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What are the Benefits of Buying a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle?

A certified pre-owned vehicle, or CPO, is one of the best options you have when seeking a used vehicle. These cars have to meet a strict level of criteria to acquire manufacturer approval; that, along with the extra options offered by dealerships with these cars, means they have many advantages over cars bought through private sellers. Here are four benefits you can get if you choose to purchase a certified pre-owned vehicle.

4 CPO Car Benefits

Benefit #1: Can Help You Avoid Getting Scammed

When you buy a regular used car, you'll need to discern whether the seller is honest about the vehicle's condition. Unfortunately, there are a number of vehicle scams that private sellers will use to pass off a less-than-quality car, including:

  • Odometer Rollback: By rolling back the odometer on the vehicle (either physically or electronically), unscrupulous sellers can artificially reduce the number of miles on a vehicle. The higher the actual mileage on a car, the more likely it is to need major repairs in the near future. With a CPO vehicle, you can ensure that the mileage on the car is accurate.
  • Title Washing: A vehicle with a clean title will almost always bring in more money than one with any other title type. Because of this, scammers will "wash" the titles of salvage cars by transferring them to a different state after an accident or significant damage. Some states have laxer laws when it comes to titling, and by acquiring this clean title in a lax state, title washers can unload a car for a far higher price.
  • The "Lemon": One of the oldest scams, a lemon car is a vehicle sold with a significant defect or potentially malfunctioning components without the buyer's knowledge. There could be issues with the engine, transmission, brakes, lights, or any other major system; in an effort to get more money, the seller will neglect to share this information. By making basic repairs to the car so that it appears driveable, these scammers will sell the car and be gone before you can discover the issues.

Buying a CPO car helps you avoid these pitfalls because they have to be certified by the manufacturer. CPO vehicles are inspected before certification, and any issues with their internal components have to be fixed to meet a certain criteria level. The manufacturer is giving this car their seal of approval, so any issues or hidden damage the customer finds could damage their brand.

Benefit #2: Almost Always Guaranteed to Get a Car in Excellent Condition

As defined by Kelley Blue Book, vehicles that get a CPO certification will almost always be in "excellent" condition. With regular used cars, you may get a vehicle in any of the four primary conditions, which include:

  • Poor: Vehicles in poor condition, like those with a salvage title, are usually not drivable at all. They will have severe issues with their internal components, significant wear-and-tear, high mileage, damaged interiors, rust damage, and will not have a clean title.
  • Fair: Vehicles in fair condition will function slightly better than poor cars but are still likely to have significant issues with their internal mechanics. These cars will also have cosmetic damage and need a decent amount of automotive repairs. Unlike poor vehicles, they will have reasonable running conditions and should have a clean title.
  • Good: Cars in good condition may have minor cosmetic damage but will be free from any significant technical issues. They may require a small number of repairs, but overall most of the damage is in the form of minor rust, small scrapes on their paint, and a bit of wear on their tires.
  • Excellent: Like most CPO vehicles, cars in excellent condition will be "like-new." They should function perfectly, require no repairs, pass a strict inspection, and have a clean title.

CPO vehicles allow you to avoid assessing a car's condition due to the required multi-point inspection. A professional automotive technician will inspect the vehicle to ensure it meets the manufactures criteria before certifying it and ensure it has a clean vehicle history report.

Benefit #3: Often Comes With a Better Warranty and Leasing Options

Most CPO programs will provide an extension to the basic warranty a vehicle comes with, along with additional options like a powertrain warranty. While the terms may be a bit shorter with lower mileage limits, these extended warranties can give you a guarantee of repairs that a private seller just can't match.

CPO vehicles are also often available for lease, offering a way to make monthly payments and switch out the car after a few years if you so choose. This is an excellent option for drivers who want to try a vehicle out or wish to drive a car that is a bit too expensive to buy outright. You can calculate your lease payments ahead of time to see if they fit your budget with a lease calculator, like the one available from GoodCar.

Benefit #4: Dealerships Offer Free Maintenance and Fringe Benefits

Certain dealerships will offer free maintenance if you buy a CPO car, ranging anywhere from a few months to a few years after the vehicle is purchased. General Motors, for example, offers two years of complimentary scheduled maintenance after purchasing any Buick, GMC, Cadillac, or Chevrolet CPO vehicle. What these programs offer varies, with some offering free vehicle inspections, tire rotations, and oil changes.

You may also get fringe benefits with a CPO car, like roadside assistance. If you get in an accident or your vehicle becomes disabled due to equipment failure, these programs will help pay for emergency towing, getting your battery jumped, and flat tire changes. Assistance programs vary in length. For example, Acura has two levels: Precision Certified and Precision Used. A Precision Certified vehicle will get assistance for two years or the first 100,000 miles, while a Precision Used CPO vehicle will only be covered for one year and 12,000 miles.

Choosing a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle is a Great Choice

With a lower chance of being scammed, higher-quality vehicles, better finance options, and extended warranties, getting a CPO car may be your best option. You can spend time searching through the private market, and it's possible you could get a better deal. But overall, you can't go wrong with a certified pre-owned vehicle.