Certified Pre-Owned Car or Truck Buyers Guide

Why CPO makes sense for many car consumers

By Scott Oldham

"I really wanted a Mercedes," says Julie. "My husband and I had been saving up, but we still couldn’t quite afford a new one. Then we started looking at Mercedes certified pre-owned program. It was perfect for us. We bought a certified pre-owned Mercedes SUV, a red GLC 300, and I love it. The process was really easy and it was a really good deal."

Like Julie, a mother of two in Los Angeles, many car consumers are enjoying the numerous benefits of the Certified Pre-Owned market. Most automakers offer Certified Pre-Owned cars, trucks and SUVs on the very same dealer lots as their new cars and their Certified Pre-Owned or CPO programs offer a long list of advantages over buying a new car or a used car from an individual.

Although most brands now have certified pre-owned programs the concept was pioneered by luxury automakers like Mercedes-Benz. Over the last few decades the programs have gained popularity because they offer car consumers a great selection of nearly new cars, trucks and SUVs that have been inspected by the dealer and all mechanical issues found are fixed.

For example, according to its website, the Mercedes Certified Pre-Owned Program gives each car and SUV an extensive and comprehensive 165 point inspection that covers the vehicle from top to bottom including its suspension, electronics, interior, steering, engine and brakes. If the car passes the inspection, proper servicing of the vehicle is performed according to maintenance schedule, all recall, service and/or other campaigns are performed and all fluids, filters and engine functionality are verified.

The certified pre-owned programs of major automakers screen their cars and trucks carefully and specialize in low mile examples from recent model years. For instance, the Mercedes-Benz Certified Pre-Owned program only accepts cars or SUVs six years old or newer that have been driven less than 74,500 miles.

To qualify for the CPO program, the vehicles must also have a clean CARFAX vehicle history report. That means they must also be accident free. This is a common practice across the industry. Cars that have suffered severe impacts or have a record of major repair are not accepted. This is very important.

Frame damage and bent suspensions can be easily hidden under a fresh coat of paint. Depending on the quality of the repair, vehicles that have been damaged in an accident can be more troublesome as they age. Worse than that they may be less safe than a car or truck that has never suffered a significant impact. Importantly, most certified pre-owned programs offer a free vehicle history report. Read it carefully, and always test drive any vehicle you plan to purchase.

Another advantage to buying a certified pre-owned car is the included warranty. Car repairs and maintenance are expensive and buying a used car from a private individual without a warranty can be risky. All certified pre-owned cars, trucks and SUVs come with a warranty, however, the extent and duration of that coverage does vary between brands. One of the best is from Mercedes-Benz.

Every Certified Pre-Owned Mercedes is covered by any remaining portion of the Mercedes-Benz four-year/50,000 mile New Vehicle Limited Warranty. Then, the CPO Limited Warranty provides comprehensive coverage for another 12 months with unlimited miles. This means the vehicle comes with up to 5 years of unlimited mileage coverage, that includes its engine and powertrain, steering, suspension, brakes electrical system, climate control system, and more. Wear items like brake discs and pads are not included.

Of course any car can still breakdown, which is why most certified pre-owned programs include free 24-hour roadside assistance. It's a wonderful security benefit when you're out on the road, but every CPO program handles its duration a little differently.

To increase your peace of mind further, the CPO programs of some automakers even come with an exchange policy, including every Certified Pre-Owned Mercedes-Benz. Each CPO Mercedes car or SUV comes with a seven-day/500-mile Exchange Privilege. If you're not satisfied with the vehicle in that time, your dealer will exchange it for another CPO vehicle of equal or greater value if you wish to pay the difference.

Value is another benefit of certified pre-owned or CPO programs. Certified pre-owned vehicles are sold at the same dealerships as new vehicles, which means buyers can benefit from monthly deals and special financing like low annual percentage rates. These favorable deals are usually listed on any dealer's website along with their inventory of vehicles, and they can also be found on the manufacturer's website. Over the term of your car loan, they can potentially save you thousands of dollars.

More money can be saved when it comes time to service your Certified Pre-Owned car, truck or SUV. Many CPO programs offer complimentary maintenance for a predetermined amount of dealer visits over a certain amount of time. Also, some dealers will sweeten the purchase with additional perks including car washes and additional free scheduled maintenance, including oil changes, tire rotations and inspections. This can save you hundreds of dollars during the ownership of the vehicle.

Because pre-owned vehicles have already depreciated, they're also far more affordable than equivalent brand new car, truck or SUV. That means you money goes further and your budget will allow you to potentially step up to a luxury brand. Like our friend Julie, you may be able to afford that certified pre-owned Mercedes-Benz SUV you've always wanted.

Another reason so many more used car buyers are turning to the certified pre-owned market is security. Buying a used car from a private individual can be scary. Who knows who you're dealing with on Craigslist? The car can be lemon. Maybe you're about to be scammed. Or worse, it can be dangerous. Buying a certified pre-owned vehicle from a reputable car dealer in your area can be far less stressful. CPO vehicles simply offer the peace of mind.

Such benefits and advantages have made certified pre-owned pickup vehicles very popular. Hopefully this information makes your car buying process a little easier.