If you’ve paid a lick of attention to used car advertisements, you’ve no doubt noticed the ads for manufacturer-backed “certified pre-owned” (CPO) programs offered through dealerships. But what, exactly, are the advantages of a CPO vehicle to you, and is it the right choice for your next purchase?
So what are certified pre-owned vehicles? Unlike most used cars, think of a CPO vehicle as a pre-owned new car. CPO vehicles are sold through licensed new-car dealers, are inspected according to the manufacturer’s standards, and they carry a manufacturer-backed warranty that usually extends the length of the new-car coverage. Also unlike most used cars, there are distinct benefits to purchasing a CPO vehicle. For example, a two-year-old CPO vehicle is typically priced about 25 percent lower than a brand-new version of the same model. And unlike most used vehicles, CPO vehicles are often available with leasing options (meaning you could qualify for a substantially lower monthly payment).
But there’s more than just money involved—there’s peace of mind. Unlike a used car from a private seller who swears he only drove it to church on Sundays and that there’s never a squeak or mechanical hiccup, CPO programs thoroughly examine its vehicles using a manufacturer-mandated checklist that can encompass up to 300 different points. And nearly every program provides a vehicle-history report as proof that the car has led an uneventful life.
While each brand has its unique features with its CPO program, let’s take a close look at one such program—Mercedes-Benz—to get an idea of what a shopper might encounter with a certified pre-owned car. In the case of a Mercedes, a vehicle that’s being considered for its CPO program will go through the following inspections:
- 11-point general inspection
- 13-point engine compartment and pre-road tests
- 16-point engine component inspection
- 32-point electrical system inspection
- 17-point undercarriage and drivetrain inspection
- 26-point chassis and body inspection
- 14-point road test
- 3-point post-road test inspection
- 32-point appearance inspection
Only after the vehicle has passed all 164 inspection points will it be offered as certified pre-owned.
Granted, purchasing a CPO vehicle can be more expensive initially when compared to buying from a private seller or buying a non-certified used car, but there are additional benefits that come with a CPO vehicle aside from the inspections. Again, in the case of Mercedes-Benz, it offers an unlimited-mileage warranty for one year on all of its CPO vehicles that can be extended for up to two additional years. You’ll also receive 24-hour roadside assistance that includes services such as a free jump-start, swapping out a flat tire with your existing spare, or bringing you some fuel for an empty tank in the event you run dry.
So is a CPO vehicle right for you? You as the buyer will need to weight the costs against your budget and any future potential maintenance costs. The benefits of a CPO vehicle, though, can far outweigh the initial cost. With generally lower mileage and warranties that mitigate any repair costs, CPO programs can ensure you’re getting a used vehicle in like-new condition without paying a new-car price.