CPO stands for “certified pre-owned," a phrase that’s generally used to classify used cars that have passed a thorough an inspection prior to being listed for sale. Manufacturer CPO programs are the most common and dependable, though some dealerships employ a certification process separate from the automaker-sanctioned type.
What’s Included in a CPO Inspection?
Manufacturer CPO inspections vary by brand, but they usually include more than 100 checkpoints that pertain to the vehicle’s parts, functionality, appearance and quality. If any problems are identified throughout the process, they must be fixed for the vehicle to gain CPO status.
Additionally, some manufacturers also set requirements for nonmaterial qualities, such as mileage, age and history, to maximize the reliability of their CPO inventory.
What Perks Come With a CPO Car?
Manufacturer CPO cars are equipped with a factory extended warranty that can include both bumper-to-bumper and powertrain coverages. The specific year and mileage warranty terms vary by manufacturer, so be sure to research details about individual CPO programs.
CPO vehicles also come with added benefits, such as scheduled maintenance, roadside assistance and a loaner vehicle during repairs. Some may also come with reduced-rate financing or buyback protections if the buyer discovers the vehicle was previously in an accident, had an inaccurate odometer or suffered flood, fire or hail damage. Find out the exact add-ons the manufacturer and dealer are offering for any option you consider.
What Are the Drawbacks of CPO Cars?
As you might imagine, CPO cars typically come with an added cost compared with non-CPO counterparts of the same year, make and model. This price differential can range from a few hundred dollars to more than $1,000, depending on the vehicle.
CPO cars also don’t come with any guarantees that the steps taken will result in a reliable vehicle, and some independent dealers might be liberal in what they classify as CPO. Therefore, it’s important to get a firsthand look of the CPO inspection points and any past problems that have since been repaired. As always, it’s also a good idea to have an independent mechanic perform an inspection after you’ve evaluated the vehicle yourself.
Should I Buy a CPO or Non-CPO Used Car?
If you’re willing to pay more for the peace of mind that comes from a lengthy inspection, a warranty and some added benefits, then a CPO car may be right for you. Keep in mind, however, that you don’t need to choose a CPO model in order to get a quality used car. And, some late-model, non-CPO used cars still have years and mileage left on their original bumper-to-bumper and powertrain warranties, which can be transferrable to a new owner.
So, the answer to this question depends on what you’re looking for as a buyer. In any case, conducting careful research throughout the car-buying process and choosing a model with favorable reliability ratings will go a long way in helping you arrive at a decision.