of guesswork and reduces the possibility of unexpected expensive repairs.
That said, if you are from the used car world and enjoy hunting, purchasing CPOs may not seem like a good idea. Even though two used cars have the same mileage and were built in the same year, the CPO example will require more money to cover the costs of warranties, inspections, and program benefits. If you’re willing to pay for your own independent pre-purchase inspection, there is real money to be saved. Beyond budget concerns, CPO programs also eliminate the option of purchasing an older or modified vehicle.
Again, depending on the car you are interested in and local promotions going on, more attractive finance rates may be offered on new cars than on used cars. Sometimes choosing a used car means going without the latest technology available only in new cars. Additionally, some buyers may simply prefer the ultimate peace of mind knowing that they are the first driver to own and maintain their car.
Non-certified luxury used programs
Because they compete for a lower price, most non-luxury CPO programs include fewer benefits than an equivalent luxury program. As an example of a non-luxury CPO program, consider Honda.
The automaker begins by reducing the number of potential cars by limiting eligibility to vehicles of the current model year and those up to five years old, and they must be less than 80,000 miles. They are then subjected to a 182-point inspection, the report of which is available for download before your test drive.
Most of the benefits are the same for all Honda’s, but the non-powertrain warranty (also known as limited) changes depending on whether the car in question is HondaTrue Certified (1-6 years) or HondaTrue Certified + (0-1 year). New Certified + vehicles add two years and 50,000 miles, from the expiration of the three-year / 36,000-mile limited warranty that accompanies all new Honda models. For older certified vehicles, the CPO program offers a one year / 12,000 mile limited warranty that begins either at the end of the existing warranty (if the CPO car was purchased with the new vehicle warranty still active) , or on the date of your CPO purchase.
All Honda CPO vehicles include a seven year / 100,000 mile powertrain warranty (engine, transmission and drive system) that begins on the vehicle’s original sale date when new. Other benefits include free roadside assistance during the term of the limited warranty, up to two free oil changes within the first year of ownership, and a 90-day SiriusXM satellite radio trial.
Certified luxury used programs
To illustrate the difference between luxury and non-luxury CPO programs, let’s take a look at the CPO program for Honda’s luxury brand, Acura. While there is a lot in common between this plan and Honda’s, there are a few things that make the Acura program stand out.
To be eligible, cars must be less than six model years old, less than 80,000 miles, and pass the same 182 point inspection. Like Honda, Acura makes inspection reports for each vehicle available online. It also offers the same 90-day SiriusXM trial and the same seven-year / 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, but that’s where the similarities end.
Instead of Honda’s one-year / 12,000-mile certified limited warranty or two-year / 50,000-mile limited warranty for certified + new cars, Acura includes a two-year / 100,000-mile limited warranty on each vehicle. CPO sold. Acura also offers an on-demand concierge service for the duration of the limited warranty and a free maintenance visit, which includes more than just the oil change offered by Honda.
What is a MotorTrend Certified Vehicle?
Outside of manufacturers’ programs, third-party certifiers can add a level of confidence to your purchasing decision. Because a Nissan dealer cannot certify a trade-in Toyota Camry, they look to these third parties to minimize the buyer’s uncertainty that can accompany the purchase of a used car. The MotorTrend Certified (MTC) program is a prime example.
The pool of eligible vehicles is larger with MTC, with vehicles up to 11 model years and up to 120,000 miles. They must pass a 41-point inspection and all parts necessary to pass must be installed at the dealership’s expense.
Regarding the warranty, the dealer may offer two options, the first being a six month / 7,500 mile declared maintenance warranty. It covers most mechanical systems – engine, transmission, fuel system, suspension, air conditioning, etc. – in the event of mechanical failure. The deductible for repairs is just $ 100, and MTC cars can get warranty service at any location with an ASE certified mechanic.
The alternative is a Powerlife Limited Lifetime Warranty. Under this coverage, as long as the vehicle returns for factory recommended maintenance within a 30 day / 1,500 mile window, the purchaser is entitled to powertrain repairs. All repairs made necessary by mechanical failure of the engine, transmission, drive axles or gaskets and seals are covered as long as they own the vehicle. The program also includes free powertrain inspections every 30,000 miles.
In addition to warranty coverage, MTC cars include two key benefits. First, there is a 72 hour no questions asked trade-in policy, assuming less than 300 miles were added to the odometer during that time. Second, all MTC vehicles include a Best Value Guarantee which ensures that if you find a similar vehicle (same make, model, year and version within a 10,000 mile radius) with the same benefits at a lower price, the dealer where you bought the car will cut you a check for the difference.
Dealers can also choose to add some or all of the following benefits free of charge for six months after purchase: key replacement, paintless dent repair, tire and wheel protection from road hazards, windshield repair, cosmetic wheel repair, roadside assistance, paint repair and fabric repair.
The position What is a certified used car? And are CPO used cars worth it? first appeared on MotorTrend.