For my money, I recommend you buy a used car that is a "certified pre-owned vehicle." It's the best deal in the used car and truck market. If I didn't think so, then I wouldn't encourage anybody who asks, including my own friends and relatives, to seek out a CPO over an ordinary used car or truck.
Yes, CPO vehicles cost more than other used cars, since you are paying for the security of knowing your purchase has been properly maintained, and more. CPO vehicles undergo as many as 100 manufacturer-mandated checks, from the performance of the transmission to the condition of the upholstery, and usually come with a new-vehicle warranty, and sometimes even roadside assistance.
As we all know, most vehicles, especially luxury cars and SUVs, depreciate more in the first two years than in later years. So CPO lets you trade-up to a late-model vroomer for about the same price as a factory-new budget model, but without the same comfort, appearance, reliability, or power -- or such safety and technical must-haves as lane departure and blind spot monitoring and 360-degree cameras.
Because they are certified, the higher purchase price is often offset by lower financing costs closer to financing a new car purchase or lease. Simply, CPO is a good deal for a second family car and for new drivers in the family, especially one heading off to college in the fall.
Shop for a certified pre-owned car or truck as carefully as you do for any vehicle, since CPO programs differ by brand. Here are some of the best by brand (in alphabetical order).
ACURA: Like many CPO programs, Acura Certified includes two warranties. The powertrain warranty covers vehicles up to 7 years or 100,000 miles from the original sale date, an extension of the original of 6 years/70,000 miles. The non-powertrain warranty covers most other mechanical and electrical components, extending the original factory 4-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty by one year or 12,000 miles. If you purchase your CPO vehicle after the factory warranty has expired, CPO provides one year or 12,000 miles of coverage from your purchase date.
strong>CHEVROLET AND GMC: One year or 12,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper protection starts at the completion of the 3-year/36,000-mile factory warranty, or from your purchase date if the factory warranty is already expired when you buy your CPO vehicle. This includes 6 years/100,000 miles of powertrain coverage from the original sale date. Plus, the CPO warranty is fully transferable to subsequent owners, with no deductible. CPO also includes two free maintenance visits in the first two years or 24,000 miles -- a small perk, but worth noting.
FORD: One year or 12,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage from the end of the factory warranty, or, if the warranty is already expired when you buy your CPO, from your purchase date.
Ford's CPO program also includes 7 years/100,000 miles powertrain coverage from the original sale date, beating out rival Chevrolet by one year. Plus, your CPO warranty is fully transferable to subsequent owners, adding value to your vehicle if you decide to sell it. The only drawback is Ford's steep $100 deductible, among the highest of any CPO warranty.
HONDA: Powertrain coverage for up to 7 years/100,000 miles from the original sale date, which roughly mirrors coverage from Ford, Mazda, and Toyota. Also similar is Honda's bumper-to-bumper coverage of 1 year/12,000 miles from the end of the factory or, if that warranty is already expired when you buy your CPO Honda, from your purchase date. Honda's CPO program also offers full transferability to future owners and no deductible, two excellent perks.
LEXUS: The L/Certified program is the best in the industry among luxury-brand CPO programs, according to Auto Trader, because the warranty offers unrivaled coverage of 6 years of bumper-to-bumper coverage from the original sale date with no mileage limit. Unlimited-mileage warranties are rare in the car industry, and shows Lexus stands firmly behind its vehicles, given that some drivers cover serious mileage. Additionally, there's free maintenance for four services (within 2 years or 20,000 miles) and a loaner car program. The downside is that this CPO warranty is not transferable; something to consider in case you might want to sell.
NISSAN: Seven years/100,000 miles of powertrain warranty coverage from the original sale date is among the best offered by CPO programs. Unfortunately, like Subaru, Nissan doesn't add additional bumper-to-bumper coverage beyond the original 3 years/36,000 miles of new-car coverage. Still, the relatively low deductible of $50 per visit, and the fact that the warranty is fully transferable to a subsequent owner, add value to your Nissan if you want to sell it while it's still covered by the CPO warranty.
TOYOTA: Similar to CPO programs offered by Ford, Honda, and Mazda, the powertrain warranty covers up to 7 years/100,000 miles from the original sale date. Toyota's CPO program also offers 1 year/12,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage that starts at the end of the original factory warranty, or from the day you buy the car, if the factory warranty has already expired by then. Toyota's CPO warranty is fully transferable at no charge, and the deductible is a relatively low $50 per visit.
VOLVO: An excellent 7 years of bumper-to-bumper warranty that's equaled in length only by the CPO programs by Jaguar and Land Rover. Also, Volvo's CPO offers 100,000 miles of coverage, almost equal to the unlimited-mileage warranties offered by Porsche and Lexus. Plus, there's no deductible and full transferability to future owners, should you decide to sell your Volvo CPO while it's still covered under warranty.
That's why CPO vehicles cost more.
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