5 Reasons You Should Not Buy a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle

Christian Wardlaw | Feb 01, 2018

When the time comes to replace your old car, you have three choices: You can buy a new vehicle; You can buy a used vehicle; Or you can buy a certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicle.

Conventional wisdom states that buying a CPO vehicle is the smartest choice, because you'll get a low-mileage, fully inspected, professionally reconditioned vehicle with a warranty, while saving money compared to a brand-new version of the same make and model.

However, there are five reasons you might not wish to give a CPO vehicle consideration:

1. You prefer to waste your money.

When you buy a new vehicle, you get to experience the most dramatic drop in value that it will suffer, and it starts the moment you sign the paperwork and drive it away from the dealership.

According to Carfax, a vehicle history report company, a new vehicle loses 10% of its value between the time you leave the dealership and arrive in your driveway with your new car, truck, SUV, or van.

Based on the average new-car transaction price, according to January 2018 data from the Power Information Network (PIN), you might as well toss $3,217 out the window during the drive home. By the end of the first year, says Carfax, that same average new vehicle will have lost $7,222.66 in value.

Choosing a CPO vehicle doesn't completely eliminate your exposure to depreciation, but this route does mean that someone else frittered all of that cash away instead of you.

2.    You enjoy high-stakes gambling.

When you buy a non-CPO used vehicle, especially if you skip doing an inspection and forego obtaining a vehicle history report, you are gambling with your money.

Gambling is exciting, which explains Las Vegas. Imagine entering the casino, whipping a thick wad of Benjamins out of your pocket, and putting it all on black. Such a thrill!

By contrast, CPO vehicles are thoroughly inspected and reconditioned, backed by a limited warranty, and include a vehicle history report. Only the best pre-owned vehicles can qualify for certification in the first place, and the CPO process adds extra peace of mind to the purchase.

But how boring is that?

3.    You prefer complexity to simplicity. Buying a used car from a private owner isn't easy.

You need to schedule a test drive and meet a stranger in order to examine the vehicle and see if you like it well enough to buy it.

Then, if you're smart, you need to pay for a vehicle history report and schedule a second meeting with the stranger so that you can have a mechanic inspect the vehicle.

Then, the fun part starts: haggling over the price. And if you come to agreement on price, a third meeting is necessary in order to pay for the vehicle and sign all of the proper documentation.

Then, you need to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to make sure everything is in order, that the transfer of title was made properly, and that the car is now yours, free and clear.

Or, you could just buy a CPO vehicle from a dealership. It might cost a little more, but it's far simpler and faster.

4.    You'd rather drive a regular car than a luxury car.

Let's say you're like many people in America and you've decided that your next vehicle will be a small SUV.

One of the most popular compact crossover SUVs is the Toyota RAV4, and you want one loaded up with equipment, so you're shopping for the new Platinum trim with all-wheel drive. The sticker price is $37,200.

Meanwhile, your local Audi dealership has a CPO 2015 Audi Q5 on the lot, with just over 42,000 miles and equipped with a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6, Quattro all-wheel drive, leather, blind-spot monitoring, navigation, spiffy 20-in. wheels, and more. The original price for this Q5 was more than $51,000. But you can get it for less than $34,000.

Eh, who wants an Audi when you can get a Toyota?

5.    "Like new" isn't good enough for you.

Some people just prefer to get a new car, which means that "like new" isn't good enough. It has to be new.

Generally speaking, there are good reasons not to settle for a "like new" vehicle. Truly new models have the latest technology, the latest engineering, and, of course, that new-car smell that some people enjoy.

However, this is only true of recently redesigned or introduced vehicles that stand head and shoulders above the ones they replace. After a new design has been out for a couple of years, like the current Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan, the underlying technology and engineering is largely the same in 2018 as it was in 2015.

At this point, "like new" is almost as good as "new," though it still might not be for you.

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