By on May 3, 2011


David writes:

I know that European vehicle snobbism is often frowned upon here, but I do love the look and feel of German cars better than any other. The downside seems to be maintenance costs, that they are simply not affordable to own.

I’m going to be looking for a car in about the $20-25k range, so my choice is between pretty dull new Japanese cars and a circa 2008 BMW 328i or Mercedes C300. Both of them seems to be really attractive cars, but of course the enthusiast crown always goes to the BMW.

What I’m wondering is if the Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) program might be the answer. I’m sure most of you already know this, but the general idea is that they inspect and recondition low mileage used cars, give them a comprehensive warranty and basically treat them like almost new vehicles. The Mercedes program is the best known, but BMW appears to be coming on strong with an offer of five years free maintenance. On paper that should mean nearly cost-free ownership save brakes and other wear items.

I would of course pay to extend the warranty to the maximum term – I think it’s four years for Mercedes and five for BMW. I drive about 10k miles per year, so the car should remain under that warranty for my entire ownership of the vehicle. After that four or five year ownership period, I would sell or trade it in and repeat the process.

I’d like to hear experiences with these programs, with each manufacturer (and possibly others you feel I should consider). How would you compare the Mercedes and BMW programs? And are there any downsides to this compared with buying a new, lesser vehicle I should consider?

I am the least handy person in the world – if I lifted up a screwdriver and tried to fix something in my car, it would probably explode.

So I’d like to hear …

(1) Anyone have direct experience with these programs, for each make of car? How was the service? I would obviously be putting great trust in the dealer, because I really have little recourse if he doesn’t hold up his end of the deal.

(2) Any negotiating tips? What kind of discount should I expect from the asking price? I am a little surprised that prices for CPO BMWs or Mercedes seem, if anything, a bit lower than what other dealers and private parties are charging on Craigslist.

(3) Any other cars I should consider, and any new cars I should consider that might offer similar driving enjoyment in this price bracket.

Thanks for any thoughts!

Steve answers:

My advice would be to educate yourself. BMW and Mercedes provide very good CPO programs… that are as pricey as can be in this market. With
that warranty you get absolutely no idea how the vehicle has been maintained or driven. So if the prior owner was brutal on that car and didn’t give a lick about changing the oil, you are the new beneficiary of his habits.

My advice would be to go the private owner route. Or at least opt for a car that you can track down the history to the nth degree. When it comes to even near-new cars, Germans tend to be the least able to take abuse. I would sooner shop for a Cobalt or Neon with an unknown history than I would any German car.

Forget the CPO and start with the owner. If you do decide to buy German, I would look locally or even try the Ebay route… and find a very good independent shop that specializes in the brand. You will likely save $5,000+ in the purchase price without an inherited headache. Good luck!

Sajeev answers:

For a short term (less than 5 year) relationship in German sedan love, CPO is the way to go: all of the pleasure, none of the pain. Even if your BMW/Benz goes in on multiple occasions for a singular problem (often the nature of the beast) you rest easy in a gorgeous service lounge, enjoy a free loaner car and generally get the feeling that the dealer will feed you grapes, fan you and powder your ass with the snap of a finger. Wait…that’s more like the “spa” treatment available at this Lexus dealer. So let’s get to your questions.

Question 1: A couple of my friends were royally peeved with the quality and “frequent” visits to both BMW and Mercedes service departments, no matter how convenient their loaner car program. They value their time more than most, expecting a stereotypical Honda/Toyota ownership experience with the trappings of the German luxury sedan. Since that rarely happens, I told at least one of them to consider buying a Lexus, as their service reputations are rather bulletproof.

Question 2: CPO cars can be purchased at auction, with an added fee for re-conditioning, re-filling the warranty, and re-filling the coffers of the dealership, manufacturer and (sometimes) their captive finance arm. But the days of sweet financing on CPO vehicles are probably gone. Therefore you negotiate just like any other vehicle. It’s all flexible, considering the transaction prices at the auctions. Don’t be shy, do it.

Question 3: consider a Lexus IS, with the full CPO treatment. I’m not saying it’s a better car than the BMW or Mercedes, I’m just saying the warranty, service reputation and disturbingly loyal client base is worth your time for a test drive. Think about it.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to mehta@ttac.com, and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder. In a rush? Don’t be shy about asking to cut in line.

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92 Comments on “New or Used: A CPO Solution To European Vehicle Snobbism?...”


  • avatar
    Buckshot

    Don´t listen too all the (German)haters/blind patriots on this site.
    To say that German cars are crap is like saying that all black men are drugdealers.
    Some are but they´re a small minority.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      “Crap” is a bit strong, don’t you think? Most German makes have overpriced service costs, especially at the stealership. They have a greater reliability risk of a typical American car, let alone a Toyota. And they seem to have more trouble prone parts (say BMW plastic cooling system components) especially in light of the high cost of entry. In turn you get a high level of driver involvement, excellent build quality (mostly), and a most satisfying drive. Is the cost of admission worth it to you? Only you can make the call. I o find it frustrating that you can’t have all this and reliability…they are certainly not mutually exclusive.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, I think your comparison is wrong. I think saying German cars are crap is like saying I refuse to buy silverware because it might rust.

      I’d take the Mercedes C300, but, to tell ya the truth, depending on what your budget is, you’d probably do better with a number of other cars on the market.

      As for Certified Pre-Owned programs…there is nothing wrong with them but, if you are buying German, you’d better ensure you have extra money for the warranty. Certified Pre Owned typically screw you buy selling you a car fresh off lease without replacing worn parts. They are not required by law to give you new brake pads if they aren’t lower than 50%. They aren’t required to ensure your tires are not dry rotted – or close to being worn. And don’t get me started with computer systems… you could easily end up spending over $10,000 replacing worn parts.

      I only buy German brand spanking new. Anything wrong with it? It’s YOUR PROBLEM MeRCEDES BENZ. I’M NOT FIXING NOTHING!!! Haven’t had a single problem with my S550.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks to TTAC’s readers for standing up to a wholly inappropriate comment. We do rely on a certain amount of self-policing when it comes to inappropriate comments, but I’m deleting this entire line of discussion. Racism is not welcome here at TTAC for a number of reasons, just one of which is that it distracts mightily from the on-topic discussion.

        Back to the European CPO discussion already in progress…

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      Buckshot,

      Yes, only a small percentage of black men are drug dealers. But (assuming you are white), are you going to support your daughter marry a black man?

      Most parent would object that kind of idea, some accepted it because there is nothing they can do. Very few would actually support it.

      • 0 avatar

        WSN

        What is all this bullsht about Black men being drug dealers? This is supposed to be about buying used German cars.
        White males commit more crimes annually than all Blacks put together so it seems to me, a White father should be more worried about his daughter dating a White guy. Just ask Natalie Holloway.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        I know right? This is one of the most racist comments I have ever seen on here!

        @WSN — Do you THINK before you TYPE something??

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        My concern is that my daughter marry an honest, hardworking man who will treat with respect and love. You can find that sort of man in any race.

        If she brings home a man who drives an expensive German car, and always expects her to pay for everything because his money is constantly being spent on repairs…well, I’d advise her to look elsewhere.

      • 0 avatar
        JustinM

        Wow. I come to TTAC to read about cars, not to read racist BS like this. Thanks, I needed a good retch this morning.

      • 0 avatar

        Wow. I think when most people consider their daughter’s choice in marriage, they are more likely to look at the individual than any statistics based on their race. I’m sure the Robinsons took that approach when their daughter, Michelle, brought home the black community organizer who had graduated from Harvard Law.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        I wouldn’t marry a black man. Of course, I’m a white man and don’t swing that way.

      • 0 avatar
        MoppyMop

        Go back to Stormfront, we don’t want you here.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        I always considered “wsn” just another “anti Detroit troll”. Lots of them here at TTAC.

        His last comment is way beneath the worst of the trolls here.

  • avatar
    twotone

    I’ve been a German car driver for most of my 40 years on the road — BMW, Porsche, Audi and MB. I wait until cars have depreciated to 50% of MSRP — typically four to six years old. I buy one owner cars from an owner with all service records, clean car fax and top pre-purchase inspection. I prefer to keep the cost of an extended warranty (pre-paid service contract) in my bank rather than their bank. I’d take a BMW 3-Series over an MB C-Class, 5-Series and E-Class are neck-and-neck, S-Class beats 7-Series. All my cars have required scheduled maintenance and never a major repair (guess I’ve been lucky).

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    My Acura accumulated over 150k miles before anything at all happened beyond routine maintenance.

    As for my BMW?

    Well, I traded it in just before the 36 month warranty expired… for obvious reasons.

    Yes, the BMW felt wonderful…but I had no faith that it would continue to feel that way.

    Since then, it’s been Japenese all the way, baby. German engineers just aren’t that good anymore.

    And yes, I’m an engineer.

  • avatar
    Almost Jake

    With your level of handiness, I would steer clear of German brands. There are some fairly reliable models, but when they break, they cost more to fix due to proprietary parts.

    My brother bought two BMW’s, a new 328i for his wife and a used 3 series (not sure which) for his kid. My brother does nothing but complain about the costs involved in keeping them up, even when there is a warranty. He once told me that brake jobs run $1,200, and a new battery cost $300.

    If you decide to buy a CPO solution, read the extended warranties completely to understand exactly what is and is not covered. Some do not cover as much as you might expect.

    For me, my time is too valuable to not have a reliable vehicle. I also do not enjoy taking time away from work and/or family to take the vehicle to the dealer. Its your call.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Keep in mind that BMW figures that if you can afford a BMW, you can afford to get bent over when it comes to maintenance. $1200 for a brake job at the dealer sounds right, but there’s nothing special about their brakes that would keep an independent shop from doing the job for less than half of that. Heck, I’ve heard some BMW dealers charge $100 for a tire rotation…which my local tire shop does for free.

      Owning a German car doesn’t have to be that painful if you can avoid the dealer.

      • 0 avatar
        Rada

        The problem is not just what you can afford, after all it’s just money. But what about the stress, the frustration, the lost time that you will NEVER roll back, the dangers of something happening on the road?

    • 0 avatar
      ellomdian

      No personal affront intended, but if your brother is complaining about the cost of Dealer brake and parts service, he should not have been at the BMW Dealer for his wife, let alone his kid. New 328 and a used 3 for the kiddo (who isn’t paying for his own maintenance to drive a roundel) stinks to high heaven of badge whoring in the first degree, and Luxury car marques turn a ridiculous profit robbing people who can’t afford the lifestyle they wish to become accustomed to.

      As for the OP: BMW CPO is fantastic as long as your dealer is large enough and reputable. If you are dealing with commodity cars (nothing special) then plan to sell the car as soon as the warranty wears off. It’s like a second lease, in that you are paying for the (significantly smaller) depreciation.

  • avatar
    Trend-Shifter

    German or ortherwise the key is to get a low mileage car under 30,000 miles. Pay a little extra, heck you are already getting the depreciated price. Unload the import car at 95,000 miles and an American/Japanese car at 140,000. Reload.

    When you buy the car, change ALL fluids and filters on the car. (brakes, transmission, differential, coolant) Repeat every 2 years. Of course keep up with oil changes.
    Do that and you should only need to do maintenance without any major repairs.

    Here is an example of great buy. It did not sell and is probably still available.
    Link: http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=220772320827&viewitem=&sspagename=STRK%3AMEWAX%3AIT

  • avatar
    ChesterChi

    I’ve heard rumors that Mercedes dealers treat C-class owners like crap because they bought the cheapest model. Now imagine how they will treat the buyer of a used C-class.

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      So, just as the Boxster & Cayman (much less the 914/924/944/968) aren’t *real* Porsche, the C-klasse isn’t a *real* Mercedes?

      I believe it.

      • 0 avatar
        william442

        Huh? How many C classes have you owned? I will be glad to take you around the block, or to the dealer in my C43. The AMG lounge is quite nice.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The AMG lounge? Are you kidding? Do they really segregate their customers? That would make SVX pearlie’s point pretty well. I wonder if they take CLK customers to see the AMG lounge and tell them they can wait for their defective POS to be repaired there if they upgrade to the AMG cosmetic package.

      • 0 avatar
        william442

        You need to work on your sense of humor.

    • 0 avatar
      mpresley

      And I’ve heard rumors that aliens abduct people, and then use the A-probe in order to extract vital information. Think about it. A dealer is going to treat someone, a potential trade-up buyer, like crap because they “only” spent 35 large for their car? Right.

      • 0 avatar
        Mathias

        The problem with many C class buyers, A4 buyers, and sometimes 3-series buyersis this: They are already stretching to cover the payment+insurance, and then have trouble coughing up the decidedly un-Toyota-like maintenance and repair costs.
        A friend of mine dated an Audi phone rep for a while — this is around the early ’00ghties, so credit was easy and consumption was chic — and she said 95% of the complaints came from A4 owners unhappy with the service experience and cost.
        That may be the source of this rumour… unhappy customers rarely feel they’ve been treated well.

  • avatar

    Because BMW offers new owners free scheduled maintenance, I’d say you can at least buy one of those with the confidence that the service has been done. Even if you don’t know how the car was drive you at least have a good idea of its service history. I guess the question would be how much you value fixed costs and how much of a nasty surprise you can afford. Would you rather pay a lot up front for the peace of mind of knowing you’ll have minimal ownership costs for the next 3-5 years or would you rather pocket that $ and put it in a savings account. Far as other suggestions go, if he’s going the European route, how about Audi/VW and Volvo? A friend of mine just got a CPO S80 and has had great experience with Volvo’s program (although they are admittedly not as fun as the Germans). For a more fun than Lexus CPO option, you’ve also got Infiniti and a G35/37.

  • avatar
    Doc

    I bought a 2007 335I CPO last year. It was a lease car but because the maintenance is free of charge, I think people tend to bring them in and have everything done. The good news is that because this work would be done at the dealer, I was able to see all of the records showing every bit of maintenance that was done.

    The car was in very good condition when I got it and still drives like new. So far, I have not had any troubles with the car. I had it in for the fuel pump recall the other day and got a brand new 528 for a loaner car.

    When I bought it, it had 30,000 miles. The warranty is extended to 100,000 miles and I had the option of purchasing an extended maintenance plan (which would have extended it to 70,000 miles. I did not think that it made sense at about $2,200.00 (if I remember correctly).

    I have talked to a number of people that have driven BMW’s into the 70K mileage range and I have not heard a lot of horror stories.

    • 0 avatar
      HerrKaLeun

      the fact that you consider 70 K miles without “lot of horror stories” a success, says a lot. It think even many domestic cars (and i don’t even mention simple $ 15K Corollas) make 170 K miles without a lot of horror stories.

      • 0 avatar
        Demetri

        If I have to take my car in to be repaired even once before 70k miles, I consider it a failure. I guess some people are just willing to put up with more bs than others, or maybe they actually enjoy going to a dealer/repair shop.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        If I have to take my car in to be repaired even once before 70k miles, I consider it a failure.

        Well, it would depend on what the trade-off is.

  • avatar
    quiksilver180

    I’m with Sajeev… I bought an 07 Lexus IS CPO for under $25k last year and both the car and the experience has been great. I’ve had a few hiccups that Lexus and the dealer have covered (squeaky brakes, CD player not ejecting the discs) and all have gone quite smoothly. Lexus gives you 3 years up front for warranty with full coverage. I hope the car won’t need much of maintenance, but it’s safe to have… and so far, I’ve covered at least $750 of the $2k extra of the CPO premium.

    At the time, I looked at BMW and Audi’s CPOs, and I believe (and I could be way off, but this is to the best of my knowledge attempting to look back) BMW and Audi added on two years to the warranty from original purchase date and Audi’s program covered bare essentials (no electrical components like navigation/audio) and seemed to be more pricey. For myself, I didn’t want to pay too much for repairs and felt like the IS was the way to go.

    Pretty much, just check each CPO program to see what it covers, for how long (if it’s added on to the original purchase date or from your time of purchase), and if you can use a loaner for no cost. If you can save $5k of the purchase price on a decent BMW/Merc, then save the change, but it’s more of a dang if you do, dang if you don’t.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Interesting that you quote a $2K premium for a CPO Lexus because a local Lexus dealer is pushing them trough a blitz of radio advertising and they state that they spend an average of $2k in maintenance and reconditioning CPO cars. How in the world a 2-3 year old car needs that much reconditioning is beyond me let alone a “luxury” car that is sold as being so durable and low maintenance.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        $2K is in the right ballpark, and might even be low. It’s an average, some cars will need brakes, others will need tires, some others will be behind on maintenance, and yet others will need paint repairs — and all will need thorough cleaning etc. It all adds up …

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        I am pretty sure the Lexus program is more strict than the MB and the MB program is pretty strict. Tires have to be at over 7/32″ tread depth, brakes at over 50% life remaining, all maintenance up to date, perfect body work, etc… The tires alone can be over $1000.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        For the most part the CPO cars are off lease vehicles with 30K or less on the clock. There should be no need to replace the tires or brakes and the only maintenance that should have been required were oil changes. But since we are talking about Toyota yeah it may need brakes and tires since they put reduced tread depth tires on and the factory and the friction material on the brakes is pretty thin too. My lowly Ford has traveled 115K and I’ve spent less than 2K on it excluding oil changes and tire rotations. I didn’t need to do anything until it reached 80K when it needed a set of tires and brake pads. At 100K it needed a set of spark plugs, fuel filter, and coolant change.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        So you seriously think that Toyota actually shaves the tread off standard issue tires at the factory??? And puts sub-standard brake pads on?

        My MR2 made it to 65k miles on the original pads. It still has the original factory battery. Performance tires do not last 80k miles no matter what they are on. Your “lowly Ford” probably isnt a performance oriented car. Thats why BMW tires dont last as long and cost more to replace.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        They don’t “shave” them they spec out the reduced tread depth. Tire mfgs build tires for auto mfgs to their specs. Take a look at Tirerack.com and reviews for BFG rugged trail TA. Ford and Toyota used them at the same time. The Toyota owners complain how crappy the tire is and how they only got 20-30K out of them while the Ford owners say the best, longest wearing tires they’ve owned and report 80K or more of use. The reason the Toyotas were delivered with 8/32″ of tread while the Fords came with the all-terrain industry standard of 13/32″ of tread. The difference is not as dramatic for their cars since the industry standard for passenger car tires is 10/32″ of tread and Toyota specs out that same 8/32″ of tread in most cases. I’ll have to look at the new Scion Xb the fleet I maintain just purchased for a salesman’s rig, to see if they are still doing it with the 11′s. The 08 I did the “30K service” on the day before yesterday will certainly need new tires and brakes before it clocks 40K. Tires were at 4/32 – 5/32″ of tread and pads were at ~30% front and ~25% rear.

        Chrysler was almost as bad spec’ing 8/32″ of tread and thin pads as well, not sure where they’ll go as a part of Fiat.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        Never mind the tread, what the hell is the compound made of where you’re getting 80K miles between tire changes? The things must be about as sticky as Teflon.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        People who drive appliances dont care how sticky it is, they never go fast around corners anyways. They care about how long they last. And manufacturers spec out a tire, and tread depth of that tire, to meet thier engineering targets for the suspension design. Toyota obviously chose one type of BFG tire that was more road oriented, since thier vehicles are supposed to feel like tall cars. And those tires dont last as long. That doesnt make it a bad tire, its just not how they designed it. My GTI came with soft decently sticky tires that barely lasted 35k miles. I replaced them with better tires for my needs, and I am very happy with them. I doubt I will get more than 30k miles out of them either.

        Thats what many people simply dont understand, the type of person who is more concerned with the cost of tire replacement and who is too much of a busy corporate executive to spend time on maintaining a car SHOULDNT BE BUYING AN ENTHUSIAST CAR. They make tons of boring appliances for you guys. Its not BMW’s fault that they spec out sticky expensive tires, or softer compound brake pads that dont last as long but perform better. Its also not thier fault if you dont drive thier cars to the level where you would even notice such differences.

      • 0 avatar

        “Thats what many people simply dont understand, the type of person who is more concerned with the cost of tire replacement and who is too much of a busy corporate executive to spend time on maintaining a car SHOULDNT BE BUYING AN ENTHUSIAST CAR. They make tons of boring appliances for you guys. Its not BMW’s fault that they spec out sticky expensive tires, or softer compound brake pads that dont last as long but perform better. Its also not thier fault if you dont drive thier cars to the level where you would even notice such differences.”

        This argument is lame. Consider “enthusiast” cars like the Miata that have managed to be very sporty without being unreliable money pits. The fact of the matter is that the German manufacturers have suckered in a group of people who will pay through the nose for their “German engineering”, whether they can afford to or not. It’s no surprise that the douchiest and most arrogant people in the “auto enthusiast” hobby tend to be those that only like European cars.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        First off, I am not talking about the repair costs when things break, I was referring to the cost of maintenance items that many people keep bringing up… bragging about how they got 70k miles out of a set of tires, like that has anything to do with the engineering quality of the car. Those people wouldnt be happy with any performance car, because performance cars tend to have softer tires, softer brake pads, more wear items. You cant just go to Pep Boys and drop the bargain special brake pads on your Miata (although, at least Pep Boys sells pads for Miatas, I dont think they sell GTI pads!).

        Second off, your statement that all European cars are unreliable moneypits is completely bogus. Mazda scored with the Miata, but they havent been as successful making any other cars as good or as fun. They also make the RX8, which has as bad (and equally as undeserved IMO) a reputation as VW and Audi. I dont give a cr@p if my car is German or Iranian, if I like how it drives and looks, I like it. I happen to like VWs, I wouldnt touch a Mk4 though. I wouldnt ever buy a BMW for the most part because of that douchebag image, and I think they are overpriced. But I can appreciate how nice an M3 drives, and how it has that certain feel that no one else can match. I cross-shopped the Mazdaspeed3 and the Civic Si, I just didnt like them as much. They are great cars, they have thier good points. If I could have swung the price, I would have gotten a new WRX, or a 2011 Mustang GT. But I am not going to hate on guys who drive M3s or S4s just because the chose a European car instead of my personal favorites.

  • avatar
    ajla

    With that price range could get you a nice CTS with the multi-port injected 3.6L, FE2 suspension, and LSD. I personally liked the CTS more than the 3-series or C-class, but I seem to be in the minority with that opinion.

    Of course, your personal feelings or social circle may preclude Cadillac ownership altogether.
    _____
    If you are willing to gamble on a foreign luxury car though, may I suggest checking out a Jag-wire? They have a unique element of pomp about them that you can’t get from Lexus, the prices will be even more attractive, and you won’t be joining the legions of same-y BMW/Audi/Merc owners.

    _____
    Or, maybe you should buy a Town Car and learn how to turn a wrench. It’s rewarding to work on a vehicle, and the skill might come in handy down the road.

  • avatar
    Silvy_nonsense

    Lots of good advice in this thread. Some things to keep in mind:

    The most important advice about buying a used car has been stated by others and has nothing to do with CPO: buy a car with complete maintenance records, take the car to an independent mechanic and pay for a pre-purchase inspection. An independent will disclose accident damage, unresolved problems, signs of hard use and other things the dealer will never tell you about, even for a CPO “luxury” car. Check the reliability (Consumer Reports, owner forums, etc.) for the the exact year, make, model and power train you want to buy. Generalities and stereotypes are not your friend when it comes to understanding reliability. You need to do the research.

    CPO or not, the warranty only covers unexpected problems – maintenance usually isn’t covered. You can always use a highly respected independent mechanic for maintenance work and only use the dealer for CPO/warranty work. (That’s good advice even for a “new” car.)

    CPO is just an extended warranty that is guaranteed by the Manufacturer/Importer rather than some third party company. Unlike a third party company could, the manufacturer will probably not go bankrupt, disappear and leave you with a worthless piece of paper.

    -Read- the CPO warranty so you know exactly what is covered. Don’t assume it’s exactly like the new car warranty. It usually isn’t.

    You don’t have to buy the CPO. If don’t want it, ask to have it removed and the price of the car will drop. If a third party extended warranty from a respected company offers better coverage, dump the CPO and get the third party warranty.

    The funny thing is that for a car that is proven to be reliable, you may be better off dumping the CPO and crossing your fingers. Yeah, something big -could- go wrong, but with reliable cars they usually don’t, especially if you’ve got all the maintenance records and had a thorough pre-purchase inspection. A CPO/extended warranty is a pretty expensive thing to buy if it’s just for peace of mind.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Highly unlikely that you’ll find a dealer that will “remove the CPO” and lower the price. To get that CPO the dealer had to jump through a bunch of hoops and done extensive inspection and maintence. Their costs are already sunk and dropping the warranty that is paid for by the mfg isn’t going to drop the price.

      • 0 avatar
        PlentyofCars

        Every dealer I have ever spoken to would sell me a CPO, less the CPO warranty. Obviously, if they already fixed it up, they’ll want more for it as a used car; but that would be the case for any used car CPO or not.

        Lexus dealers have to pay Toyota $995., so that is what they should discount. An Audi I once had it was $1,000 (which I paid, see further down below).

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        The dealer I work at will, because the used car manager is the stereotypical car salesman and won’t do the CPO work until he sells the car.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      I had the same experience. Not sure where you get your info, but there arent any “hoops” to jump through. You give them way too much credit. Its a warranty, plain and simple. They wont CPO a wrecked car or a repainted car, there are few rules on which cars qualify but thats it. They arent obligated to replace brakes or whatever, and they dont do the fluid changes until after you sign anyways. They can remove or add CPO to most cars they sell.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        As I said above, the MB program requires the brakes to be over 50% life remaining, and the tires at over 7/32″ tread depth. I have done many brake jobs and tires for CPO cars. For the CPO warranty to be valid, the technician, service manager, and sales manager have to sign the form. I can assure you that it will not get my signature if the work I quote when I do the CPO inspection is not done.

        Also, there are many rules. The checklist is long, and I had to take a class to be able to do CPO cars.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        I understand, but those are all things I simply dont care about. When I look at a used car, I will quickly see if the tires need to be replaced, I can usually see how much life is left on the pads. Those things can be nogotiated into the final price. I am not saying that the cars arent reconditioned somewhat, I know there are guidelines. My point is that its not like when you buy a refurbished iMac, that they took the entire thing apart and replaced the case with a brand new one. They meet points on a list, 90% of that list are simply common sense items that I would look at with any car. Its designed for the guy who cant tell if a car was resprayed, cant determine on his own if the brakes are working right, if the tires are shot, etc etc. Its just a safety net for the uninformed consumer.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I own an ’01 Z3 3.0 that I bought as a CPO in 2003 with about 20K miles on the clock. BMW included all maintenance for the duration of the 4 year 48k mile new car warranty, so I wasn’t too worried that the car hadn’t been maintained. In addition, there were indications that the previous owner was pretty obsessive about the car: he had bought a BMW car cover and a bra for the front. Finally, since all of this is logged, your dealer can show you the repair records; just ask him to black out the owner’s personal identifying information. And, I would imagine that first time owners of Benzes and BMWs take pretty good car of their cars, especially if they’re leased. (Lots of CPOs are off-lease cars.)

    My personal experience was good. They only repair my car had was a replacement of a noisy water pump, which the dealer volunteered to do at one of the regular service intervals.

    The BMW 3-liter engine has some known service issues: the valve cover gasket needs to be replaced around 60K miles and the expansion tank for the cooling system fails sometime after 60K miles. I recently had the gasket replaced; my independent shop guy is trying to talk me into prophylactically replacing all of that stuff in the front of the engine: (water pump, radiator, expansion tank, idler pulleys, serpentine belt) since the major pieces are subject to failure and the incremental labor, once you’ve pulled the radiator, to replace the rest of it is pretty small. However, since I drive the car only locally and know to shut down the engine immediately in the event of a cooling system failure, I’ll probably wait . . . and just call a tow truck.

    Obviously, if you’re getting an older CPO with more mileage (and fewer years left on the warranty) you should be more concerned about how the car was serviced and driven by the prior owner.

    Similarly, you should research the reliability of any car you’re considering by checking out Consumer Reports, True Delta, MSN Autos, repairpal.com and even JD Power. Even if you’re covered by a warranty, a car that’s always in the shop is a PITA; and there’s always the possibility that you will have to hassle with the dealer or manufacturer to make good.

    I would agree that you can buy from a private party who has all of the repair records for you to inspect and you can do a pre-purchase inspection, (as well as the homework I suggested above) and be fairly well protected. That said, not all private parties have a rational view of their car’s worth, know how to negotiate, have all of their records; and you may not know of a reputable, competent independent BMW or Mercedes shop where you can take the car for a meaningful inspection and where you can be told the “known issues” for the car you are considering.

    Regarding either of the cars you asked about, even a mechanic who specializes in them and loves them will tell you not to expect the kind of reliability that you can expect from a Honda or Toyota product. And repairs, even at an independent shop, are expensive.

    IMHO, the Lexus IS is a poor substitute for a 3-series. Most importantly, the back seat in the IS is a joke if you expect to carry adults. A 3-series is not palatial; but it’s workable. I’m 6’4″ and I’ve ridden in the back of a 3-series. The IS 350 is plenty quick, but the IS 250 (which is in your price range) is a gutless wonder, even if you get the manual.

    Alternatives I would suggest are an Acura TL from ’08 or earlier (avoids the horrid beak of the newer models). I’ve driven the 6-speed and was pretty impressed. Sure, with wrong-wheel drive, the Acura will be outclassed by the 3-series in handling; but it’s hardly a pig. Both the TL and the smaller TSX of the same vintage pass the “back seat” test for someone my size. I haven’t driven the TSX, so I can’t comment on how it drives, either with the 6-speed or the automatic. The Acura CPO program adds another year to the exiting 4-year comprehensive warranty and, IIRC, pushes out the “powertrain” warranty beyond the 7 years that is standard. When you read the fine print of the powertrain warranty, the only thing that it covers that is likely to fail and be expensive, is the transmission.

  • avatar
    PlentyofCars

    I once had a CPO Audi A4. It was back when Audi included the maintenance for 4yrs/50,000.
    (Like BMW)

    The car was 2 years old with 21,500 miles on it when I got it.

    Without the CPO, the car would have had a 2 year 28,500 mile warranty left.

    With the CPO it had a 4 year 78,500 mile warranty, with the all the maintenance up to 50,000.

    I did get the free complete set of brakes all around as well (new pads and rotors) which was worth a lot.

    So with the CPO it had a better bumper to bumper warranty than a new A4.

    Since a lot can go wrong between 50,000 and 100,000 miles, it was better than a new car after 50,000.

    All was covered 100%.

    I only paid two-thirds of the original MSRP, so it was a steal. The dealer basically threw in the CPO to sell me the car. I guess today used cars are a lot more.

  • avatar
    spyked

    Let’s seee, you WANT a Euro car. But would consider settling for something else? In this life, WHY oh WHY would you put yourself through that? There’s nothing snobby about spending your money on what you want.

    Get an Audi A4 or Saab and enjoy your life. Both brands have wonderful CPO programs. With those brands though you don’t need CPO, just be sure oil was changed on time (as with any car). Out of the German brands, I’d take any Audi and run it to 200k miles, easy, as I have with any VW product. MB next. BMW last. Besides, the new 5 series is the only German looking BMW out there, no CPO’s yet probably.

    Seriously, the difference between perceived maintenance costs on a Euro car vs. the high insurance costs and Asian look of a Japanese/Korean car is a wash. You’ve got to go with what you want.

  • avatar
    genopower@hotmail.com

    I agree that with proper maintenance German cars can do just fine. I have a 2006 GTI; original owner. No problems except for a recall by VW for coils and wheel bearings in the back changed under warranty. It has 80K on it. Brakes lasted 67K and I changed them myself. Parts were about 30% higher than for my wife’s Honda but part of the difference is that the uber cheap stuff isn’t available (would not buy it anyway). I would say you need to find a 1 owner car used. The GTI consumes oil at a rate of 1 quart/1500 miles, always has. I would be leery of a multiple owner car because they may have let the oil run repeatedly low. I never do.

    • 0 avatar
      Rada

      What’s the oil drain-refill capacity for GTI?

    • 0 avatar
      qa

      Interesting. I have an ’89 BMW 325i with 244k miles and it consumes that amount of oil. It worried me until I read your GTi story. I also owned a 91 Civic and i have to say, that is built like an industrial appliance. Extremely reliable. I kept the 325 because of the fun to drive factor. It isn’t overly complicated as newer cars and I just happen to know how to work on it. One friend warned me. BMW = Big Money Wasted. He’s probably right if you can’t fix it yourself.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        There is a HUGE difference between a 25yr old BMW with 244k miles and a 2006 basically new engine. Tolerances are much tighter, older German cars WERE known for using a little oil. New ones? Not so much. The fact is, at that low of consumption, troubleshooting why its happening isnt worth it, and the factory would consider it “within specs”. Plus, he is right, the biggest single factor in VW engine issues is low oil, so I watch the dipstick religiously. I dont have to take such care with my MR2 or 240SX. But in almost 2 yrs now I have never needed to add oil to any of the cars. I just watch the VW more because of all the horror stories you hear! LOL

        BTW, the 91 Civic was back when they were really fun to drive, not appliances!! I think I would have kept both, those cars are like the best 3-series and the best Civic ever.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Personally, I avoid all extended warranties – they are just another form of gambling, and on average the house ALWAYS wins. Put the money in a money-earning account.

    As with many things, education is the key to success. If you want a BMW, join one of the various forums and find out what the issues are and how to avoid them or deal with them without getting reamed.

    And always, always, always without exception, if you are paying out of your own pocket, avoid the dealer if at all possible. They are not your friend, and thier extremely high overhead for that fancy shop, showroom and “free” loaner cars means that any service work is going to cost you the Earth. And lest you think this is the perogative of the Germans, a good buddy was just reamed to the tune of $2700 to get his Accord an annual safety inspection sticker here in Maine. Somehow between last year and this year it suddenly needed all new brake and fuel lines to pass inspection (note the same dealership has been inspecting the car every year since new – no mention last year). But the fool paid it before he called me… Some service manager obviously had a boat payment due.

  • avatar
    wallstreet

    David,

    I suggest you read up on BMW’s CPO warranty. AFAIK, CPO warranty is a different animal comparing to a new car warranty.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      MB’s too. And nobody really knows what is covered. We have to run each part to see if it’s covered before we do the work. Just a recent example, the cables that drive the sunroof are covered, but the guides that support the glass and slide on the rails are not.

  • avatar
    spinjack

    Beware even a CPO vehicle!

    A good friend purchased a CPO BMW 330Ci. After owning it for several years he discovered about $12,000 in structural damage after a fuel tank mounting strap fell off while driving down the highway. That a car is CPO doesn’t mean it is any better than a non-CPO car. It just means you get a few more years of warranty. If you plan to keep the car past the CPO period, treat the purchase as if it was not CPO.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    If you drive only 10k a year, and you are as un-handy as you say, why not consider a new car lease instead? They have some sweet deals out there on the Euro cars, and those dealers are motivated to move new metal more than used. The used market is bad right now, and a used car is not always the best financial decision for every buyer. You dont meet many of the criteria for a smart used car buying decision.

    If you research and negotiate properly, you could do just as well on a lease as a used purchase, especially an overpriced CPO. No worries about maintenance, previous owners, or future horrors. Crunch the numbers, you might be very happy in a new 328.

  • avatar
    baggins

    I was faced with the same situation. Bought a new Accord. 4K off sticker and 0.9% financing. An E Class just isnt 2 times as good. Have you seen college costs lately?

    • 0 avatar
      Coley

      Amen. Best post today.

      I’m exhausted just reading all this advice of the necessary research and preparation to figure out which German models are lemons and which are sort of OK, hopefully.

  • avatar
    jmo

    Or at least opt for a car that you can track down the history to the nth degree.

    This is a serious question: Other than oil changes, what maintenance items are called for in the first 36k miles that will impact the projected longevity of a Mercedes or BMW (or any car)?

  • avatar
    jjf

    In the days before CPO and carfax (1998), when I was young and naive, I purchased a 1997 BMW 328i with 13K miles. The price seemed really good and the car looked nice. Now I had some concerns about the some paint specs I saw on the trim pieces and had the car brought in under lights. The salesman, who seemed like an upstanding guy, assured me that the car was perfect and that was normal. I thought of course BMW would only decent sales personnel so I accepted his proclamation. Imagine my shock when I learned that the car had been in a previous accident before I got a chance to wreck it. In the 2 years I could stand to own it it racked up about 5K in warranty work for unexpected things like strut tower covers falling off, sun roof stuck open – i.e. things that get jarred in a severe accident. Not only that but it never drove “right” and was downright dangerous to drive in the wet.

    That being said I would buy German again – even another used BMW. For the last 8 years I’ve driven an exceedingly reliable Subaru. The Subie now needs a new head gasket at 90K, and while I could pay 2K fix it and drive it another 5 years cheaply I don’t want to. We’ve been bored with it for awhile and this gives us a good excuse to change rides. I never really bonded with the Subie, but kept it because it gave such good service. The European car bug has bitten me again and is overriding my inner cheapskate.

    As another poster implied life is short so get what you want and don’t settle. Chances are you’ll be fine, but if not live and learn. My advice is to learn to spot resprays, which is a good skill for any used car buyer.

    CPOs can be a good deal, but they can also mask wear and tear. Lease returns seem to be a fairly safe bet, but I’m not sure about a former corporate vehicles, former dealer loaners, or rentals. Those will have been driven by multiple people and chances are at least 1 was abusive.

    Good luck with whatever you get.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      I do not find lease vehicles to be well maintained at all. The ones that dont include scheduled maintenance just do the bare minimum to get by, esp at close to end of the lease. The cars that do include maitenance, do not, IMO, offer service nearly as much as its needed. Most people change thier oil every 3k miles. Sure, its probably not necessary that much, but its cheap insurance for longevity. My mom’s BMW, with “free” maintenance, didnt require the first oil change until 12k miles. If she wanted it done sooner, she had to pay for it. You are basically trusting the manufacturer to keep the car running, and they are not too terribly motivated to make sure your car is going to last 100-200k miles.

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    A lot of good advice. Another thing to check is the CPO system itself. Not all are equal. I know for a fact that the VW program is very highly rated and I have had good success with it and GM’s… isn’t.

  • avatar
    Matthew Sullivan

    If you want a driving experience comparable to Yurrip’s finest along with Japanese (-ish) reliability, test drive a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X.

    If you happen to be one of the people for whom the driving position works (the seats don’t adjust for height and the steering wheel does not adjust for rake), you will likely be impressed.

    If you’re over 30, there is also an anti-snob snob factor in owning an Evo: you know you look like a tool driving it, therefore you must appreciate its driving awesomeness so much that you’ll accept that.

    Edit 1: I’ve driven a lot of cars (various M cars and Porsches, Vette, Viper, etc), and the only car I ever thought was a better driver’s car than either of my Evos was the Porsche Cayman S.

    Edit 2: Do NOT, under any circumstances, buy a pre-owned Evo. What the average Evo owner does to their car angers the Car Gods.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      As a die-hard Fast and Furious fan, I love the Evo. I love the STI even more personally, and the Skyline is the holy grail of import tuner fantasies. But non of those are comparable to the feel of an M3 or Porsche 911. They are great cars no doubt, and intense performance machines… by the numbers, they are there. But the feel isnt the same.

      I do agree though, thou shalt not buy used EVO or STI!!

  • avatar
    TOTitan

    If you drive a lot of miles, the big Japanese cars are the only way to go. My wife is now on her third Q45. All three have been 4 yr old lease returns with around 60K miles that I paid $20,000-22,000 for. We kept the first two until they had over 200,000 miles without any major repairs. Her current ride is an 03 Q that just hit 140,000. So far I’ve replaced the battery once and the tires once.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      Yes but the point of the letter was that he doesnt drive a lot of miles. I like the Q, for a big luxury sedan that is reliable and nice but cheap to buy thanks to dismal resale value. But its no German car counterpart.

      • 0 avatar
        TOTitan

        I agree, thankfully the Q is no German car counterpart. When comparing 03 models, one will find that the Q has better build quality, more power, is quieter, and has the reliability that German car owners can only dream about. The status of owning something German made doesn’t mean much when your wife and daughters are 100 miles from home and their car wont start.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        Its nothing to do with status. The Q is a nice car, dont take offense. Its also a HUGE car, fairly softly sprung, its an executive express. Its not a bad choice of car if thats what you want to drive, or if you send your poor wife and daughters off in it and are so concerned that the are going to break down.

        But compare it to an M5, or even a regular 5-series, on a twisty mountain road, driving it for pure enjoyment. Hell, take my GTI on the same road, all that Q power wont matter one bit, I will have much more fun. He is looking for a sports sedan, not a dishwasher.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    I’d love for someone at TTAC to write a piece on the economics of car manufacturing. It would be instructive for everyone, I think, and probably help answer the conundrum which is: Why are these well built, solid, fun to drive German cars to damn fussy to maintain?

    Part of the reason is that remaining price competitive is very, very difficult. Audi’s designers wants to build a nicer interior than BMW? Well, they’re going to have to shave a few pennies off of something else to keep the overall cost of the vehicle down. BMW’s engineers wants to put a new direct injection I6 into their cars that cost a lot of money to engineers? Well, they’re going to have to find some savings elsewhere.

    I think you get the picture. Each manufacturer needs to keep a competitive edge and run with that edge, be it the drivetrain, the dynamics, the exterior and interior design and feel. Each of those entails something of a tradeoff. Compare that to your run of the mill Accord or Camry which is fairly simple and takes the Soyuz versus Space Shuttle approach: it’s functional, reliable and efficient, but ain’t nowhere as sexy or capable.

    I will also +1 on the comment that most complaints come from the entry-level buyers. Those people buying (er, leasing) the 3-series, A4, C’s of the world are often stretching to get into these cars. They’re known as “aspirational buyers”. Sticker shock out of warranty or for regular maintenance is a problem. That said, finding a trusted independent shop is crucial to lowering that pain. I too have a friend who was quoted $1200 for a BMW brake job at the dealership and I laughed my ass off. My independent Audi shop performed new pads and rotors all around for around $550. It’s true, the dealerships will give you a loaner (usually), but hell, it’s still cheaper for me to rent a car for $29 per day than to take it to the dealership so they can give me an A4 to tool around in.

    What it boils down to is your tolerance for pain. If you can afford it, then who cares, right? If it’s mildly painful but you can still afford it and your time is more valuable than haggling over a $1200 brake job – who cares? But, if you really cannot afford that brake job, cannot take the time or afford the lost productivity/time from a breakdown, then you really should reconsider German car ownership.

  • avatar
    Guvnah

    Sorry- I need to respond here. I have owned 7 BMWs and yes, they are VERY expensive to own and maintain. I did not have a CPO warranty, and got tired of my mechanic saying “your car is ready, and that will be $2,500″..let alone telling my boss I had to go back to the shop. I bought a 2007 Miata and it handles BETTER than my lowered BMWs and drives better. Oh, and I will not need to go the the mechanic with this one other than regular maintenance. Yes, I loved the way the BMWs drove, but most of the new ones are so heavy that they are not a fun as the old ones, let alone my Miata

  • avatar
    findude

    The word from my brother-in-law who works in a Mercedes-Benz service department is to see if any electrical component was replaced or any electrical troubleshooting done on a 2008-2008 MB. If there EVER was (even if fixed the first time), turn and run and never look back.

    Regarding the MB/BMW mystique for enthusiasts as driver cars, I think a majority of it comes from the driving dynamics offered by a rear-wheel-drive platform with independent rear suspension and high end shocks/struts in combination with great seat ergonomics. Words cannot express how much I wish other manufacturers would give this configuration a committed effort.

    To be blunt, in the 20-25k range the OP is an aspirational buyer. I second the recommendation to get a pre-beak, loaded, 6-speed manual Acura TL.

  • avatar
    Apollo

    I’ve got an ’08 328i. Love it. It’s more expensive than other cars I’ve owned, but it’s worth it. Just ask yourself whether you’re willing to pay more for a better driving experience. I am.

    According to TrueDelta, the ’08 328i is much more reliable than the model years around it, for whatever reason, so perhaps the experience wouldn’t be the same on later models (plus, after the ’09 refresh, the materials in the newer models feel somewhat cheaper, and the ’11 I got as a loaner last time made a distressingly unpleasant sound above 6000 rpm), but mine’s been solid.

    If the prior owners didn’t properly maintain it (i.e. change the oil twice as often as BMW recommends, and change the ATF at 50k), those costs won’t hit until the car’s over 100k miles. With the (free) maintenence schedule they have now, it’s plain that these cars are supposed to last a trouble-free 100k, and then become basketcases. Since it sounds like the original letter writer isn’t going to keep the car that long, a BMW should be a fine, mostly worry-free purchase.

    • 0 avatar
      JJ

      You got a MT 328i as a loaner? Sweet. I thought they were hard to come by in the US. Otherwise, you were revving a slushbox loaner 328i up to 6000rpm? I pity the fool who ends up buying that car as a CPO…(Mostly because you’re probably not the only one to do this with a loaner vehicle).

      I agree by the way that reports of horror stories with German sports sedans seem to be highly exaggerated if you’d ask me. Especially considering this particular situation (low yearly mileage, relatively new car). It’s not like you see E90s stranded on the side of the road every day. Both the current C-class and 3-series have also been around for a couple of years now so if you’re going to have an 08/09/10 model most of the glitches will likely have been taken care of.

      Oh, and I’d have the 3-series by the way, even if it’ll soon be replaced. Better handling, better looking interior (the refreshed C’s interior looks ok, previous one belongs in a B-Class at best), sweeter engine and (subjectively) I think it looks better.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        Is it just BMWs that have problems if you use the full rev range regularly, or have you experienced this in other cars? None of my vehicles seem to mind it.

      • 0 avatar
        Apollo

        I haven’t seen an MT loaner. It was a slushbox, like mine (I think it’s a pretty good slushbox – one of the few that will actually hold gears in manual mode). I drove it no different than I drive my own, but frankly, the kickdown button makes it too easy to visit the redline.

        I talked to a guy with an ’10 328i MT at a track event, and his didn’t make the unpleasant sound at the top of the rev band. Perhaps it was just that one loaner? I’m very sensitive to engine sounds, and I love the sound of the 328. Subdued, almost silent in casual driving, but kinda mean at the top.

        About reliability – I think people have largely gotten spoiled. I remember when I was a kid, you actually saw cars broke down on the side of the road on a fairly regular basis. I gripe about certain requirements my car has, but I simply can’t fathom it leaving me stranded. Heck, I’ve got a ’96 Protege as something of a project car, and I’d be flabbergasted if it left me stranded. Modern cars are extremely reliable, and if the Germans cost a little more to maintain reliability, it’s still a tremendous bang for the buck.

  • avatar
    vvk

    As far as I can tell, the biggest advantage of CPO programs is the special financing you get if you are not a cash buyer. Sometimes you also get other incentives that you would not otherwise receive.

    As other’s have said, worry about previous owner and prior history. If you do your homework, chances are you will find a great car. I have owned several BMWs and Mercedes (and SAABs and Volvos) and only one of them was a CPO car. That one was also by far the most problematic (but still extremely reliable and exceedingly cheap to own). It was also the most loaded, which was a contributing factor. If you want to minimize your risk, try to find a bare bones model with manual seats, no leather, no options, etc. It is better to buy a higher class base model than a fully loaded lower class car. Also, it is far better to buy an older car with more miles and stellar history than a newer, lower mile car with skeletons in its closet.

    All these Japanese fanboys who say to buy an Acura or some other crappy, boring car — don’t believe them. BMWs are well worth their price and are easily the lowest cost of ownership premium cars you can buy, especially when bought second hand. Life is too short to drive a cheap Japanese copy.

  • avatar
    tomm

    We have 3 cars in our family: an out-of-warranty BMW, a recent BMW CPO, and a recent Lexus CPO. Each manufacturer has very different CPO programs.

    BMW CPO in my opinion is the best – it is fully transferrable and is bumper-to-bumper. It doesn’t include free maintenance after the 48,000 mile, 4 year new car warranty expires but BMW was offering free 2 year maintenance extension on CPO’s when we recently purchased. And BMW maintenance includes brakes, wipers, everything except tires. Steve is incorrect to state that a CPO does not say anything about how the car was serviced. If a car is not serviced per BMW recommendations, it cannot be certified (there as a 2 year M5 on the lot in exactly this situation).

    Lexus CPO is 3 years same as a new car warranty but is not transferable. Also, Lexus does not come with any maintenance program other than first service after purchasing. When I bought mine, the dealer was able to provide a full service printout from when the car was new, which was helpful.

    Advice given to me in the past is that paying a lot extra for a Lexus CPO isn’t worth it because they simply don’t break, whereas it makes more sense for the BMW. BTW, my out-of-warranty 540i has been the best car I’ve ever owned, although I agree expensive to maintain, so I have a hard time relating to all of the BMW horror stories on TTAC.

  • avatar
    kenwood

    Keep your eyes open for financing deals. MB is currently offering 1.99% on 07-09 CPOs and I think they just upgraded their plan that allows 135K miles and 2 additional years (it’s about damn time). I’d aim for something one year old and low miles. Given 10K mile oil changes, there’s less chance of neglect. I’d avoid hi-performance cars knowing that they’ve been hooned. Having said that, if you’re going to trade it in after the warranty is up, have you considered leasing instead? As for a C300, eh, I don’t like the quality of the interior so I’d opt for the BMW or the Audi if you have to buy German. Have you thought about a CPO Jag XF?

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    Always do your research on a used car, ANY brand. Check the full records, check the CarFax, and also check Experian’s AutoCheck because CarFax can sometimes miss big problems. I made the mistake of not doing that with a supposedly “bulletproof” Lexus, and I paid for it with electrical and mechanical problems galore. By 115K it was all used up and ready for the scrap heap.

    Provided the CPO car you are considering is not outrageously more expensive than a non CPO equivalent, I don’t see any reason not to do it. Last time I checked BMW was offering extended free service through the CPO period or 0.9 financing, and Audi will let you extend Audi Care for the CPO part of the warranty. The C-class should stand for “cheap class”, that’s what it feels like. The 3 series has ALWAYS been a way better car.

    If you want a Japanese alternative, skip Acura (nose heavy, cheap interior) and Lexus (bland, cheap/cramped interior) and head to the Infiniti dealer. The G35/37 is likely to be a lot more reliable long term than a 3/A4/C, it’s not an Accord in a nice suit like the Acura, and your friends will not curse you for damning them to the back seats like the Lexus.

    • 0 avatar
      Japanese Buick

      Is Experian Autocheck the one that the insurance industry uses? It’s been a while since I bought a car but I did learn that you can also run a prospect’s VIN number by your insurance agent and they can check a database the insurance industry maintains to look for past claims. Back when I did it they called it the CLUE (comprehensive loss underwriting experience, IIRC) database, but it may have morphed or changed names in the years.

  • avatar
    hurls

    When I bought my e46 wagon CPO I asked for (and received) all of the service records for the car. Granted, I had a relationship with the service manager (bought several cars there, it was a tiny little BMW/Saab only dealership, spent way too much time having my crappy saab repaired there, etc.), but I asked for them and got them.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    I looked at a few CPO BMW 3-series sedans last year with a couple of friends. We couldn’t figure out why anyone would pay that much for a used car instead of buying new.


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