Remedies for a Defective Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle

Christoper Nagy | Oct 01, 2020

In many regards, a certified pre-owned vehicle (CPO) is the prime example for how an auto manufacturer wants their brand to be seen after the new car luster fades. Carefully picked as low mileage, meticulously inspected examples of their late model cars, trucks, vans, and sport utility vehicles, CPO automobiles are prepared to closely resemble the experience of buying brand-new. However, even though all the thorough work is done ensuring a CPO vehicle sold adheres to some exacting standards, there is a possibility of mechanical and electrical problems revealing themselves after the automobile leaves the dealership.

For the occasion when a CPO vehicle is determined to be defective, an owner is offered a number of channels to seek some remedy to the situation. The following options can be undertaken to arrive at a potential solution without a direct cost to the vehicle owner.

Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle Warranty

The best-case scenario is that a defective certified pre-owned vehicle can be repaired at no cost to the buyer. Fortunately for CPO vehicle owners, they may have two relevant warranty options available as a means to correct an issue. For newer vehicles sold through a CPO dealership, a new car warranty may still apply in addition to longer-term warranties covering aspects such as the powertrain. A CPO warranty (extended protection related specifically to buying a vehicle through a certified pre-owned channel) is another layer of assurance that may prove useful.

If a major issue is experienced with a CPO vehicle, an owner should carefully review the terms and coverage provided by their warranty. Provided that the potential defect falls into the scope of an existing warranty, it’s recommended that the dealership is promptly informed. Multiple repair attempts under warranty may be required for a dealership to correct an issue, so some patience could be required.

Please be aware that warranty coverage is limited and will generally exclude tire/brake pad wear as well as damage caused by a collision, theft, or other activities involving misuse of the vehicle.

Vehicle Exchange Program

Some certified pre-owned arrangements may provide a buyer with the option of returning to the dealership to select another vehicle. For automakers offering a vehicle exchange program, a purchaser can choose a replacement car, truck, or sport utility vehicle of an equal value. A more expensive CPO vehicle may also be purchased for customers willing to pay the additional balance of the next vehicle’s price.

Differing between dealerships, the opportunity to exchange a CPO vehicle is limited immediately following a purchase with some terms as short as three days. Mileage limits will also apply with the eligibility window for a vehicle exchange.

While an effective option for getting rid of a CPO vehicle that is proving troublesome in a technical manner, a vehicle exchange can actually be available to recent CPO buyers who are unsatisfied with their purchase for more trivial reasons, including displeasure with the paint color. 

Lemon Law

In some instances, owners of a certified pre-owned vehicle may not have been satisfied by either repair or replacement of their purchase. Typically only associated with first-time new car sales, lemon laws may present a remedy to swiftly resolving an issue connected to a defective certified pre-owned vehicle. Depending on the state where a CPO vehicle is purchased, a customer may have an option to obtain a refund or replacement.

The option of seeking assistance for dealing with a defective certified pre-owned vehicle through the lemon law is offered in select states such as New York, Massachusetts, and California. Rules and criteria of these protection laws can vary greatly between the eligible jurisdictions. A general rule prior to a claim can be made under a state’s lemon law is that the manufacturer has to be provided a number of attempts to fix an issue. In the state of California, a used vehicle acquired for personal or commercial that has been inoperative for longer than 30 days due to a warranty-related repair is eligible for compensation.

In some cases, a CPO vehicle may apply under the lemon law as a new car if the age or mileage eligibility is met. Used vehicle purchases may also be legally protected if major repair issues arise. One such location where used car lemon laws exists is the state of New York that attaches a limited consumer protection warranty of up to 90 days or 4,000 miles to eligible vehicles. For buyers of CPO vehicles, this time period would usually fall within one of two warranties, but the lemon law protection may provide added satisfaction for some parties.

Other Options

An owner may be provided with one more option without resorting to paying out of pocket or seeking legal advice. Some automakers offer customers the opportunity to obtain assistance beyond the warranty period. Available as a solution on a case-by-case basis, an auto company could choose to reimburse some or all of a vehicle’s repair cost.

Ideally, a quick resolution using one of the previously identified remedies will be realized when dealing with a defective CPO vehicle. However, there may be a rare occasion when other less pleasant legal avenues will have to be considered. A potentially expensive and a time-consuming action, this final option should be explored carefully. Again, customers as well as dealerships would find it better to make an agreement outside of a legal setting.

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