What's The Deal With Certified Pre-Owned Cars?

Posted on: 3 August 2015


If you've ever heard of the term "certified pre-owned" and wondered what was that all about, you're not alone. When it comes to buying any car, let alone a used one, there are plenty of terms you might run into that seem confusing and sometimes even downright cryptic. Fortunately, "certified pre-owned" is definitely something that could work to your advantage as you shop at a place like Grey Chevrolet Inc for your next used vehicle.

A Cut Above Used

Unlike ordinary used vehicles, a certified pre-owned (CPO) car is as close to brand-new as a used car can get. Most certified pre-owned vehicles are off-lease trade-ins that are coming on to the used market for the first time. As a result, these vehicles tend to be low in mileage, relatively young in age and in excellent condition.

What Makes a Car Certified Pre-Owned?

In order for used car to qualify as certified pre-owned, it has to meet a variety of specific age and mileage requirements. For example, a dealership may require certified pre-owned vehicles to have less than 36,000 miles on the odometer and be less than 3 years old. These requirements tend to vary among dealerships and brands.

In addition to age and mileage requirements, a certified pre-owned car must also undergo a comprehensive manufacturer-approved inspection. The dealership looks through every nook and cranny of the vehicle, noting interior and exterior condition as well as the overall condition of the chassis, suspension and powertrain. A typical inspection process could have as many as 200 inspection items. Any items that fail to pass muster must be replaced or refurbished before the vehicle can pass its inspection and be deemed "certified pre-owned."

In addition, certified pre-owned vehicles often come with a factory extended warranty, along with plenty of other attractive perks normally reserved for brand-new vehicles. These perks often include free roadside assistance and loaner vehicles during scheduled or unscheduled service.

Advantages and Drawbacks

Many buyers are attracted to certified pre-owned vehicles thanks in large part to their perceived quality. The inspection process itself allows for greater attention to detail - something that may not be possible with ordinary used cars. This attention to detail also makes it less likely for a vehicle to experience mechanical problems shortly after it rolls off the lot. The presence of a factory extended warranty also helps give buyers greater peace of mind about their purchase.

In addition, the customer experience when buying a certified pre-owned vehicle may be remarkably different and generally more positive than the experience that comes with buying ordinary used vehicles. Many dealerships take great pains to distinguish their certified pre-owned programs from ordinary used-car sales, resulting in a noticeably more upscale experience.

However, there is a drawback to buying a certified pre-owned vehicle. These vehicles typically carry a sticker price that's more than an ordinary used vehicle. Much of the price premium comes from the selection and inspection process.

Dealer vs. Manufacturer

Most of the certified pre-owned vehicles on offer are from manufacturer-franchised dealerships that sell that particular manufacturer's certified vehicles. However, many independent dealerships are eager to sell their own "certified" used vehicles, complete with inspection checklists and third-party extended warranties.

As a general rule of thumb, it's best to stick to certified pre-owned vehicles offered by a manufacturer's franchised dealership. Auto manufacturers have their own uniform criteria for inspection, making it more advantageous for car buyers to purchase a manufacturer's certified vehicle from a franchised dealership rather than purchase a "certified" vehicle from an independent dealer lot.

An independent dealer, on the other hand, may have their own inspection criteria that fail to follow any one manufacturer's standard. These vehicles can't be called "certified pre-owned," as they're not certified by the manufacturer, nor are they backed by a factory extended warranty.