By Ali Koomen, who spent over a dozen years in the car dealership busines, provides her expert insights

A CPO vehicle is not brand new, but it is in such immaculate condition that it is really a misnomer to call it used. While there are many different guidelines as to what qualifications a used vehicle needs in order to be considered as a CPO, the three main characteristics are that the vehicle must be in great condition with low mileage and have original factory warranty remaining.

A ‘dealership certified’ pre-owned vehicle simply means that the place selling the car has checked it out and says it is a good car. A ‘manufacturer certified’ vehicle has gone through a vigorous check-up set by the manufacturer and covers everything from tires to interior to the mechanical components, brakes and more.

“Certified” has a completely different meaning from “guaranteed” but there is a common misconception that a certified car carries a guarantee. However, this is often not the case. Most CPO’s will offer the balance of the new vehicle warranty, which is nothing spectacular as most vehicles with remaining factory warranty transfers those rights to the new owner. Some CPO cars come with a limited satisfaction warranty, above and beyond the standard manufacturer’s warranty. Some may offer free loaners or rental reimbursement on repairs that take longer than one business day. Some CPO’s come with a roadside assistance program, and some dealerships offer special financing on certified vehicles.

So is a certified vehicle that much better than one that is not? That depends. First of all, the price on a CPO will range $500 to a couple thousand (depending on the vehicle) more than an identical vehicle that is not certified. For that, you’ll get peace of mind that comes in knowing the car has been thoroughly checked out, and there may be other perks as mentioned above.

Do keep in mind that it is possible to buy a non-certified used vehicle and have it turn out to be a wonderful car. Sometimes the mileage is just a little too high to qualify. Some vehicles may have too many minor things wrong to make certification. Occasionally the vehicle deserves certification but needs repairs that the dealership cannot afford. If a dealer paid too much on a trade-in or auction unit, there’s less wiggle room on the possible pricing when it comes to reselling the unit. In other words, if a vehicle up for certification was found to need a major brake overhaul that would cost the dealer $500, but it had only allowed a $200 get-ready allowance, the extra $300 would come from the profits made when the unit is sold. At this point it is a judgment call from the dealer whether the work should be done so that the vehicle can get certified and be worth an extra $500 or so, or if the vehicle should be left as is so the dealer doesn’t have to come any more money out of pocket.

Since all manufacturers and dealers have different guidelines for certification, be sure to research CPO vehicles just as carefully as you would a brand new vehicle.

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