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Top 5 Reasons to Choose a CPO Vehicle

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author photo by Nick Palermo September 2013

Car shoppers using AutoTrader.com in their search for the perfect vehicle can choose from three categories when browsing listings: new cars, used cars and certified cars. Certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles are more than just used cars with a fancy name. These vehicles are typically 1- to 4-year-old models that meet certain mileage and condition requirements, and are marketed by dealers specific to the vehicle brand.

Certified vehicles offer some advantages compared to new vehicles. For example, certified cars are typically more affordable than equivalent brand-new ones. Used-car shoppers are wise to consider a certified model, too. In fact, whether you're shopping for a new or used car, we have some compelling reasons why you should take a look at certified vehicles alongside -- or instead of -- the cars on your short list.

Depreciation

Depreciation, or the loss of value over time, is a near-certain reality for car owners, especially those who choose a brand-new vehicle. We've all heard that adage about a car losing value "as soon as you drive it off the lot." The reason is that vehicles are only new once. The most severe depreciation occurs early in the life of an automobile. After that, depreciation tapers off.

That translates to savings on certified vehicles because a vehicle's first owner has already paid for that loss of value. He or she bought high and sold low. That's not to suggest that a second owner who buys the same vehicle certified will avoid depreciation altogether. The loss in value will just be much less severe.

Because of the high depreciation of brand-new vehicles, certified ones are more affordable. And when it comes time to sell, owners of certified vehicles are likely to recover more of what they originally paid than owners who bought new.

Luxury Brands, Luxury Equipment

Another advantage of certified cars over brand-new ones results directly from the new-car depreciation described above. Because the most luxurious models are typically the priciest, they're also the ones that lose the most value quickly. New-car shoppers can take advantage of this by choosing a certified vehicle instead.

For example, drivers considering a popular midsize sedan may instead choose a similarly priced certified model. For the same money, they can choose a more prestigious brand with more luxury equipment. Drivers looking at high-end models can get more from a certified car, too, using the savings from a lower purchase price to step up to the most luxurious optional equipment. An options package that adds $5,000 to the price of a new car, for instance, may be worth only a $2,000 premium by the time that car is three years old.

Warranty Coverage

Just like new cars, certified cars are sold with a warranty backed by the manufacturer. This is probably the most obvious -- and perhaps most important -- advantage that these vehicles offer over regular used vehicles. Warranties vary by brand, so be sure to compare coverage if you're shopping more than one brand.

Used cars can be sold with warranties, too, but these are not quite the same as the warranties offered with certified cars. Dealers who sell certified cars also sell the same specific brand or brands of new cars. This means they have service departments dedicated to the brand and a close relationship with the automaker. Certified dealers are arguably better qualified than any independent dealer to deliver warranty service backed by the automaker. Plus, if you're far from home and need service, you can find the nearest dealer for your brand instead of waiting or using someone you're unfamiliar with.

Certified vehicles are priced with warranty coverage, too. That's rare for traditional used cars. Used-car shoppers typically have to pay extra for any coverage.

Automaker-Backed Customer Experience

A franchise dealer's affiliation with the automaker translates to more than just highly qualified service. Few used-car dealers can match the customer experience of new-car dealers, and shoppers for certified vehicles can experience the same high level of service as new-car shoppers.

In many cases, these more sophisticated dealers can cater to customers in a way that an average used-car lot cannot. Franchise dealers are highly trained to provide sales, service, parts and even advice to customers professionally and consistently. Shoppers for certified cars can expect the same treatment afforded to new-car shoppers who, in essence, pick up the tab.

Easy Shopping

Shopping for either new or used cars can be difficult. New cars can be overwhelming. Even if you've narrowed your choices to one model, you still have to pick a trim level and options that fit your budget and needs. The staggering number of choices can be confusing and frustrating.

Because certified inventories aren't nearly as large as new-car inventories, the choices are easier. Sure, you cannot pick every little detail yourself and have to choose from what's available instead, but that's not a bad thing. First, it's likely you'll eventually have to make the same compromises for a new car, too. Except for some very expensive cars, you cannot specify custom equipment. Eventually, you'll find yourself seeking a car that closely matches your list of needs and wants. You may find it, or you may have to settle on something close.

This wider range of choices for new vehicles can result in less satisfaction in the end. Choosing a vehicle from a limited group of certified vehicles allows shoppers to avoid the indecision and second guessing that goes along with scrutinizing every possible combination of equipment.

Used-car shoppers may have an easier time with certified vehicles, too. Anyone who has ever spent the day shopping used cars for sale by owner or through independent dealers knows that consistency is spotty at best. Shoppers may have to kiss a lot of frogs before finding that prince. But certified vehicles are clean and ready for sale. Dealers inspect vehicles and repair any issues before marketing certified vehicles, so you don't waste time on messy vehicles or ones in poor condition.

CPO vehicles really do give car shoppers some of the advantages of both new and used cars while avoiding the drawbacks of each. If you're considering buying either new or used, take some time to consider a certified vehicle, too.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Top 5 Reasons to Choose a CPO Vehicle - Autotrader