- Make sure you know if the car is certified by the manufacturer or the dealer. Their certification requirements may differ; if it’s from the manufacturer, you’ll be able to have your vehicle serviced at locations nationwide.
- Ask to see the certification checklist to make sure all major components have been inspected.
- Insist on a vehicle repair and maintenance history report.
- Make sure the remainder of the new-car warranty is clear and in writing.
- Read the fine print on the CPO warranty. Most certified used-car warranties cover only the powertrain. If you want bumper-to-bumper coverage, you may have to purchase that separately. Some warranties are much longer than others. Some warranties are transferable; others are not.
- Pay attention to both the age and mileage limits in the warranty. Chances are you’ll hit the mileage limit first.
- Get details on the return policy. Is there one? Within what time frame? Will the dealer refund registration and license fees and sales tax as well?
- Take the certified used car for a nice, long test drive.
- Haggle away. Just because a used car is certified doesn’t mean you can’t, or shouldn’t, negotiate on price as you would with any other car.
How Much Does Certification Add to the Price of a Used Car?
While CPO cars can offer consumers peace of mind, buyers can often pay a price for that added confidence.
Auto manufacturers tack on anywhere from 2 to 8 percent of the original used-car price for that certification sticker, experts say. Typically, the higher-end the model or brand, the higher the percentage.
Although no current data suggest that certified used cars are vastly more reliable than their noncertified brethren, they do come with the suggestion of better roadworthiness.Manufacturers place restrictions on what cars can be certified and offer multipoint inspection processes that vary from program to program.
Don’t put too much stock in certification itself. Inspection checklists should not be relied on as precise indicators of the car’s condition, experts say. They are more likely to give you an overall picture of the car’s health today, but not for tomorrow.One bonus of certification is that it gives car shoppers the opportunity to buy up in a category, a purchasing experience they might otherwise be unable to attain. For example, it might allow a consumer to move into a certified pre-owned luxury car, rather than a decked-out economy car. That helps manufacturers too, as they see these shoppers as potential longtime fans of their brand.
Consumers can benefit too: CPO programs create vehicles with higher resale values, providing increased bargaining power when it’s time to trade the car in.
Often, reduced-rate financing options are available for CPO purchasers. While you may not find the zero-percent deals occasionally offered on new vehicles, you will find low interest rates on many certified models.