If you’re shopping for a used car, you are bound to come across a car marked “certified pre-owned” and a salesperson that touts the benefits of buying a car with that designation. A longer warranty, a “better” car, and perhaps a life free from all of the problems that can come along with buying a used car? Sounds good, right? But what does certified pre-owned (CPO) actually mean, and is it worth the additional expense?
What is certified pre-owned?
A certified pre-owned vehicle should be the newest, best maintained, lowest mileage used vehicle available at your local dealership. “CPO cars tend to be off-lease models that are 3 to 5 years old,” says Jeff Bartlett, managing cars editor at Consumer Reports. These cars should be heavily inspected and come with a warranty above and beyond the warranty that would typically transfer to a second or third owner of a used car.
Which vehicles are eligible to be certified varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Chevrolet, for example, allows certification for used cars that are less than six years old and have fewer than 75,000 miles. Honda has three levels of certification: HondaTrue Certified+, which is for used cars that are less than one-year-old with 12,000 miles or less; HondaTrue Certified eligible cars must be less than six years old and under 80,000 miles; and HondaTrue Used, which are less than 10 years old.
Warranties vary as well. Kia, for example, provides comprehensive coverage (bumper to bumper) for the first year, or up to 12,000 miles, and 10 years or 100,000 miles of powertrain warranty. But that powertrain warranty doesn’t start with the date you buy the car, but rather from the “in-service date,” the date that the vehicle was bought new. Mazda has a similar certified pre-owned warranty, but covers seven years or 100,000 miles from the in-service date.
Along with the check-ups prior to purchase and the additional warranty, certified used cars may come with roadside assistance, satellite radio subscriptions (or trials), rental car usage, transferable warranties, and/or maintenance services.