Buying used can help you really keep the costs down on a vehicle. However, how can you be certain that the vehicle you’re purchasing isn’t a lemon? How can you know what the vehicle has been through? Certified pre-owned vehicles are often considered the safer pick when it comes to buying used, as they typically pass inspections and history checks by the auto dealership.
That said, you can never be one-hundred percent certain when it comes to used cars. While CPO cars tend to be a safer pick than straight-up used car from someone you don’t know, they’re not going to be as safe as a brand-new car. If you really want to spend more and get a car that will last longer, a brand-new one is the one you want.
However, if you want to be safer than a straight-up used car but save money compared to a new car, CPO cars are the happy middle ground. But does that mean certified pre-owned means you get a better car than buying used?
How Cars Get Certified
Auto dealers differ from place to place but, generally speaking, CPO cars have to pass a number of inspections. Depending on the dealer these could be more or less strict, but they typically involve checking a number of systems. Brakes, steering, belts and the like are all usually checked out and certified.
Another aspect of CPOs that can make them a safer pick than regular used cars is that they have a clear history and background. Maintenance records, accident reports and the like help to paint a picture of what, exactly, has happened to the vehicle in the past. That way you can rest assured knowing exactly what issues the car has had in the past.
Generally speaking, CPOs are going to be cleaner vehicles that were well taken-care of and have few, if any, issues. Dealers normally only take in rather new vehicles with very low miles as certified pre-owned. That means that, essentially, CPO cars are marketed as “good as new.”
Dealers tend to offer a number of benefits to those who buy CPO vehicles, too. If you need repairs on the vehicle or something goes wrong with it, it’s usually covered by an extended warranty from the dealership. The warranty alone can often be well-worth the extra money you spend on CPO, depending on the vehicle and what you’re looking for.
The other upside to CPOs is that dealers often offer things like rental cars in the event the vehicle is in the shop, free satellite radio, and even reduced lease rates. Generally, these upsides are all there to keep the CPO deal an attractive option for dealers.
CPO vehicles aren’t without their downsides. For one, any used vehicle runs the risk of having some unforeseen issues. Most notably, though, CPO vehicles tend to be rather expensive. While not as pricey as brand-new vehicles, they tend to be markedly more expensive than regular used cars.
Generally speaking, many car experts find that CPO vehicles are often a bad value compared to buying regular used cars. If you know what you’re looking for in a used car and know what warning signs to look for, regular used can be a better value than CPOs. This can vary based on the dealership and where you’re buying the used vehicle, but it generally bears out to be true.
If you save up a bit of money and set it aside to cover repairs then you can use that to cover the things the extended warranty that a CPO would normally cover. That way you not only save money by not buying the expensive extended warranty, you can use the money you save to put towards any repairs that might come up. If no repairs need to be done, you simply pocket the savings!
So, do you get a better car when you buy certified pre-owned? Yes and no. You’re likely going to get a car with less miles, a clearer history and an extended warranty. While these are all great upsides, they’re also things you spend a pretty penny for. As such, while the CPO vehicle is likely a great car, it’s probably a bad value.
If you want to save money and buy a used vehicle, consider a getting a regular used vehicle. If you get it inspected by a mechanic you trust and set aside money to cover repairs you’ll likely get more value for your money.