Top Tips in Buying a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle

May 01, 2019

Buying a certified pre-owned, or CPO vehicle is an attractive option for many prospective car buyers who are not in the market for a brand-new vehicle.

Certified pre-owned cars will cost more than the same make and models that aren’t certified, but there are several benefits to buying certified pre-owned, and it’s a worthy long-term investment.

Here are some top buying tips to consider when shopping for a CPO vehicle to ensure that you’re getting the best value and a dependable car.

Tips on Buying Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle

Know Who Certified the Vehicle Before You Buy

When shopping for a CPO car, it’s important to know if the certification comes directly from the manufacturer, a dealership, or an independent third party.

All certified pre-owned vehicles are inspected and reconditioned, but the certification standards vary based upon who inspects and reconditions. Manufacturer standards are likely to be significantly stricter than those of an independent dealership.

Before you buy a CPO vehicle, ask if it is manufacturer or factory certified and request to see proper documentation. One of the major advantages of manufacturer certification is that you can have your vehicle serviced at various locations, not just your dealership.

Understand the Certification Before You Sign the Paperwork

Certifications will differ depending on the dealer.

To get the most out of your CPO vehicle, you must understand the certification. Many car buyers choose to spend more money on a certified pre-owned vehicle for the promise of a warranty. Manufacturers typically offer a better warranty than dealerships or third parties.

Before you sign the paperwork, make sure that you understand the warranty as well as what’s covered (and what’s not). A good CPO warranty should cover your needs such as roadside assistance and even a free loaner car when yours is in the shop. Read all the details of the warranty and ask for clarification if something is missing or doesn’t make sense.

Check Out the Certification Checklist and Maintenance History

Every authentic certified pre-owned vehicle should have a certification checklist and a history report of maintenance and repairs. As a potential buyer, you have the right to request and see the checklist and report before you buy the vehicle.

Reputable dealers conduct thorough inspections on CPO’s; usually eclipsing 150-points. This checklist will include things like:

  • Minimum replacement items, such as brake fluid and coolant.
  • Under the hood checks on vital components such as the battery, radiator, alternator, etc.
  • Under the vehicle checks on tires/wheels/rims.
  • Interior/exterior inspection for cosmetic damage/wear and overall function.
  • Road testing to ensure all driving functions are working properly

Consider any seller who claims that there is no checklist or tries to steer you away from seeing the information a “red flag.” As you would when buying any vehicle, arrive with a list of questions and make sure they are all answered.

In addition to the warranty, don’t forget to ask about a return policy or find out if you’re entitled to a refund on expenses such as license fees.

Do a Little Research to Ensure You’re Paying a Fair Price

Since you will be spending more on a certified pre-owned car, it’s essential that you’re paying a fair price. Check out the asking price for a vehicle of the same make, model, and condition that’s not certified and see how it compares to the price of the CPO vehicle.

Even if you have limited knowledge and experience with cars, you should be able to tell if the CPO car is a great deal or a money trap. If you know someone, such as a trusted mechanic, who can determine whether or not a CPO is a deal or a lemon, ask them for feedback.

As all pre-owned vehicles, there’s no guarantee that a CPO car will run better and last longer than other non-certified cars, but you are likely to drive out of the lot with a car you can trust.

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