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Certified Pre-Owned Cars & “Finger Quotes”

If your used car search includes Certified Pre-Owned Cars, congratulations! You may now pat yourself on the back for increasing the likelihood of overall satisfaction in your car-buying (and owning) experience. Actually, only pat yourself on the back if you truly understand the dynamics of Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) programs. If you are only pretending that you’ve done your due diligence, please pump your brakes and refrain from self-reward of any kind until you’ve read this. Don’t worry though…we’re here to help.


Used Is Used (…and so are CPO)

Remember this one simple truth: whether you’re buying used or CPO, you are still buying a car with previous ownership. It is still the product of that ownership’s diligence (or lack thereof) in maintaining the vehicle, as well as a product of their driving habits. There isn’t a certification in the world that equates to a true factory reset, so knowing the difference between a CPO status and a magic wand is the first step. That said, you’ve already made a decision to shop used, so lets shift the focus away from the seemingly obvious, and towards the value represented by CPO vehicles.


The Certified Pre-Owned Difference

First things first, a CPO vehicle can only be bought from a franchised dealership. For example, if you want to buy a CPO Chevy Silverado, you can only buy it from a Chevrolet dealership. Any non-franchised dealer offering you a Certified Chevy Silverado is merely offering you their own certification, and it won’t be backed by GM. Keep in mind that every car manufacturer has different criteria to qualify for CPO status, but for the sake of this conversation, we’ll continue with the Chevy analogy.

To qualify for GM CPO status, a vehicle must first fall within the five most recent model years, and carry 75,000 miles or less. Right off the bat, this speaks to the core reliability of the vehicle as it relates to an expectation of less wear. The vehicle must then meet a stringent 172-point inspection, performed by GM-authorized technicians. This ensures that the engine, chassis and body still meet factory-set standards, as do all major systems. Any areas that do not meet standards are then repaired or refurbished using GM-approved parts. The result is added driver assurance, not just in terms of reliability, but also safety.

While many would consider this enough reason to consider CPO vehicles, the benefits are from over. First off? Extended warranties. That’s right, GM CPO vehicles gain the security of a Powertrain Limited Warranty for an impressive six years or 100,000 miles (whichever comes first). On top of that, GM piles on a Bumper-to-Bumper Limited Warranty for 12 months or 12,000 miles (whichever comes first) and both come with a $0 deductible! Granted these warranties won’t cover issues resulting from normal wear, misuse, poor maintenance or accidents but the combined benefits of the inspection, plus the warranties transform the experience of buying a previously owned vehicle.

CPO GM owners also benefit from the no-charge Scheduled Maintenance Program, which extends two years or 24,000 miles (whichever comes first). Included are oil and filter changes, tire rotation and multi-point inspections that aim to help retain the value and reliability of your vehicle. And don’t worry about these services keeping you from your busy lifestyle, because you are also entitled to Courtesy Transportation during any maintenance or repair.

Tack on 24/7 Roadside Assistance, and the optional perks of OnStar and/or SiriusXM Satellite Radio and it’s clear that GM customers benefit from the company’s well-designed CPO program.

And consider this…if you decide that you’re not satisfied with your CPO Silverado once you drive it off the lot, you have three days or 150 miles (whichever comes first) to return it without penalty, and exchange it for a vehicle better suited to you.

Now, this is the GM program – so remember that all manufacturers utilize different criteria, and offer different benefits. Get educated to make sure that it’s worthwhile to you based on the type of car you’re interested in purchasing.


You Get What You Pay For

Yes…what you PAY for. Will you pay more for a Certified Pre-Owned car than you would for a used vehicle of the same model and make? Absolutely. While there’s no hard and fast rule as to how much more, it is usually only a slight increase. But, it’s important to remember that this difference in cost is attributed to a couple of very real factors.

First, CPO vehicles retain a higher resale value due to the criteria they have to meet. This means that the dealership acquires them at a higher price than they may have pay for a non-qualifying car. In addition, the dealer must offset the cost of inspection, as well as any repair and refurbishment.

That said, you get what you pay for…and what you’ve paid for is the added assurance of reliability, safety and support.


Finger Quotes

But like countless internet memes and wacky t-shirts have taught us: Punctuation Matters.

There is a world of difference between “Certified Pre-Owned” vehicles and “Certified” Pre-Owned Vehicles. Unfortunately, you can’t expect “finger quotes” to appear magically whenever someone says those three words in succession, so do yourself a favor and demand clarity.

Any dealer can call a vehicle “certified” and provide their own warranty and/or perks. Make sure that you investigate the manufacturer’s CPO criteria. In addition to confirming that the CPO status is valid, you can make sure that the dealership is honoring the rewards as intended.


That’s It

Ultimately, the choice will always be yours but, since you’re already planning to buy a used car, you should stop and ask yourself what your peace of mind is worth. For a slight increase in overall price, a CPO vehicle provides far more assurance of satisfaction than you should expect from a traditional used car.

Now, if you’re (at least) considering CPO vehicles, you may resume your previously scheduled back-patting.

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