Consumer Reports Reveals the Truth About Certified Pre-Owned Cars

Certified Preowned Car Shopping

Buying any used car on a used car lot or in someone’s driveway is fraught with numerous possibilities that something might be wrong with the car that is hidden from you. To allay these fears, dealerships selling used cars offer a “certified pre-owned” (CPO) designation as a form of protection for the car shopper that offers not only some assurance, but also some of the benefits of both new and used cars.

According to a recent Consumer Reports newsletter:

CPO vehicles are often cherry-picked, have lower miles, and are cleaner vehicles with a clean history,” says Alex Yurchenko, senior vice president for Black Book, an automotive data and analytics company. “They’re also protected against defects and expensive repairs by an extended manufacturer’s warranty.”

The foundation of these assurances is the promise by the dealership that a CPO vehicle on their lot has passed a multipoint inspection to check for systems or components that may need repair—a claim that the vehicle has been vetted and deemed to be in better operating condition than its peers.

Related article: Toyota Dealership Shows What Really Happens When Previously Owned Cars Are Inspected and Certified

The Pluses of Buying a CPO Vehicle

Perks of buying a CPO vehicle from some dealerships include:

• Free loaner cars

• Free roadside assistance

• Free (but limited) satellite radio

• Discounted finance rates on loans.

• Extended warranty

• Near-mint condition

• Savings over buying new.

• “CPO cars have just 11 percent more problems during members’ ownership than cars bought new, compared with traditional used cars having 31 percent more problems than those bought new over a comparable time period,” states CR analysts.

• Consumer Reports’ survey data of CPO owners who paid the premium for a certified pre-owned car (cars from model years 2000-2021) indicates this overall could be a wise choice for used car shopping.

The Caveats of Buying a CPO Vehicle

However, there are caveats to buying a CPO Vehicle.

“…not all certified pre-owned programs are the same. A used car may be advertised as certified, but it might not have the backing of an automaker’s official certification program. Some dealers “certify” cars themselves or sell third-party certifications. These types of certified pre-owned programs bring risks,” warns Consumer Reports.

For example:

• A garage might not honor the CPO warranty.

• Not all certifications may be transferable from one owner to the next.

• Differences in warranty programs might not cover a CPO vehicle—especially when buying a used car from a private individual.

Protect Yourself

CR analysts offer the following tips you should use to protect yourself whenever buying a CPO vehicle:

• Set aside money in an emergency fund to address any potential repairs and problems that might occur.

• Choose a vehicle that compares well with other brands regarding maintenance and repair costs.

Related article: Used Luxury Cars That Are the Worst in Repair Costs and Reliability

Related article: Car Brands and Models That Can Save You Money and Cost the Least to Maintain

• Do an internet search of the vehicle identification number to check its ownership and repair and accident history.

• “If you do choose to buy a certified pre-owned warranty, remember that the price is usually negotiable,” advises CR analysts.

And finally…

For additional articles related to buying a used car, here are a few for your consideration:

Consumer Reports Warns Used Car Buyers About Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Car Scams

Red Flag Used Car Dealers Do Not Want Buyers to Know About: “Program Cars”

Know This About Bank Repossessed Vehicles Before Buying One

Timothy Boyer is Torque News automotive reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites for daily new and used vehicle news.

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