Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

What is a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle?

certified preowned

Buying a used vehicle can be a frightening concept if you don’t know its history. With the option of purchasing a certified pre-owned vehicle (CPO), you may feel more confident about the car you’re driving. These vehicles are backed by the manufacturer in a way similar to a new model – along with a reduced price tag.

What qualifies as certified pre-owned?

Not all used cars can be certified. They must meet stringent qualifications before the label is attached. The vehicle is a later model, usually less than five years old, and it has low mileage. It may or may not still be under the original manufacturer’s warranty, but it comes with some type of warranty.

Any model of vehicle can be a CPO, whether it’s a luxury sedan, sports car, pick-up truck or SUV. Each manufacturer sets its own criteria for certifying vehicles, but all are similar. Certified vehicles first entered the market in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. High-end manufacturers such as Lexus and Mercedes-Benz began the concept to sell their used vehicles. Since those early days, the CPO vehicle has become popular and is now considered a third category in the automobile sales market.

The process of being certified

To become certified, a pre-owned vehicle must pass a detailed inspection. Each brand determines how extensive the inspection is, but they are all at least 100-point inspections. This goes well beyond a basic safety inspection into the core components and the condition of the interior and exterior.

A vehicle that can’t pass the rigorous inspection won’t be certified. It may still come with a warranty, but it isn’t one backed by the manufacturer.

Most manufacturers have mileage limits of less than 100,000 miles for a vehicle to be CPO, but some reduce the mileage even more. The vehicle can’t have been in any major accidents or had significant bodywork done. The vehicle will be refurbished after an inspection with any repairs made to meet the standards set.

The benefits of CPO

Each brand defines its own certification program and which benefits it provides to buyers. Many times, the buyer of a CPO vehicle will enjoy the same benefits of a new car buyer. They may receive service loan cars, roadside assistance, better interest rates and terms on financing, shuttle service for repairs or maintenance and free maintenance for a specific period.

Many people are attracted to certified used vehicles because they can get a more expensive model than if they were purchasing a new automobile. They also enjoy the peace of mind that comes with the warranty and inspection. In addition, most manufacturers provide a vehicle history report which the buyer can review.

Some programs provide benefits which are similar to auto clubs. They often include roadside assistance for the duration of the warranty or even longer. They may provide trip interruption coverage, which reimburses the owner for the costs associated with breakdowns when the person is away from home. They often provide a short-term exchange policy, which allows the person to return the vehicle for a different one for any reason. The term is usually only seven days or another short period and is focused on customer satisfaction.

Many programs include add-ons, which can be purchased at a reduced rate. For example, buyers may have the ability to buy an extended warranty after the initial CPO warranty expires and have it included in the loan with no upfront cost.

Top manufacturers' CPO programs

Compare the program benefits side-by-side to learn which manufacturers have the best options for your needs.

  • Hyundai - 10-year/100,000 mile Powertrain warranty, 10-year unlimited mileage roadside assistance

  • Nissan - 7 years/100,000 limited warranty with roadside assistance and trip interruption coverage

  • Subaru - 7-year/100,000 total mileage warranty with roadside assistance

  • Lexus - 3-year/100,000 total mile limited warranty with roadside assistance

  • BMW - 2-year/50,000 mile warranty, which includes roadside assistance

  • Volkswagen - 2-year/24,000 mile bumper-to-bumper limited warranty with roadside assistance

  • Kia - 12-month/12,000 Platinum coverage, 10-year unlimited mileage roadside assistance

  • Mercedes-Benz - 12 months unlimited mileage limited warranty with roadside assistance, trip interruption coverage

  • Toyota - 12-month/12,000 miles comprehensive coverage and one year roadside assistance

  • GM - 12-month/12,000 bumper-to-bumper warranty, roadside assistance for five years or 100,000 miles

  • Ford - 12-month/12,000 mile limited warranty with roadside assistance

  • Acura - 12-month/12,000 mile limited warranty with roadside assistance and trip interruption coverage

  • Honda - 1-year/12,000 miles limited warranty

  • Chrysler - 3-month/3,000 mile comprehensive warranty, roadside assistance

Because not all CPO programs are exactly the same, it’s important to compare them and determine which one offers the best deal. While you will be paying more than for a basic used vehicle, you may decide the benefits that come with a certified pre-owned vehicle are worth it.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Ask a Mechanic
(100% Free)

Have a car question? Get free advice from our top-rated mechanics.

Ask A Mechanic
Over 10,000 questions answered!

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.


Post a question and get free advice from our certified mechanics.


More related articles

How Long Does a Throttle Return Spring Last?
Not all vehicles on the road feature an electronic throttle control (ETC), which is also called drive-by-wire. For vehicles that don't offer this system, they have a throttle cable instead that...
How to Buy Fuel Treatments
Adding a fuel additive to your gas tank when you fill up is one way to clean vital engine parts of deposits, improve the performance of your engine,...
Insurance Requirements for Car Registration in Kentucky
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet requires that all drivers in Kentucky carry liability automotive insurance, or “financial responsibility” in order to operate a vehicle legally and maintain vehicle...

Related questions

Q: Brakes will not decelerate and steering wheel seized

This issue that would need to be inspected firsthand. In the case of such a catastrophic event, I would guess some Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs) would be stored. Retrieving these codes is the first step in the diagnostic process. It...

Q: Stalling when gas pedal pressed down quickly or too fast also happening when stopping at lights and sometimes during idle.

Hey there. It sounds like you may have a mass air sensor problem or an intake leak between the throttle body and mass air sensor. This is a perfect example of why you should have a mechanic conduct a pre-purchase...

Q: What are roller rockers for and what would cause them to have rust

Roller rockers are used to push down the valve spring with less resistance than a traditional rocker. The entire valve train should be constantly bathed in oil when the engine is running and the rollers could only get rust on...