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Can You Buy a CPO Car From an Independent Dealer?

If you’re interested in buying a used car, then you may have considered purchasing one with a certified pre-owned, or CPO, warranty. Certified pre-owned cars are often recent models with manufacturer-backed warranties — a popular program designed to provide car shoppers with more peace of mind than a traditional out-of-warranty used car offers. What if the car you want isn’t available at a factory-authorized dealer, though? Can you still purchase a certified pre-owned car from a dealer that isn’t authorized? We’ll take a closer look.

Generally, You Can’t

In general, only factory-authorized dealers can offer certified pre-owned vehicles. In other words, if a local independent dealership has a 2017 Honda Civic that you really want, you won’t be able to get it with a certified pre-owned warranty backed by Honda. Instead, you’ll need to go to a local Honda dealership if you want a Honda-backed certified pre-owned warranty.

However, an independent dealer can sell you a protection policy that will cover, in varying degrees, major components of the car. This is usually an extra-cost option where a Honda (or a Ford or a Chevy, etc.) has the warranty baked into the price. The trick here is to be sure there actually is a certification process. When it comes to new car dealers, they are bound by the terms set forth by the original manufacturer of the vehicle. That process is “Certified” by the automaker, making it eligible for the CPO program that includes many features like an extended warranty, low financing, free maintenance, free satellite radio, and so on. Some aftermarket warranty programs do or do not have a certification process; it varies by brand. This is sometimes called “Breakdown Insurance” or an “Extended Warranty.” This is also tough to follow because this is not an extension of the factory warranty but rather a new policy you purchased separately

Interestingly, this remains true if you’re looking at a used car located at a different brand’s dealer. That 2017 Honda Civic also won’t be available with a CPO warranty if it’s at a Toyota dealer, for instance, or a Ford dealer, since those dealers can only add certified pre-owned warranties to their own vehicles.

Remaining CPO Warranty?

With that said, there is a possibility of buying a used car with a certified pre-owned warranty from an off-brand or unauthorized dealer. This will happen if you choose a vehicle that had been sold by an authorized dealer before and includes some remaining life on its certified pre-owned warranty.

As an example, consider a 2017 Honda Civic that was sold by a Honda dealer last year with a CPO warranty. If that vehicle has now ended up at an off-brand dealer or used-car lot, it will still carry some of its certified pre-owned warranty — and in most cases, that warranty will transfer to you when you buy the car. To find out if this is true, call a local dealership that sells the car you’re interested in. Using the vehicle’s VIN number, the dealer’s service department should be able to tell you if it has any warranty left.

Consider an Extended Warranty

One thing some used-car buyers don’t realize is that you don’t necessarily need to purchase a certified pre-owned vehicle in order to get a used car with a warranty.

In fact, most used- and new-car dealerships will sell a warranty on just about any vehicle in their inventory — regardless of make and model. The only difference between one of these aftermarket warranties and a certified pre-owned plan is that the CPO warranty is backed by the manufacturer, while an aftermarket warranty is backed by a third-party company. Still, if you do your homework and check reviews online, you can often find a good aftermarket warranty that rivals some of the best certified pre-owned programs.

Rental Car Programs

Another option is buying a certified car from a rental car company. For example, Hertz has a certified program although it’s not clear who does the certifying. After calling several Hertz Car Sales dealerships, we believe the Pep Boys chain of car repair facilities does the certification and/or repairs (if needed). The Hertz warranty is 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. However, this warranty does not kick in when the original manufacturer warranty expires — instead, it runs at the same time as the new car warranty, meaning any needed repairs will likely fall under the new car warranty. But the Hertz program offers more benefits than just a warranty. There’s also roadside assistance, towing coverage, rental car coverage and travel breakdown protection in case you have car trouble far from home. Other car rental companies like Avis and Enterprise have similar programs but the terms aren’t exactly the same.


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  1. Auto trader is always wrong they are only interested in promoting dealerships that pay the highest for advertising or placement. If a car has factory warranty certification is just a bag of goods franchise dealers are selling you. Certification is another word for inspection when consumer looks at a car or drives car he is basically doing what a mechanic does to look and drive and see if anything needs to be repaired. A $150 inspection does the same thing if the inspection finds any mechanical defects it would be covered by factory warranty. All certified cars have existing factory warranties. Franchise dealers can not certified cars that are out off warranty.   You just want to make sure the car has no accidents and any hidden damages like under car damages.

    •   I don’t know where to start.  You’re wrong on most of your statements.  I worked the industry for 40-years; retail, wholesale and manufacturer.

  2. Auto trader has misinformed consumers once again in this article.  Independent, non franchise dealers can provide CPO vehicles.  As long as they do the required inspections, repairs and disclose both to the customer at the point of sale.  Auto trader wrong again.

    • A dealer certification and a manufacturer certification are very different and the latter provides much more than simply inspection and disclosure– Such as bumper to bumper and/or powertrain warranty coverage.

    • Wrong.  I worked in the auto industry for 40-years; retail, wholesale and manufacturer.  A new or used car dealer cannot provide CPO on another make; i.e., a Ford dealer cannot provide CPO on a Chevrolet, etc, etc. They can offer independent warranties that are not manufacturer-related.

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