Buying a used car has always been an uncertain experience for car shoppers: you are essentially purchasing a vehicle with no known service or performance background, with no assurances that the car has been properly maintained, no knowledge of how the owner treated it, and no recourse if the car turns out to be a lemon.
The Joys of Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles
Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) vehicles are usually leased cars that have been bought by the dealership at the end of the contract and typically have very low mileage (because most leases are limited to about 10,000 miles per year of the contract). Also, the previous owner most likely performed all the necessary maintenance (because it's usually a requirement of the lease terms and is frequently covered by the dealership for the first couple of years on many new cars sold these days), and probably took good care of it (because turning in an abused vehicle can be very expensive at the end of the lease term).
Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles Are Better Than Used!
The popularity of manufacturer Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) cars is booming because you get many new-car benefits without the new-car price. Once only a sales tactic created by luxury car dealers to help move used cars off their lots, pretty much every manufacturer now has a CPO program; in fact, sales of certified pre-owned vehicles hit a record 2.55 million in 2016, according to research firm Autodata. And because off-lease cars are abundant, this is a good way to resell these vehicles with perceived extra value over the typical used car. Because they are now available across most manufacturers, the programs have been fairly standardized, so that CPO shoppers have an understanding of what that label means when they see it applied to a used car and it takes away some of the uncertainty that comes with buying a used car.
Most CPO vehicles sold by a dealership have been inspected and repaired according to very stringent protocol determined by the manufacturer, and are often sold with a warranty assuring the buyer that they have recourse if something goes wrong after purchase. Wear items like brake pads and windshield wipers have often been replaced, and their exteriors and interiors are in excellent condition.
Certified Pre-Owned is a Great Way to Save Money Over a New Car!
First: Buying a CPO vehicle eliminates much of the price depreciation that occurs within the first one to three years of ownership. Also, the advantage for both new- and used-car shoppers is that they can save money over buying new and still feel safe that the vehicle they purchase is nearly as good as new and protected by a warranty. Yes, used-car warranties are good: Buying a used-car with a warranty gives the new owner some peace of mind -- which is why big-lot used car dealerships like Car-Max offer them as well; again, because it takes away some of the uncertainty that comes along with a used car.
What are the Disadvantages of Buying Certified Pre-Owned?
The disadvantage of shopping CPO is that they are usually slightly more expensive than the typical used car. Even though CPO offers are abundant, the selection is limited; unlike buying new -- where if the exact car you want is not on the dealer's lot, they can often find it at another dealership -- your shopping selections are limited to what that dealership has in their inventory on that day, and there's no guarantee that you'll find a better/similar vehicle elsewhere.
How can you avoid a bad CPO purchase? Shopping CPO is the same as any other car purchase: do your homework so you have an understanding of the vehicle's features and value for its price, as well as understanding what you want on the car and are willing to pay for, and what you do not want on the car and are not willing to pay for. An educated shopper -- regardless of whether they are buying new, CPO, or used -- should know these things about any car they are considering. Make sure you take a thorough test drive, just as you would with any other new or used car. And if you do somehow wind up with a lemon, the terms of the warranty sold with the vehicle will offer you some recourse with the dealership from which you purchased the car.
Are You Shopping for New, Certified Pre-Owned, or Used Car?
Find your next new or used car at the AskPatty Auto Buying Service, where you can research new and used cars and get negotiation-free Guaranteed Savings (available in most states) to save yourself both time and money. The AskPatty Auto Buying Service can also connect you with a nationwide network of trusted dealers who offer a fast and hassle-free car buying experience.
In her role as contributor to the AskPatty.com Automotive Advice for Women website and blog, Brandy Schaffels creates a variety of informational woman-focused content on all subjects from car care and maintenance, to lifestyle-related features, vehicle reviews, and news.
Prior to joining the AskPatty team, she was Senior Editor and Content Manager of TrueCar.com where she created consumer friendly content in a variety of subjects covering safety, technology, and alternate powertrain vehicles, as well as educational car shopping, leasing and buying features.