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The Value of Certified Pre-Owned Programs

Updated on December 15, 2014

"My Car, My Life" The Automotive Blog for Independent Women"

It’s time for a little stroll down memory lane here at MCML. You know those little tags sewn into the side seams of garments, the ones that ID all the materials used along with washing instructions? They weren’t always provided with garments. There was a time when buyers had to guess the content of the materials used and guess how to care for them. Hot wash, medium dry or cool wash, cool dry? It was a guessing game…and a lot of guesses ended up ruining the clothes and making consumers angry – angry enough that their anguished cries were heard in Congress. As a result, in July of 1972, a law was passed mandating content and care instruction labels be sewn into every garment, from panties to evening gowns. It was a way of helping consumers get the most out of their purchases and to expect a reasonable amount of use from their investment when they followed the care instructions.

CPO: The Auto Industry's Answer to Care Tags

The auto industry has come up with a similar type of program to provide those who purchase used vehicles a high level of confidence that they are making a good purchase decision and can expect reasonable longevity from their purchase – if they care for it properly. This program is called CPO, Certified Pre-Owned. And here’s an interesting tid-bit about the program: It was devised by manufacturers on their own, without government prodding. This is a pure case of corporate innovation based on marketplace pressures. In this case, the pressure was how to boost profits for their dealers and help them better compete with independent used car lots. The solution? Offer a used car program not available to the independents. (CPO was also a reaction/solution to the problem manufacturers faced when so many leased vehicles came back to them at the end of their terms. But that’s too much blah, blah, blah for us…)

The Need for CPO Programs

The purpose of CPO programs, across the board, is to give buyers of used vehicles a new car buying experience – as close as corporately possible. Manufacturers have distilled this to mean a worry free purchase experience. When you buy a new car, you don’t need to worry about major repairs because there is a warranty. Why not provide used car buyers that same experience?

What manufacturers have done, then, is provide used car buyers a warranty extension – generally up to 100K miles. This is truly a great way to boost “peace of mind.”

But they go a step further. Not every used car gets certified. Only the best of the best. Vehicles are selected for the programs from lease returns – generally 24-month terms. Those that merit certification go through a multi-point inspection process.

CPO = Peace of Mind

If the vehicle passes the inspection within the acceptable point score, it gets certified and you, the potential buyer get the peace of mind of knowing your new purchase is “as good as new” and isn’t going to send you to the poorhouse – or bus stop – due to unexpected, catastrophic repairs. You have a warranty. You’re covered. Woohoo!!

This is good news…and it even gets better. Many of the high-end, luxo brands offer new car buyers no charge maintenance plans with purchase. This means you pay for no maintenance items – no wiper blades, no tires. Any and all repairs are free.

These maintenance plans last anywhere from 36 to 60 months. And now here’s the good news for CPO buyers. These maintenance programs transfer with the vehicle. If there is still mileage and time left, the new owner will continue to receive the benefits.

How great is that?

You can now buy a used car that is 24 months old with 20,000 miles and still benefit from the remainder of the free maintenance program. If it were for 60 months and 50,000 miles, you would have 3 more years and 30,000 miles left of free maintenance. Then you would still have the CPO warranty coverage, which for most vehicles and manufacturers, runs all the way to 100,000 miles.

This all really takes the “scare factor” out of buying used. Buying CPO truly is “as good as new.”


Programs Are Not Consistent

Each manufacturer has its own particulars for their programs so you will need to check each one out. What we’ve done here is provide the general broad brush strokes of the CPO concept. To help you in your research of the specifics, we’ve provided links at the end of this article.

With all this customer-friendly activity coming from the auto manufacturers, maybe the fashion industry can take their lead and do something similar like making sensors that put out a warning beep-beep-beep when garments have gone too far out of style. You know, sort of a built-in fashion police alarm….

Links to CPO Programs




















For all Chrysler products:

For all Ford products

For all GM products:


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