Are Factory Certified Pre-Owned Cars Worth the Extra Money?

Pre-Owned Vehicles
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The used car market is booming these days. Given that the average cost of a new vehicle is in the mid-$30,000s in 2019, it’s not surprising many buyers are opting to buy used to save some money. The latest Experian data tells us used car payments on average through the first quarter of 2019 are $391/month as opposed to $554/month for new vehicles. This brings us to Certified Pre-Owned vehicles. According to the Automotive News Data Center, CPO sales surpassed 2.7 million last year, an increase of 2.1 percent from 2017. So what exactly are CPO’s and makes them so attractive despite the fact they are typically more expensive than non-CPO vehicles? Let’s take a look.

Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles (CPO)

Daily, I get the question of whether or not someone should buy a factory certified pre-owned car, and if it worth the extra money you pay for one. When I was the Ford National Dealer Council Chairman about 16 years ago, they asked me to help them come up with the best-certified program for consumers and dealers. It was a little foreign for an automaker to take an interest in selling used vehicles. This was ALL about resale value and ultimately residual values on leases. A couple of manufacturers were already big on certified pre-owned car (CPO) sales, and I looked for the best program out there. Much to my surprise, it was Jaguar’s CPO program that at the time looked the best. Today, every manufacturer has a certified program, although some are better than others.

CPO Programs By Brand »

Certification Process

Over time, I have become a huge fan of Certified vehicles, and buy them myself when I need a personal vehicle. While most people focus on the long warranty that comes with a CPO vehicle, for me the process of certification is equally as important.

Although the programs vary by manufacturer, they all have processes by which the car goes through a rigorous checklist. Just about everything is checked to make sure it works and is in good order. Many of the programs require such things as new wiper blades, two working keys and remotes if the car is equipped with those, and they must also have a clean vehicle history. Management of the dealership has to sign a form saying all work was done.


Other perks of a Certified Pre-Owned car often include incentives such as low interest rates, roadside assistance, and a full tank of gas. In other words, it is as close to a new car as a used car can get, often for a fraction of the price of a new car.


Most CPO cars have the balance of a five or six-year warranty that extends to 100,000 miles. Some CPO warranties are now going to 120,000 miles, and some give unlimited mileage. Note that most of these warranties start from when the car was new. More on typical warranty terms here.


Price-wise, certified cars generally run more than non-certified cars, but the process the car goes through, the incentives associated with it, and most of all the warranty that is included make it all even out in the end. Best of all, you get the peace of mind of knowing the car was gone over with a fine-toothed comb.

Factory Programs

The only pitfall is to make sure the Certified Pre-Owned car you look at is part of a factory program. For instance, if you are looking at a Lexus CPO, make sure the dealer is part of the factory program, not his own certified program. Some dealers have tried that and gotten away with it. The only real certified cars are found at new car dealerships of the same brand. In other words, you can’t buy a factory certified Chevy at a Toyota dealership.

CPO Programs By Brand

All in all, I think factory certified vehicles make a ton of sense and there is little doubt they will save you money over the long haul. Links to CPO programs by brand are below.

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a power-train warranty does not cover the thousands of other parts covered by a factory (not dealer) extended warranty. I believe in using a carfax along with a independent inspection and using the price savings of a non certified car to purchase a factory extended warranty. Thus i only purchase used cars under 36k miles. love the show.
The Car Pro
Thanks Howard, I appreciate your comments. You are missing out on the process of becoming certified which is extensive. Since the powertrain is covered under the Certified program, moving to a full extended warranty is much cheaper.

I appreciate you listening.

Jerry Reynolds
james a.
Thank you mr. Reynolds:
Enjoyed your article on C.P.O. vehicle's, my wife and I are both in our 70s and as of January 2017 we canceled our t.v. service and for the last year just enjoy radio. Found your program on K F B K radio 93.1 fm, on Sunday 4:pm and really do enjoy listening. And have recommended you to family and friends. Became a member of your website and look forward to reading and learning.
James and Ruby annis
Mike R.
I bought a 2011 F150 with the eco boost after listening to you talking to a listener because I wanted to haul a heavy trailer. I'm upgrading my trailer to the MAX that my F150 can tow (11,500 lbs GVW). I'm thinking of going to a F250 Diesel. I'd like to avoid the sticker shock of a new truck. Is there such a thing as a CPO on trucks? And/or do you think I should stay with my F150 (that I like) the trailer is within the towing capacity of it.
Jerry .
Good to hear from you. If you have the right rear end for the 11,500 pounds, I think you?ll be OK even though you are at the upper limits. My experience is most automakers understate capacity slightly to err on the safe side.

You can get a certified F250 diesel, but depending on where you are, often with my connections you can get a new one about as cheap. If you decide to go that way, contact the nearest Ford dealer through our website under CERTIFIED DEALERS.

Thanks for listening to the show.

Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network
Ruben R.
Jerry,I have spoken to an internet Mgr. and also I have a name for the GM of dealership.I am confused on who to talk to. I want to get the best deal.Which one? Thanks, Ruben
Jerry .
Rueben, it?s always better to speak to designated contact first. However, sometimes when the GM is busy or out of town, he or she will have someone else make initial contact. Either way it will work out as long as they know you are a Car Pro Show VIP.

Good luck.

Jerry Reynolds, President
Car Pro Radio Network
Charles E.
I purchased a certified 2010 Honda Odyessy EX-L w/nav about two weeks ago. I my wife wanted a white one so that's what we searched for on the internet. With all that we "required" it limited the numbers available. In fact I needed to expand the search to 300 miles of my home. I found one at that distance, spoke with the dealer on the phone to verify everything. They offered to reimburse my flight down and pick me up at the airport, that did the deal. I had no hesitation regarding the cars condition knowing it was "Honda certified". Took it for a test spin, signed the papers and drove it home. Factory certified saves about 30% over new, it drives and looks new - it's a great way to go.
Byron H.
Having been taken by David Taylor Cadillac when I purchased a 2002 Cadillac DHS in 2004, make sure that it is put in the viz or whatever system it needs to be put in to and you get all of paperwork you need. Do not let them tell you it is certified without getting verification in writing and a signature. If you don't and the original warranty runs out, you are out of luck. I know first hand.
Bill R.
I always buy CPO vehicles. Presently my wife drives a 2010 Lexus RX350 that was a Service Loaner Vehicle at a local Lexus dealership. The car had 22,000 miles, is in excellent condition and we paid less than $30,000 ($29,900). Originally the MSRP was in the range of $42 - $44,000. With a 3 year bumper-to-bumper warranty, that is as good as most new cars, the CPO program is the only way to go.