How to Buy a Certified Pre-Owned Car

Many think there are only two options when buying a car – new or used. Thankfully, there is a third option – a certified pre-owned (CPO) car. Whereas buying new or used cars have drawbacks, buying a CPO car delivers the feeling of a new car at a lower price. As you know if you've been out browsing the car lots, a new car can be prohibitively expensive, and you lose value once you drive it off the lot. A used car, on the other hand, is cheaper but may have mechanical issues. Certified pre-owned strikes a balance between the two, making it a good choice for some car buyers.

If the CPO option sounds appealing and you'd like to know how to buy a certified pre-owned car, keep some of the following in mind to save money on your next car purchase.

What Qualifies as a Certified Pre-Owned Car?

There is a lot of confusion as to what qualifies as a CPO car. In many cases, someone might hear the term "certified" and think the car is a CPO car. Unfortunately, that's not always a case. So then, what exactly is a certified pre-owned car? "To be a CPO car, a vehicle needs to meet specific age and mileage requirements. It then must go through a thorough inspection at the dealership," says In short, a CPO car is a car that meets certain requirements set by the respective maker. The result is a car that demands a higher value than a typical used car thanks to the battery of tests it has gone through.

It is important to keep in mind that what qualifies as CPO varies from one auto manufacturer to another. One may require the car to have less than 50,000 miles and a certain age, for example, to even be considered. Another manufacturer may have completely different requirements. Knowing that, it's important to understand what qualifies the makes and models that you are interested in as certified pre-owned.

Many car makers will list on their website what qualifications a car must meet to be considered part of their CPO programs. This is important as you want to make sure it's the manufacturer that determines it's a CPO car as that'll impact the warranty you receive, not to mention being able to have it serviced at any certified location, regardless of where it is.

What a CPO Car Isn't

It's easy to think a CPO car is perfect and that it has no issues. That is not the case. While it may be certified and gone through extensive testing, it's still a used car. The car still has wear and tear from miles driven on it. The car has had dozens, if not hundreds, of parts checked, though that does not mean they have been replaced.

It's important to remember that it's not possible to buy a CPO car from a different maker. For example, if you want to buy a Ford CPO car from a Honda dealer, it's not a Ford CPO car. The Honda dealership may say that it's "certified," but that does not mean Ford considers the vehicle a qualified CPO car. In that case, you may not even want to consider purchasing the car.

Do Your Homework

As with any car purchase, buying a certified pre-owned car requires due diligence to find the best car for your needs. You still want to do some of the following, according to

  • Take the car for a test drive
  • Ask to see the inspection report and review it to make sure everything has indeed been checked
  • Get a vehicle history report
  • Take it to a dependable mechanic for an independent evaluation
  • Fully understand the warranty. Warranties for CPO cars vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. You want to know how the warranty works

Again, it's important to check all of the above against what the manufacturer requires. If the vehicle you're considering doesn't meet the manufacturer's CPO qualifications, look for a different car.

Buy Your Car

At the end of the day, buying a certified pre-owned car is like buying any other car. Once you've found the right CPO car for you, you'll move on to the car loan phase – assuming you are getting one. Remember that a CPO car will demand a higher price than a standard used car, so keep that in mind when getting your loan.

Just as you did homework before finding your CPO car, you will want to do the same in purchasing the car. Compare financing options between online banks and local financial institutions to secure the best rate possible. If you can do that before walking into the financing department, you put yourself in the best position possible to haggle for a lower rate, which will result in lower payments.

Bottom Line

Buying a certified pre-owned car is a great way to get a near new car, and the associated peace of mind, without the price tag of a new car. Do your due diligence to find a car that truly qualifies as a CPO and meets your needs.

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