have you heard of the term cpo and wonder what it is? Or are you already convinced it’s right for you and thinking about buying a Certified Pre-Owned car? either way, you’ve come to the right place. In this extensive article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about a CPO. We’ll give you an introduction to the topic, cover the many benefits and drawbacks of this option, and tell you about the alternatives.
one thing is for sure, cpos are fast becoming one of the most popular purchase options. sandwiched between new and used cars, they seem to offer the best of both worlds. some have even referred to being in the ‘goldilocks zone’. and its popularity continues to grow, especially among a younger generation of drivers.
As reported by leading car site jalopnik, new millennium car buyers are willing to pay almost $4,000 (approximately £3,000) on top of the normal pre-owned price for a certified pre-owned vehicle. And while older buyers aren’t as impressed with the benefits, they too would pay an extra $2,700.
so what is it about cpos that makes them so attractive?
To understand what all the craziness is about, let’s first explain what the term cpo really means. Simply put, a certified used car is a second-hand vehicle that has passed a standardized and exhaustive quality check. If the car does not meet any of the criteria on the list, it is reconditioned and repaired, until it meets all standards. this test is usually performed directly by the manufacturer. At a minimum, it is carried out by a certified distributor with the criteria of the brand.
compared to a used model, a certified used car has been equipped exclusively with original parts. A cpo car usually comes with a better warranty than a used car, although the exact details may differ.
In essence, you’re buying a used vehicle that feels like new and offers more safety. It’s no wonder, then, that so many UK buyers are excited about the prospect.
where do all cpo cars come from?
Of course, you may be wondering how dealers can keep up with the demand for all these Certified Pre-Owned vehicles. the solution is quite simple: on the one hand, certified used vehicles are ‘recruited’ from the ranks of leasing vehicles. Since leasing remains extremely popular, especially for commercial cars, there are usually many models to choose from.
and then there are all the cars sold through pcp deals. As part of these contracts, you agree to either buy the car at the end of the lease term, usually three years, or return it for a new model. Due to its low deposit and attractive terms, PCPS has quickly become Britain’s most popular car finance option. And since most customers would rather get a new car after three years than keep their old one, these vehicles can be sold later as CPOS.
but what about dealer certification?
a cpo sounds great, as mentioned. but the general idea is not exactly new. dealers have been certifying cars for many years and still do. So why should you opt for a certified pre-owned model, which will typically be more expensive than a dealer-certified competitor?
Dealer certifications don’t have to be a bad proposition. in fact, many of them are quite decent and offer good value for money. the problem is that the process is extremely opaque and you will have to do a lot of research to find out exactly what kind of services have been performed.
as we will see, cpos are also not as easy to understand as some think. but they offer a certain minimum standard of quality, which can be reassuring.
The vehicle inspection checklist, for example, often closely resembles those used by the AA or the RAC. this means that they are as thorough as an inspection by an independent expert. And as we mentioned, only original parts are used in the certification process, which offers additional peace of mind.
Regardless of what you decide, it’s generally a good idea to stay away from dealers that offer their own certification and perform cpo procedures. after all, this can create conflicts of interest that can be detrimental to your future car.
so what do inspectors look for when certifying a car?
This is perhaps the most important question of all when it come to CPOs. And yet, very few buyers could tell you the answer. Which may be surprising at first. After all, most manufacturers offer their checklists for free download online. And yet, it is easy to see why so many people ignore them. For one, vehicle checklists are long. And secondly, they’re tedious.
going through the 150 points of a typical list can be a smart thing to do. But very few people can muster the patience to read a document that makes many legal documents sound as exciting as Harry Potter.
In our big special on the best vehicle inspection checklists, we provide an overview of what the different checklists include.
Typically, however, topics covered include:
- a test drive. the mechanic will take the car for a spin to see if the engines rev and cruise properly and shift well. she will test the brakes and check for abnormal wind noises.
- exterior of the vehicle. Every part of the car’s exterior is tested for signs of damage, from minor flaws like a malfunctioning wiper blade, to deeper problems like major paint jobs.
- interior of the vehicle. obviously, the interior of the car must also be perfect. inspectors will check not only that the airbags and seat belts are in order, but also test the stereo and put on music. the interior is usually the largest section of the inspection.
- Under the hood and underbody: These are the most technical parts of the inspection. they need to be done with particular precision to make sure the car is safe to drive and doesn’t cause costly repairs soon after you’ve bought it.
- compared to a non-certified used car, a cpo tends to feel a bit fresher. it has been revised, repaired and renewed. in many cases, it will feel almost like new.
- Compared to a new car, you can choose from a wider range of generations. this can be a real benefit. with some models, older generations may be better than newer versions. so it’s great to have an option.
- depreciation is taken into account in the price. As you probably know, cars lose most of their value during the first three years of ownership. With a CPO car, these costs have already been deducted from the original price. (This is also why buying a car after three years is usually a smart choice for a used car.)
- incentives and services: one of the best parts of a cpo program is that it can include benefits like roadside assistance. these will rarely be essential. but they can be extremely useful nonetheless. Since the manufacturer offers CPOS, you may qualify for attractive financing packages.
- A certified used car can offer higher quality than a used one. but it is certainly not new. not only will you never have the total peace of mind that comes with a new model. it also means you won’t be able to customize the car to your specific wants and needs.
- a cpo can be cheaper than a new car, but it can be considerably more expensive than a used one. while some of the benefits may justify the difference, some cpo models are decidedly overpriced.
- The warranty that comes with a cpo is rarely as good as the manufacturers make it out to be.
- Although some cpo cars are fantastic, they certainly aren’t all perfect. despite the checklist, there are still big differences. some models may be many years old, while others are almost new. The CPO label can help raise the average standard of a used car. but it is not a guarantee of satisfaction.
- read the exact specifications of the cpo contract. What kind of checks are carried out on the car, what does the warranty include?
- Be as selective and critical with a cpo car as with a normal used one.
- feel free to haggle and request an independent inspection. in fact, many experts consider this vital, if only to make sure the mechanic doesn’t miss any important points.
- Insist on a test drive as you would a new or used car.
- sets a limit on how much more a certified pre-owned model can cost than a regular used alternative.
- make sure you also receive a report of the vehicle’s repair and maintenance history.
not all cpos are the same
That said, not all cpo inspection lists are identical. to put it bluntly, they are all slightly different. And to make matters worse, the differences don’t end there. Essentially, each car brand has its own CPO conditions. so if there is something that can drive customers crazy when it comes to the certification system, it is that there is still no single standard to compare the offer of different manufacturers. and there isn’t likely to be one, soon.
The result is that some certified used cars are decidedly better than others. Porsche is often praised for offering possibly the best CPO program on the market. their warranty is extensive, the cars are held to the best possible standards, and the service is excellent. However, in the unlikely event that you are seriously considering purchasing one of their CPO cars, you should know that the program may include cars that are up to eight years old. that’s about twice the age most other manufacturers would allow.
In general, though, warranty is the biggest point of contention. with some brands, it will be expansive and cover it up in many cases. with others, only a few pieces are included. As you can see, the benefits of a CPO car will vary considerably from case to case.
the advantages: are certified used cars perfect?
That being said, certified pre-owned vehicles can be quite good. so let’s take a look at the many advantages that cpos offer:
cpos are not perfect. A certified pre-owned may offer more peace of mind, but it also has some drawbacks of its own:
However, if you pay attention to a few basic guidelines when shopping for a suitable used car, you may be able to get a deal just as good or even better than going for a Certified Pre-Owned version.
what to consider
If you are still convinced that CPO is the way to go, here are a few recommendations to get the most out of it:
You decide if a certified used car is worth its price or not. but there is one last thing you should know:
a great car doesn’t need a certificate
Manufacturers won’t tell you this, but the average used car is in pretty good shape. Although dealers don’t always test them extremely extensively, they do refurbish them and try to make them look as good as possible. Since modern vehicles are built to last, a three- or four-year-old car will still feel almost as good as new, even though it may no longer have that new-from-the-factory smell.
In addition, most drivers use their cars with consideration and care. The problem, ironically, is not the average family car driver, who primarily uses the car to take their children to school and go shopping. the real problem is business managers who rack up big miles and drive at incredible speeds on the highway or around town.
If you want to see just how good a regular used car can be, take a look at our digital showroom. all of these cars are in top shape and have been reconditioned to look and feel amazing. and if you have any questions, just write or call us.