Car Buying

When Is It Best to Buy a CPO Car?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro April 2018

If you're interested in buying a used car, you may have considered a certified pre-owned (or CPO) vehicle. These cars come with manufacturer-backed warranties and additional perks, such as roadside assistance and free trial subscriptions to satellite radio, over a typical used car. But is there a certain vehicle age where buying a certified pre-owned car is a bad idea? And is there an age when it's especially an advantage? We think so, and our latest article outlines exactly what we mean.

It Depends on the Program

The best vehicle age for a CPO warranty often depends on the certified pre-owned program in question. Each automaker's certified pre-owned program offers different coverage, so they'll each have different advantages.

As an example, consider Lexus' program, which offers 3 years of coverage from the day you buy your certified pre-owned vehicle. In that case, it doesn't matter how old the vehicle is when you buy it because you'll get the same 3 years of coverage whether the vehicle is 3 years old or 6 years old.

Meanwhile, if you buy a certified pre-owned Audi, you get 6 years of coverage from the original sale date. As a result, you'll want to buy a newer Audi to maximize your CPO coverage. After all, if you buy a 3-year-old certified Audi, you'll get 3 years of coverage, but if you buy a 5-year-old model, you'll only get 1 year.

Don't Go Too Old or Too New

In general, we suggest that shoppers considering a CPO vehicle shouldn't buy one that's too old or too new. In the case of too old, our reasoning is obvious: The older the car, the less coverage it will have under most manufacturers' certified pre-owned programs -- as we demonstrated in our Audi example above.

But why should you avoid buying a certified pre-owned car that's too new? The main reason is you don't want to pay extra for warranty coverage you won't use. For instance, Honda's certified pre-owned program extends the brand's original powertrain warranty from 5 years or 60,000 miles to 7 years or 100,000 miles. But if you buy a 1-year-old CPO Honda, will you really use all 6 years or 100,000 miles of remaining coverage? Some drivers may, but others will likely be content with the original 5-year warranty rather than paying extra for a certified pre-owned vehicle.

Compare Your Options and Consider Your Ownership

We happen to think certified pre-owned warranties are often a great buy. Not only do they come with good perks, but they add additional peace of mind -- even if you never end up using the warranty. They're not always the right solution for every buyer, however. Before you buy a certified pre-owned car, consider how long you'll own it and how much money you'd save if you bought a traditional noncertified used car instead. For some drivers, a more conventional used car may actually be the better decision.

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.
When Is It Best to Buy a CPO Car? - Autotrader