Sticker shock is fairly common when shopping for a new luxury vehicle. Even when the base price sounds affordable, tacking on an option package or two can really add up. We get it, though. There is a certain peace of mind that comes with a new car that just isn’t there when buying used. But, thanks to manufacturer-backed certified pre-owned (CPO) programs, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. You can save a few grand on a recent-model-year used car and still have the protection of a strong warranty. To qualify as CPO, these vehicles have been inspected and, where needed, refurbished according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.
No surprise that each carmaker’s CPO program is different and, frankly, some are better than others. Here we have sorted through the various luxury CPO programs (non-luxury "mainstream" brands are listed separately), parsing the mouse print and comparing the benefits. What we found is, there are several solid choices among the many certified pre-owned programs. We’ve separated out what we determined to be the 10 best. We picked the top CPO program, listing it first, and then listed the remaining nine in alphabetical order so these aren’t ranked.
Our picks are based on a set of criteria including powertrain-warranty length (with a minimum of 6 years/100,000 miles from the purchase date), available inventory, bumper-to-bumper-warranty length, transferability and additional perks with overall warranty length being the top consideration. Just to clarify, when warranties specify time (4-year) and miles (60,000-mile) interpret it as "either-or, whichever comes first."
Autotrader’s Top Pick: Lexus
The Lexus certified pre-owned program, L/Certified, clocks another year as the best among luxury brands. The reason is simple: To the remaining balance of the original 4-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper new-car warranty (which includes powertrain coverage), the CPO warranty adds 2 years and unlimited mileage. That works out to a total of six years with unlimited mileage. As you compare CPO warranties, you will discover "unlimited mileage" is fairly uncommon for vehicle warranties — although, there are a couple of CPO warranties on this list with unlimited mileage. However, many of those top out at five years despite the unlimited miles. This is a boon to owners who do a lot of driving in a short period of time. But, the L/Certified advantages don’t end there.
Lexus CPO vehicles also come with 4 free scheduled maintenance visits, which take CPO vehicles through 2 years/20,000 miles. Other benefits include complimentary loaner cars during covered repairs in excess of eight hours, free roadside assistance and trip interruption reimbursement of up to $200 for up to three nights with up to $50 per day rental-car allowance. The only downside to L/Certified is that it isn’t transferable, but there also isn’t a required deductible for repairs. Find a CPO Lexus for sale
Acura’s CPO program boosts powertrain coverage from the original 5 year/60,000 miles to 7 years/100,000 miles from the original in-service date (when the Acura was purchased new). This exceeds the powertrain-coverage limit of most competitors’ programs. In addition to the extra powertrain coverage, Acura CPO vehicles provide a 1-year/12,000-mile bumper-to-bumper limited warranty that kicks in either when the balance of the original 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty runs out, or from the CPO purchase date. No deductible is required for covered repairs, and the warranties are transferable.
Although Acura’s program doesn’t offer free loaner cars, it does include limited trip-interruption reimbursement and free roadside assistance. Find a CPO Acura for sale
One might argue that Buick isn’t really a luxury brand. We think it straddles the line between non-luxury and luxury. Buick refers to itself as "premium." That’s close enough for us. Like Acura, Buick’s approach to its CPO warranties is more like a non-luxury brand in that coverage is actually provided through two warranties. The first is powertrain coverage via the balance of the original 6-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. The other is a 1-year/12,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty that kicks in when the original 4-year/50,000-mile basic new-car warranty expires or from the CPO purchase date. There is no required deductible for covered repairs, and the coverage is fully transferable.
Among the other CPO benefits are a 3-day exchange program, two free scheduled-maintenance visits, free CARFAX vehicle-history report, a free 3-month satellite-radio trial and a free 3-month trial of limited OnStar services. Find a CPO Buick for sale
Although both are divisions of General Motors, Cadillac and Buick CPO-warranty coverages differ. Cadillac’s original 4-year/50,000-mile new-car warranty is more comprehensive covering the powertrain, as well as items and systems covered in a typical bumper-to-bumper limited warranty. The CPO warranty extends the life of that original warranty by 2 years/50,000 miles. The end result is warranty coverage for 6 years/100,000 miles from the original in-service date of the new Cadillac.
There is no deductible for qualified repairs and the coverage is transferable.
Other CPO benefits include a free 3-month satellite-radio trial, a 3-month limited OnStar service trial, reimbursement of certain alternate transportation expenses during covered repairs and free roadside assistance. Find a CPO Cadillac for sale
Chrysler is FCA’s upscale domestic brand, which is why we included its CPO program among the top luxury brands. Once the balance of the original 3-year/36,000-mi bumper-to-bumper limited warranty expires (or on the CPO-vehicle purchase date), a 3-month/3,000-mile limited warranty kicks in. That doesn’t stack up well against others on this list, but its solid original 7-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, the balance of which comes with the CPO certification, is very competitive.
All qualified repairs have a relatively high $100 deductible, but the CPO warranty is fully transferable. Among the benefits: If a qualified repair takes overnight, there is a $35 per day rental allowance for up to five days, a free CARFAX vehicle-history report, a 90-day satellite radio trial and 24-hour roadside assistance. Find a CPO Chrysler for sale
By far the most complex CPO program in the industry is Infiniti’s. In fact, Infiniti has, what amounts to, two distinct certified pre-owned programs based on vehicle age. Only one qualifies for this list. This complexity is a downside for sure. Still, most buyers will find the program has value. Infinti CPO vehicles less than 48 months old with more than 15,000 miles on the odometer qualify for a 6-year/unlimited-mileage limited warranty. The 6-year part begins on the original in-service date. If the CPO vehicle is already outside the 48-month-age requirement, a 2-year/unlimited-mile warranty kicks in at the time of the CPO-vehicle purchase.
Both unlimited-miles warranties include powertrain coverage, which is why it qualifies for this list. However, when Infiniti refers to these unlimited-miles warranties as "limited," it means that when it comes to systems and components beyond the powertrain, the warranties aren’t as comprehensive as the original bumper-to-bumper 4-year/60,000-mile new-car warranty. Our advice is to verify with the dealer exactly what the CPO unlimited-miles warranty does cover (always a good idea, anyway). There is no deductible and the coverage is fully transferable.
Other CPO extras include free one-year scheduled maintenance, free roadside assistance, free loaner car during repairs and trip-interruption reimbursement of up to $500 total when more than 100 miles from home. Find a CPO Infiniti for sale
As confusing as Infiniti’s CPO warranty may be is how simple Jaguar’s is. Here it is, 7 years/100,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage, including the powertrain, from the original in-service date. That’s it. You don’t need to calculate how many months or miles remain on the original new-car warranty. Nope, it’s 7 yeas/100,000 miles coverage, period. That’s 2 years and 40,000 miles more than the original new-car warranty. Transferring coverage to a new owner is free and there’s no deductible for covered repairs. Ever hear of Jaguar vehicles being unreliable? Yeah, us too. Thing is, if that were totally true, Jag would be losing money on this program. All the while, other European automakers are reducing the length of time for their CPO warranties. That’s got to tell you something about Jaguar’s confidence and quality.
Although Land Rover and Jaguar share the same corporate umbrella, their certified pre-owned programs aren’t quite the same. The good news, if you are shopping for a CPO Land Rover, is that the CPO warranty is the same as Jaguar’s: 7 years/100,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper limited coverage, including the powertrain. As with Jaguar, transferring coverage to a new owner is free and there is no deductible for covered repairs.
Free roadside assistance for the duration of the warranty and a free vehicle-history report are also CPO perks. What does separate Land Rover CPO program from that of its Jaguar sister company is Land Rover offers limited trip-interruption reimbursement if an out-of-town breakdown happens. Find a CPO Land Rover for sale
Lincoln and Chrysler are the only picks on our list that require a deductible ($100) for covered repairs. CPO warranty coverage is for 6 years/100,000 miles from the original new-car in-service date. This is an increase of 2 years and 50,000 miles. It’s bumper-to-bumper limited coverage, including the powertrain. Coverage is fully transferable to another owner.
Additional benefits: a free vehicle-history report, free roadside assistance, a rental car for up to five days of $45 per day during covered repairs, and trip-interruption reimbursement of up to $500 for up to three days of lodging meals and car rental when more than 100 miles from home. Find a CPO Lincoln for sale
Although we haven’t noted what it takes for a vehicle to qualify as CPO, every carmaker has an age limit. Typically, such limits are four to seven years. Porsche will qualify a car for its CPO program if it’s no more than 13 years old with less than 124,000 miles on the odometer. Because of this, the CPO warranty is particularly important. As with many other brands, Porsche’s CPO warranty kicks in when the original 4-year/50,000-mile new-car bumper-to-bumper warranty expires. Any CPO Porsche more than 4-years-old will be out of warranty. To the balance of the original warranty, if still in effect, or from the purchase date of the CPO Porsche, an additional 2-year/unlimited mileage warranty will provide coverage. Basically, the CPO car’s mileage won’t matter in terms of warranty coverage. Coverage is transferable and there is no deductible. Among European exotic automakers, you’re not going to find a better warranty.
Included among the CPO benefits are free roadside assistance and trip-interruption reimbursement that can include meals, lodging, car rental and alternate transportation.
Editor’s Note: We expect the new luxury brand Genesis will make a strong CPO showing but at the time of this award, they have not launched their CPO program. We expect details later this year. In addition, Alfa Romeo’s CPO program is one of the better among luxury brands, on paper. Sadly, an Alfa CPO vehicle is a fairly rare bird, which is why we ultimately decided not to include the automaker on this list. However, if you find one, you’ll appreciate the extra 2 years/50,000 miles of CPO-warranty coverage. Whatever balance of the original 4-year/50,000- mile bumper-to-bumper warranty remains, transfers to the CPO vehicle. When it expires, the added CPO coverage kicks in for a total of 7 years/100,000 miles. Find a CPO Porsche for sale