If you’re interested in buying a vehicle, you’re searching for either a new or used one — that much is obvious. For drivers who aren’t sure whether they should go with a new or used car, an interesting alternative is available: certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles, which are a few years old, include a manufacturer warranty, and typically cost a lot less than a brand-new model. On paper, this seems like a great idea. You get the best of all worlds: a credible warranty for your vehicle without having to pay the full price for a new one. But is buying a CPO vehicle really better than buying a new one? We took a look.
Consider Warranty Length
Although some car shoppers may be quick to jump at the chance of getting a CPO vehicle with a manufacturer warranty and a big discount compared to the price of a new vehicle, there’s one issue with warranty coverage: CPO cars tend to have shorter warranty terms than new ones.
Here’s an example of what we mean: Most certified pre-owned programs offer the balance of a factory warranty, plus an extra year or two of coverage. So a certified pre-owned car that’s 4 years old might be at the end of its factory warranty — and that means the only warranty you’ll get will be an extra year or two of certified pre-owned coverage. In other words, by choosing a certified pre-owned car, you’ll have less warranty coverage on a vehicle that’s already starting to age — and that means problems are more likely to occur than when a car is new.
Not New Anymore
Another important thing to consider is that shoppers who enjoy the experience of owning a brand-new vehicle won’t quite find that in a certified pre-owned model. A CPO car’s design may be outdated or heading for replacement, for example, and a CPO car probably won’t have the same level of features and equipment offered by a brand-new vehicle. For instance, while a new car may have the latest in infotainment technology and in-car app capabilities, a certified pre-owned model might fall short by offering 2- or 3-year-old technology, depending on the car’s age.
It’s All Economics
As for whether or not you should get a certified pre-owned vehicle rather than a new one, we think it all comes down to economics. Specifically, do you think a new car is worth that much more than a certified pre-owned vehicle when you consider the two head-to-head?
For some shoppers who really enjoy gadgets and the latest technology, the new car might win since most new models offer more equipment and more modern features than their 2- to 4-year-old predecessors. Meanwhile, anxiety-prone shoppers who don’t want to have a car without a warranty may also want to choose the new model because it will take longer for its warranty to expire. Because a new car is indeed newer, it will probably have fewer problems in the meantime.
As a result, we can’t say for sure that certified pre-owned cars are better than new ones, or vice versa, but they certainly present a compelling argument that should convince even the most fervent new-car shoppers to consider a used model.