The Benefits of Buying a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle

Jeff Youngs | Aug 08, 2012

All things considered equal, it costs more to buy a certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicle than it does to buy the same used vehicle when it is not part of a CPO program. However, while non-CPO vehicles are typically less expensive, they are not equal to CPO vehicles. Here's why:

Only Vehicles in the Best Condition Qualify

Late-model, low-mileage vehicles with clean vehicle history reports are accepted into certified pre-owned programs sponsored by auto manufacturers. If a vehicle does not meet specific criteria, which varies depending on the automaker, it cannot become a CPO vehicle.

Multi-point Inspection and Reconditioning Process

The number of things that a dealer will examine and, if necessary, recondition or replace to meet CPO program standards varies by manufacturer, but generally a CPO vehicle has endured between 100 and 200 individual item checks and is approved by the time it goes on sale as a certified used vehicle.

Extended Warranty Protection

Many CPO programs extend both the original basic and the original powertrain warranty on a CPO vehicle. Typically, those companies that provide shorter-term time and mileage limits for the original new car warranty are likely to extend their CPO programs by significant amounts in an effort to be competitive. Other manufacturers that provide generous new car warranty coverage may not increase limits for their CPO vehicles as much or at all. Rather, the remainder of the new car warranty is transferred to the new owner.
Roadside Assistance

Most certified pre-owned programs provide free 24-hour roadside assistance that lasts for the duration of the extended basic warranty coverage. This service assists owners who may run out of gas, lock themselves out of their vehicle, need a jump-start, etc.

Low Interest Financing

It's true that CPO vehicles are usually more expensive than similar models that have not been certified, but CPO vehicles can also qualify for lower finance rates, typically equal to the loans offered on new vehicles. For buyers who are financing their CPO vehicle, the lower interest rate effectively lowers the monthly payment, helping to ameliorate the effect of the higher asking price on the household budget.


Sometimes, auto companies will allow customers to lease a certified pre-owned vehicle, providing an appealing alternative to buyers who are interested in driving a more expensive pre-owned vehicle, but cannot afford to purchase one.

Free Maintenance

As a part of certain CPO programs, free maintenance for a specific period of time and/or mileage limit is included as part of the certification process. Generally, this benefit pays only for oil changes and tire rotations according to the manufacturer's recommended intervals, as well as free vehicle inspections conducted by the dealership.

Satisfaction Guarantee

Some CPO programs allow a buyer to bring the vehicle back and exchange it for a different vehicle, within specific time frames and under specific mileage limits. This is not a money-back guarantee. Rather, if this benefit is offered, it allows for a one-time swap into a vehicle you might like better.

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