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Choosing the Right CPO Program

8/8/2012
When buying a certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicle, the best course of action is to purchase the type of vehicle that best suits your needs and preferences. Once you've narrowed choices down, however, you can compare the used-vehicle certification programs offered by the different auto manufacturers to determine which one gives you the best bang for your buck. Below, we take a closer look at the various factors to consider when shopping for a certified pre-owned vehicle.

Warranty Extension--Most CPO programs provide an extension of the vehicle's basic and/or powertrain warranty, based on either the car's original in-service date or the certified purchase date. Programs that don't provide these extensions are typically associated with models that already come with robust, transferable new car warranties. Some warranty extensions are more generous than others, and we recommend selecting a vehicle that is covered under warranty for the longest period of time possible.

Low-Interest Financing--Generally, used cars cost more to finance than new cars when comparing equivalent loans and terms, because the lender is taking a higher degree of risk with a used vehicle. Certified used vehicles, however, are frequently available with financing at lower rates, helping to reduce monthly payments and making more expensive CPO vehicles more affordable when compared to similar non-CPO vehicles.

Free Maintenance Plan--Some certified used-vehicle programs offer free maintenance for a specific period of time, and for a limited number of miles.

Vehicle History Report--Nearly all certified pre-owned programs supply a vehicle's new owner with a complete vehicle history report showing the car to be free of accidents or other damaging events. Closely review the vehicle history report for any CPO vehicle you're buying, making sure the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of the car you're buying matches the VIN on the vehicle history report.

Satisfaction Guarantee--Some CPO programs provide buyers with the ability to return a car within specific time and mileage limits. It is important to note, however, that this is not a "money back" guarantee. Rather, if you decide that you've selected the wrong vehicle, you can return it to the dealer and choose another vehicle that might be more to your liking.

Roadside Assistance--Nearly all certified pre-owned programs provide buyers with 24-hour roadside assistance, typically for the duration of the standard or extended basic warranty.

Loaner Vehicle--In the event that your CPO vehicle requires a repair under warranty, some programs supply free loaner transportation while your car is being fixed at the dealership.

Zero-Deductible Repairs--Some CPO programs require owners to pay a nominal fee, known as a deductible, for repairs under the program. Be sure to find out if your certified used-vehicle program charges a deductible and, if so, if the fee is calculated on a "per repair" basis or a "per visit" basis. You may not want to pay a CPO deductible on a "per repair" basis.