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CPO: The Cars with the Most Affordable Certified Pre-Owned Premiums

When shopping for a later-model used car, at some point certified pre-owned (CPO) will enter the conversation. These are used cars meeting a manufacturer’s specific standards, passing a multi-point inspection and covered by a factory-backed warranty of some sort beyond the original factory warranty issued when the vehicle was new. "Many used cars really make sense as certified," explained Autotrader’s Brian Moody. "Especially those that receive frequent updates or have a similar look over several years."

Each automaker has its own unique CPO program, which determines what components are inspected, the length in time or miles of the additional warranty and what the certification program costs. Some CPO warranties require paying deductibles, some are transferable and some include additional perks like lower financing costs, roadside assistance, loaner cars and satellite-radio memberships.

When considering between certified and non-certified used cars, it’s often difficult to determine exactly how much of the bottom line of a CPO vehicle is the added cost of the certified rating. Such costs vary from carmaker to carmaker and are often calculated as a percentage of a specific vehicle’s non-certified price, usually between 1.5 percent and 7.9 percent added cost, according to iSeeCars. Unless the franchised dealer selling that certified vehicle volunteers the information, there is no way to really know.

After analyzing 1 million 2015 model-year used cars, a recent posting by iSeeCars rated lists of vehicle models by the amount of their average CPO premium as a percentage of total cost. We’ve included a couple of the lists below along with the certification premium percentage, as well as the average additional cost.

"One significant feature of the CPO vehicles on these lists is that they all have a bumper-to-bumper limited warranty," Moody added. "In a way, this is an extension of the 3-year/36,000-mile limited warranty included with most new cars. With Honda, Chevrolet and GMC (as well as Buick), that warranty is extended by 12 months or 12,000 miles. With the Jeep (as well as Chrysler, FIAT and Ram) vehicles it’s 3 months or 3,000 miles. This is important because not all certified cars have this desirable warranty — Nissan and Subaru are two well-known brands with a powertrain only component to their certified pre-owned program."

Top 10 Vehicles with Lowest Certified Pre-Owned Premium

  1. Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (1.6 percent) $523

  2. Nissan Rogue (1.7 percent) $302

  3. Honda CR-V (1.7 percent) $339

  4. Honda Odyssey (1.8 percent) $420

  5. Chevrolet Tahoe (1.8 percent) $707

  6. Chevrolet Silverado 1500 (1.9 percent) $529

  7. Honda Accord (1.9 percent) $322

  8. Honda Civic (2 percent) $291

  9. Jeep Grand Cherokee (2.1 percent) $560

  10. GMC Sierra 1500 (2.1 percent) $646

Top 10 Sports Cars with Lowest Certified Pre-Owned Premium

  1. Chevrolet Corvette (2.8 percent) $1,387

  2. Dodge Challenger (3.2 percent) $789

  3. Chevrolet Camaro (3.4 percent) $719

  4. Porsche 911 (3.6 percent) $3,493

  5. Dodge Charger (3.6 percent) $797

  6. BMW M4 (4.0 percent) $1,957

  7. Audi S5 (4.3 percent) $1,565

  8. Audi S3 (4.9 percent) $1,446

  9. Porsche Macan (5.0 percent) $2,329

  10. Porsche Panamera (5.3 percent) $3,043

And the car with the highest certified pre-owned premium: Lexus IS 250 (7.9 percent) $2,022.

Russ Heaps
Russ Heaps is an author specializing in automotive, financial and travel news. For nearly 35 years he has covered the automotive industry for newspapers, magazines and internet websites. His resume includes The Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald, The Washington Times and numerous other daily newspapers through syndication. He edited Auto World magazine, and helped create and edit NOPI Street... Read More

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