Oct
25

Certified Pre-Owned Program Guide

By Tim Healey

You’re in the market for a car. You’ve determined that buying new isn’t for you, at least for this vehicle purchase. As you do you research and start paying closer attention to car commercials on TV, you start hearing a certain term being thrown around—certified pre-owned.

What does that mean? Well, simply put, a certified pre-owned vehicle is one that has backing from the manufacturer or dealership (or, in some cases, an independent company) that goes beyond what is typically seen for pre-owned vehicles. Certified pre-owned cars are typically given a thorough inspection, are offered with a warranty, and are usually in very good or excellent condition—often with low miles. Most original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs) offer A CPO program for vehicles of the same brand.

These programs began with luxury brands such as Lexus and Mercedes-Benz in the early 1990s. Now, virtually every mainstream brand—and even some of the boutique manufacturers, such as Rolls-Royce—has one. Most have pretty straightforward names, such as Acura Certified Pre-Owned, but other brands add a touch of marketing flair—BMW calls its program “BMW Certified Pre-Owned Elite” while Rolls-Royce goes with “Provenance—The Certified Pre-Owned Collection.”

CPO GuideCertified pre-owned cars are often best suited for buyers who want a used car that’s in very good or excellent condition, buyers who want the extra protection provided by a strong warranty and pre-sale inspection, or buyers who want something that’s like new at a lower sticker price.

The reassurance provided by the pre-sale inspections and CPO warranty is probably the biggest upside of buying a CPO car. While it’s still a used car, the risk of problems should be lower, and should problems arise, the warranty will help reduce cost.

Not to mention, the limitations on mileage and age and the condition requirements of the typical CPO program should mean that you’re getting the pick of the litter when it comes to a used car. Essentially, you’re paying a little more to pick from the top end of the used-car market, with after-sale peace of mind as part of the deal.

Of course, CPO cars come at an extra cost over comparable used cars. Some of this is because they are already in better condition, with fewer miles. The rest comes from the extra cost to the dealer that’s incurred from the inspections, the warranty, any repairs that the car needs before sale, and the fees a dealer has to pay to the manufacturer to take part in the CPO program.

The price premium for a CPO vehicle over a similar non-CPO vehicle will vary, and the amount of variance is typically dependent on how luxurious the vehicle is. It could be a difference of a just a couple hundred dollars or a few thousand. Some sources suggest that a certified pre-owned car could command a two- to eight-percent premium over a non-CPO used car, depending how upmarket the model or brand is.

CPO Guide

Cadillac was among the first brands to implement a CPO program.

There may be other costs involved as well. Some CPO programs have a warranty that includes a deductible. In other cases, the warranty may be transferable should you sell the vehicle.

It’s also worth noting that not all franchise dealers participate—702 out of the 925 Cadillac dealers do, for example, but the rest do not.

Program details differ greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer. The mileage cap, the time limit since the vehicle entered service, and the number of points inspected all vary. Some OEMs require an independent third-party inspection in addition to the inspection performed at the dealership. Even the criteria needed for a dealership to participate changes from brand to brand—some automakers require nothing more than the signature of a voluntary participation agreement. Some require the dealer to be in good standing, and others require special training for the technicians. BMW requires that only official factory replacement parts be used for repairs or reconditioning, and Cadillac requires dealers to meet minimum compliance standards.

What do the inspections entail? As noted above, it varies. Most OEMs list an inspection that covers more than 100 different inspection points, but a few hit 200 and even 300 points. Inspection points can include any key component—from suspension, to brakes, to body and frame, to the steering system—a detailed list should be available from your dealership or through the manufacturer’s website. Ford, for example, uses a 172-point inspection.

The inspection includes a check for fluid leaks and a look at the condition of the belts in the engine bay, for example. Inspections don’t just cover mechanicals—Lexus has a checklist for interior appearance and also checks to make sure that the key fobs are programmed correctly. Online car-shopping sites can also be used to find detailed breakdowns of these inspections.

So if CPO cars are thoroughly inspected, backed by a warranty, in very good or excellent condition, and are low mileage and/or under a certain age, what are the downsides of buying one, other than the slightly higher sticker price?

Well, as noted above, not all dealerships offer CPO cars, for one. On top of that, the selection of CPO cars will be limited—not all used cars that qualify based on age or mileage requirements will pass inspection. And, only a small percentage of used cars will be of low-enough mileage/new enough to meet those requirements.

Also, you’re still buying a used car. Certified pre-owned programs can reduce the risk of problems via the age/mileage requirements, inspections, and other requirements (such as specialized technician training or requiring OEM parts) while also giving you more protection should problems occur. However, you still face a greater risk of problems than with a new car. A CPO car comes with reduced risk and a little extra protection, but there’s no guarantee that there won’t be problems. After all, the car has still been used by at least one owner.

Nevertheless, with the transaction price of a new vehicle now topping $35,000, a CPO car could be a more-affordable alternative. Car buyers seem to think so—CPO car sales were up 9.1 percent year over year from 2014 to 2015. Mazda was the only brand to see a decrease in CPO sales (Volkswagen Auto Group saw only a 0.4 percent increase, but the maker’s struggles with a diesel-engine emissions scandal almost certainly impacted the company’s overall and CPO used-car sales, thanks to stop-sale orders).

Finally, make sure you know the details—obviously some CPO warranties will be more attractive, in terms of coverage, than others. It’s also helpful to see how a CPO warranty may overlap with the original warranty—especially if the factory warranty has unusually long coverage (Hyundai, for example, has a factory powertrain warranty of 10 years/100,000 miles).

Whether to buy a CPO car or not is up to you, but there are significant advantages over buying a non-CPO vehicle. Ultimately, it comes down to two factors—how much extra you’re willing to spend, and how much risk you are willing to live with.

You’re on Your Own: How Your New-Car Salesman Gets Paid

 

Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle Coverage Details

 

Acura

Original warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles (powertrain 6 years/70,000 miles).

CPO warranty: CPO powertrain extends the coverage to 84 months/100,000 miles from original in-service date. 12-month/12,000-mile limited warranty following expiration of new-car warranty. Emergency roadside assistance, trip interruption benefits, complimentary three-month trial of SiriusXM radio.

Alfa Romeo

Original warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles.

CPO warranty: Powertrain up to 7 years/100,000 miles, depending on model year, from original in-service date. Three-month/3,000-mile Maximum Care warranty from sale date. Upgraded warranty program available, including industry-exclusive lifetime warranty upgrade.

Audi

Original warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles.

CPO warranty: Remainder of new-car warranty. 24-month/50,000-mile comprehensive after new-car warranty expires (transferable between private parties). Total vehicle miles not to exceed 100,000. Roadside assistance.

Bentley

Original warranty: Three years, no mileage restriction.

CPO warranty: Comprehensive and exclusive unlimited-mileage Bentley warranty valid for a minimum of 12 months with the option to extend coverage further. Roadside recovery and home assistance to garaging and storage, travel and accommodation costs where applicable, car hire and car repatriation.

BMW

Original warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles.

BMW CPO Elite (vehicles with fewer than 15,000 miles): 60 months/70,000 miles, 12 months/25,000 miles comprehensive after new-car warranty expires. Includes 5-year/unlimited-miles roadside assistance.

BMW CPO (vehicles with more than 15,000 miles) : 72 months/100,000 miles, 24 months/50,000 miles comprehensive after new-car warranty expires. Includes 6-year/unlimited-miles roadside assistance.

All: Complimentary SiriusXM radio 3-month subscription on vehicles with the required factory option specification.

Are You Changing Your Oil Too Often?

Buick

Original warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles (6 years/70,000 miles powertrain).

CPO warranty: Powertrain: 6-year/100,000-mile limited warranty from original in-service date. Bumper-to-bumper 12-month/12,000-mile limited warranty extension after new-car warranty expires. Two-year/24,000-mile scheduled maintenance plan, roadside assistance, 24/7 courtesy transportation and trial offers of OnStar and Sirius XM radio.

Cadillac

Original warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles (6 years/70,000 miles powertrain).

CPO warranty: 6-year/70,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty from original in-service date. Three months of OnStar and SiriusXM radio at no additional cost. Roadside assistance, courtesy transportation, zero deductible, fully transferable; available premium-care maintenance on 2011 or newer models.

Chevrolet

Original warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles (5 years/60,000 miles powertrain).

CPO warranty: Powertrain: 6-year/100,000-mile limited warranty from original in-service date. Bumper-to-bumper 12-month/12,000-mile limited warranty extension after new-car warranty expires. Two-year/24,000-mile scheduled maintenance plan, roadside assistance, 24/7 courtesy transportation and trial offers of OnStar and Sirius XM radio.

Chrysler

Original warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles (5 years/60,000 miles powertrain).

CPO warranty: Powertrain up to 7 years/100,000 miles, depending on model year, from original in-service date. Three-month/3,000-mile Maximum Care warranty from sale date. Upgraded warranty program available, including industry-exclusive lifetime warranty upgrade.

Dodge

Original warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles (5 years/60,000 miles powertrain).

CPO warranty: Powertrain up to 7 years/100,000 miles, depending on model year, from original in-service date. Three-month/3,000-mile Maximum Care warranty from sale date. Upgraded warranty program available, including industry-exclusive lifetime warranty upgrade.

Extra Credit: Consumer Guide Goes to Teen Defensive-Driving School

Fiat

Original warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles.

CPO warranty: Powertrain up to 7 years/100,000 miles, depending on model year, from original in-service date. Three-month/3,000-mile Maximum Care warranty from sale date. Upgraded warranty program available, including industry-exclusive lifetime warranty upgrade.

Ford

Original warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles (5 years/60,000 miles powertrain).

CPO warranty: Powertrain: 7-year/100,000-mile limited warranty from original in-service date. Twelve-month/12,000-mile comprehensive limited warranty from end of new-car warranty or CPO purchase date, whichever comes first. Seven-year/100,000-mile roadside assistance from original in-service date. Free Carfax vehicle history report and covered by Carfax Buyback Guarantee.

Note: Some Ford dealers sell CPO Mercury vehicles

GMC

Original warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles (5 years/60,000 miles powertrain).

CPO warranty: Powertrain: 6-year/100,000-mile limited warranty from original in-service date. Bumper-to-bumper 12-month/12,000-mile limited warranty extension after new-car warranty expires. Two-year/24,000-mile scheduled maintenance plan, roadside assistance, 24/7 courtesy transportation and trial offers of OnStar and Sirius XM radio.

Honda

Original warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles (5 years/60,000 miles powertrain).

CPO warranty: Twelve-month/12,000-mile limited warranty following expiration of new-car limited warranty. CPO powertrain warranty: limited warranty extends the coverage to 84 months/100,000 miles from original in-service date. Free three-month trial of SiriusXM radio.

Hyundai

Original warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles (10 years/100,000 miles powertrain).

CPO warranty: Remainder of 5-year/100,000-mile new-car limited warranty from original in-service date and zero miles. CPO powertrain warranty: 10 years/100,000 miles from original in-service date and zero miles. Ten-year/unlimited-miles roadside assistance, travel interruption and rental car reimbursement for covered repairs, free three-month trial of SiriusXM radio.

Infiniti

Original warranty: 4 years/60,000 miles (6 years/70,000 miles powertrain).

CPO warranty: Vehicles with less than 15,000 miles receive a 6-year/75,000-mile warranty from the vehicle’s in-service date. Vehicles with more than 15,000 miles that are less than 48 months from the original in-service date are covered by a 6-year/unlimited-mileage warranty from the original in-service date. Vehicles with more than 15,000 miles that are more than 48 months beyond their original in-service date receive a 2-year/unlimited-mileage warranty that begins from the CPO sale date.

Should I Buy an Extended Warranty?

Jaguar

Original warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles.

CPO warranty: Up to 7 years/100,000 miles from original in-service date. Up to 24 months/50,000 miles comprehensive after new-car warranty expires. 24-hour roadside assistance, trip interruption benefits, rental car reimbursement.

Jeep

Original warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles (5 years/60,000 miles powertrain).

CPO warranty: Powertrain up to 7 years/100,000 miles, depending on model year, from original in-service date. Three-month/3,000-mile Maximum Care warranty from sale date. Upgraded warranty program available, including industry-exclusive lifetime warranty upgrade.

Kia

Original warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles (10 years/100,000 miles powertrain).

CPO warranty: Powertrain: 10-year/100,000-mile limited warranty from original in-service date, plus 12-month/12,000-mile Platinum mechanical coverage from CPO date of sale. Factory 10-year/100,000-mile warranty is nontransferable. Roadside assistance, rental car allowance, travel breakdown coverage and 24/7 call center for customer assistance.

Land Rover

Original warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles.

CPO warranty: Up to 7 years/100,000 miles from original in-service date. Up to 24 months/50,000 miles limited warranty after new-car warranty expires. 24-hour roadside assistance, trip interruption benefits, rental car reimbursement.

Lexus

Original warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles (6 years/70,000 miles powertrain).

CPO warranty: Unlimited-mileage vehicle warranty up to 6 years. 24-hour roadside assistance, trip interruption coverage, loaner vehicle, factory-recommended maintenance for two years or 20,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Lincoln

Original warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles (6 years/70,000 miles powertrain).

CPO warranty: 6-year/100,000-mile comprehensive limited warranty from original in-service date. Optional extended 7 years/75,000 miles or 9 years/125,000 miles available. Complimentary roadside assistance 24 hours a day/7 days a week, rental car expense reimbursement, and destination expense assistance. Free Carfax vehicle history report and covered by Carfax Buyback Guarantee.

Maserati

Original warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles.

CPO warranty: 24-month/50,000-mile comprehensive Named Exclusion coverage after new-car 48-month/50,000-mile warranty expires for a total of up to 6-year/100,000-mile coverage. Roadside assistance.

Mazda

Original warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles (5 years/60,000 miles powertrain).

CPO warranty: Powertrain: 7-year/100,000-mile limited warranty from original in-service date. 12-month/12,000-mile additional limited warranty that begins at the end of the new-car factory warranty or on CPO purchase date. 24-hour roadside assistance for the duration of the warranty. Three-year Buyback Protection offer with Autocheck.

Mercedes-Benz

Original warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles.

CPO warranty: Remainder of new-car limited warranty, plus CPO limited warranty with no mileage maximum until 5 years from original in-service date. 12-month or 24-month extended limited warranty available also with no mileage maximum. 24-hour roadside assistance. Three-month trial of Mercedes-Benz mbrace connected car services. Three-month of trial of SiriusXM radio.

Mini

Original warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles. CPO warranty: Mini CPO 575: 12 months/25,000 miles comprehensive after new-car warranty expires. Mini CPO: 24 months/50,000 miles comprehensive after new-car warranty expires. Mini CPO 575: 5-year/unlimited-miles roadside assistance. Mini CPO: 6-year/unlimited-miles roadside assistance.

Mitsubishi: Original warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles (10 years/100,000 miles powertrain – except Raider). CPO warranty: Powertrain: 10 years/100,000 miles from original in-service date.

Nissan

Original warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles.

CPO warranty: Powertrain: 7 years/100,000 miles from original in-service date. Roadside assistance: 7 years/100,000 miles from original in-service date. Three-year Carfax Buyback Guarantee and free three-month trial of SiriusXM radio. Optional Security + Plus Extended Protection Plan, available for 7 years/100,000 miles or 8 years/120,000 miles.

Car-Guy Gift Guide

Porsche

Original warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles.

CPO warranty: Up to 6 years/100,000 miles from original in-service date if the vehicle is still under the new-car limited warranty. Porsche Approved Certified Pre-owned Limited Warranty Coverage is 2 years/100,000 miles from expiration of the new-vehicle limited warranty. For vehicles no longer under the new-car limited warranty at the time of delivery, coverage extends 2 years/50,000 miles from the mileage at used retail delivery.

Ram

Original warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles (5 years/60,000 miles powertrain).

CPO warranty: Powertrain up to 7 years/100,000 miles, depending on model year, from original in-service date. Three month/3,000-mile Maximum Care warranty from sale date. Upgraded warranty program available, including industry-exclusive lifetime warranty upgrade.

Rolls-Royce

Original warranty: 48 months/unlimited mileage.

CPO warranty: 1- or 2-year warranties available. Complimentary standard servicing using genuine Rolls-Royce parts. 24-hour roadside assistance and all the benefits of a new-car warranty, including maintenance. Warranty can be extended beyond original manufacturer warranty.

Smart

Original warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles.

CPO warranty: Remainder of new-car limited warranty, plus 1-year/100,000-mile or 2-year/100,000-mile CPO warranty, depending on model year. 24-hour roadside assistance covered for the life of Smart CPO limited warranty.

Subaru

Original warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles (5 years/60,000 miles powertrain).

CPO warranty: Powertrain: 7 years/100,000 miles from original in-service date. Roadside assistance. Three-month free trial of SiriusXM radio. No charge Starlink subscription with properly equipped vehicles. $500 Owner Loyalty Coupon (see dealer for details).

Toyota

Original warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles (5 years/60,000 miles powertrain).

CPO warranty: Powertrain: 84 months/100,000 miles from original in-service date. Twelve-month/12,000-mile comprehensive warranty coverage. One-year roadside assistance with unlimited miles.

Volkswagen

Original warranty (pre-2018 models): 3 years/36,000 miles (5 years/60,000 miles powertrain). For 2018, Volkswagen implemented a 6-year/72,000-mile transferable limited warranty.

CPO warranty: 24 months/24,000 miles comprehensive added to the remaining factory warranty or from date of CPO sale if no warranty remains. Three-month free trial of SiriusXM radio on all factory-equipped CPO units. Two-year roadside assistance.

Volvo

Original warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles.

CPO warranty: 7 years/100,000 miles from original in-service date. Three years/50,000 miles comprehensive after new-car warranty expires. Three-month free trial of SiriusXM radio. Volvo OnCall roadside assistance.

Power to the People: Volkswagen Boosts Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty to 6 Years/72,000 Miles

 

Vehicle Makes

Classic Cars

Collectible Automobile Magazine

Popular Posts & Pages

Recent Posts

Shopping for a new or used car or truck?

Check out all of our reviews here.