A maroon 2022 Chevy Traverse is shown from the rear driving on an open road.

Certified Vehicles vs Extended Warranties: What’s the Difference?

If you’ve decided to purchase a used car, you might be looking for ways to secure your purchase and make sure you don’t get a total lemon––or that if you do, you aren’t stuck with a major bill. One way to avoid this issue is to look for something like a certified Chevy for sale at your local Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Chevy dealer (or any other brand that offers CPO vehicles). You might have also considered getting extended warranties on your next Chevy purchase. These are both smart ways to protect yourself against taking home a used car that’s riddled with problems.

Many smart shoppers know that buying used doesn’t have to mean taking a gamble with your money on a car that may or may not be as advertised. Certified Pre-Owned programs and extended warranties provide you with protection that’s almost on par with those you get with a new vehicle. Many drivers, however, aren’t really sure which is best: a Certified Pre-Owned vehicle or an extended warranty. They’re often mistaken for one another but are different in critical ways that are important to understand. Learning about the perks of each of these options––and how they differ––will help ensure you get the coverage you need when buying a used car. Let’s take a look at Certified Pre-Owned vehicles versus extended warranties.

What Is a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle?

A Certified Pre-Owned vehicle has gone through a rigorous inspection and reconditioning process and meets preset age and mileage qualifications to be labeled a CPO vehicle. Manufacturers offer their own CPO programs, as do dealerships. Generally speaking, you’re only going to find factory (aka manufacturer) Certified Pre-Owned vehicles at new car franchises for that particular brand. So if you see a CPO Chevy at a new Chevy dealership, it could be a factory-certified one. However, if you see a certified Chevy at a Nissan dealership, it is likely dealership certified.

This begs the question: are dealership or factory warranties better? The truth is that there is no definitive answer to that question. In fact, the CPO benefits offered by a dealership can sometimes have a lot of overlap with those offered by a manufacturer. There are some common benefits and features you can expect from both. First, there will be a limit on how old a car can be and how many miles it can have on it to be considered for a CPO program. Around six years or younger and 75,000 miles or fewer is a common benchmark for qualification (which is what Chevy requires). However, sometimes you see CPO vehicles as much as ten years old. CPO vehicles are often also lightly used. They won’t have major accidents on their vehicle history report nor will they have suffered any substantial damage.

Once a vehicle has met the requirements to be a CPO car, it will undergo an inspection. Every manufacturer and dealership has their own inspection process, so ask yours what theirs looks like. For Chevy, there is a 172-point inspection list that covers all the major components in the vehicle. If a car passes inspection, that’s when it’s ready for sale as a CPO vehicle.

At this point, warranties will be included with the vehicle. These warranties will vary greatly from program to program, so make sure you know all the details before you buy. There are usually bumper-to-bumper as well as powertrain warranties, which will each have different terms. These might range anywhere from one year to five years. For Chevy, there is a six-year/100,000-mile powertrain limited warranty and a 12-month/12,000-mile bumper-to-bumper limited warranty.

It’s also worth noting that some require you to pay a deductible with every service or repair, and some, like Chevy, do not. Additionally, 24/7 roadside assistance and complimentary loaner cars during service may or may not come with a CPO vehicle. Some programs, like Chevy’s, will also allow you to get free service visits in the first year or two of ownership.

A blue 2022 Chevy Colorado is shown driving on an open road.

What Is An Extended Warranty?

An extended warranty is a product that can be purchased and added to almost any used vehicle, so there won’t be limitations on the age or mileage of the car. Your car does not need to undergo inspection in order for you to purchase an extended warranty. You can buy one for any used car if you want added protection.

You can buy an extended warranty from a dealership, from a manufacturer, and sometimes even from your insurance company. That means you have options and can shop around for different warranties. For that reason, there is a lot of variance in these warranties. You can buy short ones or those that last for a decade. There is also a significant variation in coverage.

You’ll generally be looking at exclusionary versus inclusionary warranties. An exclusionary warranty has a specific list of things that are not covered and are generally considered the better option. On the other hand, an inclusionary outlines a shorter list of what is covered, which is usually much less than an exclusionary warranty. For this reason, exclusionary ones tend to be more expensive than inclusionary warranties. You can choose to add extra benefits like 24/7 roadside assistance or complimentary transportation while your car is being worked on, or you can leave these off if you already get those perks from your insurance company or other party.

Which Is Right for You?

As you can see, there are many differences between Certified Pre-Owned vehicles and extended warranties.

Get a Certified Pre-Owned vehicle if you want the following:

  • A Car With Relatively Low Mileage or Age – CPO vehicles are required to be new-ish with low mileage.
  • A Comprehensive Package – If you don’t want to design a warranty package but just want something all-inclusive with roadside assistance, complimentary loaner cars, and cut-and-dry coverage, get a CPO vehicle.
  • You Want an Inspected Vehicle – CPO vehicles are required to undergo intense and detailed inspections, with any recalls performed and any potential issues fixed before going on sale. This gives you more of a guarantee than just picking something off the used lot.

Get an extended warranty if you want the following:

  • Highly Customizable Coverage – With extended warranties, you choose as much or as little coverage as you want and choose to add extra perks or not.
  • The Freedom to Shop Around – Many companies sell extended warranties, so you can shop around and compare prices.
  • The Freedom to Buy Any Used Vehicle – You are not limited to cars that meet certain qualifications.
  • The Option to Receive Service Anywhere You Want – Certified pre-owned vehicles usually have limitations on where you can get your car serviced. Extended warranties do not.

A popular certified Chevy for sale, a blue 2021 Chevy Equinox, is shown from the side.

Flexibility vs Simplicity

Ultimately, there is no answer to the question, “which is better, an extended warranty or a Certified Pre-Owned vehicle.” A CPO vehicle meets certain qualifications and comes with preset warranties. An extended warranty is a product that you can purchase from several third-party companies and can be added to any used vehicle. The question comes down to whether you want something simple or something flexible.

With a CPO vehicle, the dealership or manufacturer has done the work for you of inspecting the car, preparing it for use, and setting the warranties. Some people like this simplicity. However, others want the option to get any car they want and to customize their coverage. They want flexibility, and extended warranties are good for those drivers.

What can be said is that if you are interested in buying a used vehicle, you will thank yourself for going with one of these options––as opposed to buying any old, uninspected used car and not adding any sort of protection. There can be a lot of false advertising and half-truths in the used car market, but you deserve to protect your hard-earned dollars. Getting a CPO vehicle or adding an extended warranty to a used car is a smart way to protect your investment and save yourself from taking on major repair bills.