Car shopping is one of those things that sounds like it should be such a blast…sort of like bathing suit shopping right before a big beach vacation. However, we all know that in reality both bathing suit shopping and car shopping typically turn out to be way more stressful than anticipated. Not only are you faced with aesthetic questions such as favorite exterior color and premium leather or affordable cloth interior, but you also need to be prepared to discuss your finances and to fully understand what it is your paying for. And, just like bathing suit shopping, car shopping frequently becomes more frustrating and perhaps even more upsetting than ever imagined. One reason that car shoppers frequently become so frustrated during the buying process is that something that seems like it should be such a straightforward transaction suddenly becomes convoluted with terms and jargon that the average person has most likely never heard before. One such example is “CPO,” or Certified Pre-Owned.
Now, you’ll be forgiven if you thought that any used car was, naturally, certified pre-owned. And, by a reasonable definition, you’d be correct. However, in car-shopping lingo, Certified Pre-Owned means much more than merely guaranteeing that the car has been previously owned by another person. In fact, a Certified Pre-Owned car is one that comes with enhanced warranties and extra protections that you won’t find on a standard pre-owned vehicle. While the exact terms and coverage of Certified Pre-Owned vehicles vary by dealership and manufacturer, there are some basic factors that you should be aware of when it comes time to decide whether or not you should be buying pre-owned or Certified Pre-Owned.
Get Familiar with Certified Pre-Owned Qualifications
Right off the bat, you should know that if you planned to go to a dealership and buy a beater just to kick around in, more than likely Certified Pre-Owned is not for you… and you’d probably struggle to find a Certified Pre-Owned beater anyways. Certified Pre-Owned cars are almost always well-maintained, low mileage cars that have sustained little or no substantial wear or damage. They are also generally late-model year cars, so if owning a car from the ‘90s is your dream, you’re going to have to have to bypass the CPO label. However, if you’re in the market for a car that is going to be reliable and has very few miles to its name, CPO might just be the way to go. This is especially true if you’re looking for extended protection and warranties to guarantee the life and quality of your new investment.
CPO: Higher Price Point, Increased Benefits
What’s the drawback to a Certified Pre-Owned vehicle? Well, cost, for one thing. Typically a CPO vehicle will be more expensive than a regular pre-owned vehicle, which makes sense since the CPO vehicle carries a manufacturer-backed warranty and has gone through an extensive and highly-detailed inspection process. While the initial price point might seem slightly higher compared to a traditional pre-owned car, it is important to keep in mind that most Certified Pre-Owned vehicles also come with great additional extras. These extras often include complimentary roadside assistance, complimentary maintenance programs, and even complimentary rental vehicles if you do find that your CPO car ever needs a little extra TLC. The list of “freebies” that come along with a Certified Pre-Owned vehicle is unique to each dealership and manufacturer, so before you decided if it’s worth it to buy CPO or not, be sure to ask for a complete list of everything covered and included in the warranty and the benefits. You may also want to see if there are two of the same model cars on the lot – say, perhaps, a 2015 Honda Accord. If one is a Certified Pre-Owned Honda Accord and the other is a standard used model, it can be helpful to compare both the quality, standard and financial differences between the two offerings. In fact, doing a little bit of additional research on buying a CPO model car versus the exact same car in standard used condition will certainly help you decide if the extra money is actually worth it to you and the overall value of the vehicle.
Dealership vs. Manufacturer CPO – What You Need to Know
As with all things car-shopping related, you’re going want to pay close attention to the fine print when you are deciding whether or not to buy pre-owned. Just because a car says that it is Certified Pre-Owned, that doesn’t mean it’s been certified by the actual manufacturer. Some dealerships have set up their own methods of certification, and while there is nothing inherently wrong with buying a dealership-certified pre-owned vehicle, you do want to be aware of your vehicle isn’t backed by the manufacturer’s warranty as well. When possible, you should always try to shop for a Certified Pre-Owned car that has a manufacturer-backed warranty rather than just the individual dealership’s warranty, as the manufacturer’s warranty ensures that your CPO vehicle has met the rigorous inspection standards as laid out by the manufacturer, and not just those qualifications set by the dealership. If you’re going to pay extra for peace of mind and guaranteed standards, you want to be sure that you are getting your money’s worth.
The Drawbacks to Buying CPO
All of the benefits of buying Certified Pre-Owned may make you wonder why anyone chooses to buy a regular pre-owned vehicle. In your decision-making process, if you find affordability is most essential to you, a traditional pre-owned vehicle is almost always going to be the more economical option. Additionally, while you may not have the protection that manufacturer and dealership warranties provide, you can give yourself peace of mind by taking the car you’re considering buying to a trusted mechanic for a thorough inspection. The cost will be significantly less than purchasing a CPO-labeled vehicle and the satisfaction of knowing your car is running in tip-top shape will be priceless.
Should You Shop for a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle?
In short, yes! Why not start your car shopping journey focusing on high-quality, extended warranty models? If you ultimately decide that the increased price tag is not worth the additional warranties and coverages, simply tell your salesperson you’d like to explore non-CPO options. However, you may find a Certified Pre-Owned car that fits nicely into your budget and your lifestyle – and you can rest easy knowing that you won’t have to worry about any used-car baggage coming along for the ride.