By on November 18, 2013

Vincent writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I plan to by a Town and Country Touring-L within the next month (hat tip to Jack Baruth!). One vehicle is a 2012 with 41.1k miles, has the Certified Pre-Owned 7yr/100,000mi warranty and listed for $19.0k. The other is a 2011 with 43.3k miles w/o CPO listed for $17.0k. Both are otherwise almost identical.

My question is whether or not it the $2,000 is worth it for the CPO vehicle. The primary difference is another 2yrs to the warranty (actually, 3yrs b/c one is a 2011 and the other is a 2012), and mileage limit stays at 100kmi, but then again I’m thinking that $2,000 is a lot of repairs for a vehicle. Then again, the piece of mind is worth something to me, but is it worth $2,000?

Sajeev answers:

Is this adequate information to make a fair assessment of the situation? The sad reality is–much like how the 24 hour news cycle distills impossibly complex situations into easy to digest bits of polarizing bullshit–deeper investigation nets the truth. It won’t net you a Peabody award, it merely ensures you pick the best machine.

So you say the difference is the warranty. I say the difference is condition and longevity of wear items and THEN the modest bonus of a warranty on a non-European vehicle.

More to the point, pull up the CPO inspection paperwork on that unit, and get a PPI on the other one. Inspecting for obvious mechanical problems, accident damage, etc is still a good idea in this age of CARFAX and DIY forums, but I’m more concerned about those wear items.

  • A CPO Warranty doesn’t cover wear items, so how new are they? Tires, brakes, etc.
  • What did the PPI uncover about wear items?
  • Do both vehicles have a service history? If you get lucky, both were serviced by the dealer: the digital ink spilled is rather easy to spot with a visit to a Chrysler service drive.
  • Does the PPI make the non-CPO vehicle a better value…or worse value?
  • Learn how to inspect some of the basics of a PPI yourself, and feel confident you can answer the questions asked here.

No decision made, go back and do your homework. Or not: because the odds of making a horrible decision are less than likely. Short of major collision repair or flood damage, modern cars are pretty good.

Send your queries to [email protected] Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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19 Comments on “Piston Slap: CPO, PPI…STFU and Buy?...”

  • avatar

    Getting those reports is the best way to make a decision. The reports may not always be accurate so try to get more then one to collaborate info. Of course the manufacturer/dealer service reports are the best, but sometimes harder to come by. Even just googling a vin number can turn up surprising information

  • avatar

    Follow-up questions (not that I asked the first one), is it possible to find a Panther that does not have “fleet use” on the carfax? Does it matter?

  • avatar

    Forget all the CPO/non-CPO stuff, just get the 2012. Mechanical things were improved from the first year to second year of production of this refreshed model and new engine that will make you not regret getting the 2012.

  • avatar
    Mr Imperial

    Get your hands dirty, or take the vehicle to a trusted mechanic nearby for an inspection. Once determined, buy the one in better overall condition. CPO warranty be darned.

    When the wife and I bought her 2003 Camry, I found a copy of Toyota’s CPO checklist and used it to guide me in inspecting the vehicle.

    The General Manager was impressed with my thoroughness, and jokingly (I think) wondered if I wanted a job :)

  • avatar

    Given near equal inspection reports, and assuming the two cars aren’t sitting on the same lot, use the existence of the 2011 to move the price of the 2012 down another $1,000 and buy the 12.

    Note Danio’s comments above. Assuming he is correct, a compelling argument.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    First off, read the warranty and see what’s covered. On a gasoline engine, you would be surprised at what is NOT covered in a so-called “powertrain warranty.” Secondly, remember that all CPOs are not equal. Chrysler’s is one of the worst. It only gives you a 3-month extension of the comprenhensive limited warranty (that covers pretty much everything. IIRC, Ford gives you a year and GM gives you 2 years . . . much better.

    I would say a two year comprehensive warranty eliminates the need for a PPO; a 30-day comprehensive warranty does not. That’s what makes CarMax cars such terrible buys: they will not let you get a PPO, they will not allow you access to the manufacturer’s database to determine how the car has been maintained, and — unlike in the past — their cars are not any cheaper than anyone else’s.

    Also, was has been discussed a lot here: age is usually more important than the number of miles driven (unless, of course, one or the other determines whether the new-car warranty has expired). So, get a PPO on the newer car; and if it passes, buy it.

    • 0 avatar

      GM’s certified program is 1 year or 12K.

      And agreed Chrysler’s is no longer that great in terms of warranty coverage. We bought 2 CPO Chrysler in the past and they extended the basic warranty to 5 years, with the power train being 8/80K.

      Although they still give you “first dayI rental” which you can get a rental if you don’t feel like sitting at the dealer for 30 minutes for an oil change.

      I would go with the CPO van, haggle the price down enough to toss in the added care plus on the warranty.

  • avatar

    Doesn’t Chrysler sell a lifetime warranty for used vehicles less than 4 years old that you can get for around $2000? Note – lifetime means until it’s worth less than the repair. See Chrysler Lifetime Maximum Care. Not a recommendation of a specific site, just a reference:

  • avatar

    In my area of the country (at least 500 miles of Gallup, NM anyway) the price difference between CPO and non-CPO late model cars has more or less evaporated. I noticed that doing an Auto Trader search as a little mental exercise. Sedan, V6, CPO and then Sedan, V6, Used within the same model years.

    I guess for myself it would be a no-brainer. But you’ve actually found a price difference.

    As Jaron mentions above perhaps you could dicker about the Lifetime Warranty, negotiate a deal that includes the lifetime warranty.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I would suggest running both VIN numbers through a Chrysler dealer to get the history, due to the mileage they are or were under factory warranty, companies aren’t dumb, they have warranty repairs done for free like everyone else. This will give you an idea if the vehicle in question has gremlins or not.

    As for the warranty, if you buy a Chrysler factory warranty, Mopar service contract I believe is what they are calling it, you can get more than two years for the 2k price range, probably closer to four or five from now, not back to inservice date. Better and longer than the CPO warranty.

  • avatar

    You can buy a Chrysler warranty on your own and the prices ARE negotiable. There is even a dealership in Kalamazoo, MI who will sell a lifetime, max care Chrysler warranty ($100 deductible) for just a Starbucks pumpkin latte under $2K.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, there are seveal dealers who sell the plans at discounted prices nationally, so you can even compare prices at that level. I won’t promote one over another, but they’re out there on the internet.

  • avatar

    I’ll go against the grain, here would me my criteria:

    Auto trans above 4 speeds and/or CVT?
    DI (vs multiport FI)?
    PZEV (or other weird emissions changes)?
    Odd cylinder config (5 or 3)?
    All controls in touchscreen (i.e. HVAC, trip computer)?

    If you answer yes to more than three of those I’d spring for the warranty no matter what the marque. You might get through the initial 50K period without a claim but I would bet before 100K you’ll be making one. Car technology essentially become perfected by 2000 and for a number of reasons they went back to the drawing board and mucked it all up again only instead of it being gradual changes its all at once.

  • avatar

    Hello all, I’m the OP. Thanks very much for the feedback! A couple of responses:

    – I think the 2011 and 2012 are similar, no? They both have the Pentastar 3.6L engine and 6AT (i.e. the one that Jack originally reviewed).

    – The website was an excellent post, thank you! That changes the dynamic of the equation. I can get a Lifetime Added Care warranty for ~$2,000 and a Lifetime Maximum Care for $2,600. The differences are in non-essential items. The website even posts sample contracts:

    I’m using this as leverage, to get the non-CPO to do better.

    – Additionally, I found out that the dealer can CPO the currently non-CPO vehicle, for a price that hasn’t yet been revealed. Knowing the Mopar contract prices makes this a negotiable item.

    – Mopar Owners Connect has a ton of information about Chrysler cars, as long as you have the VIN. Some even say what fleet the car went to (e.g. Enterprise Rent a Car, Hertz Rent2Buy), and it always has more info than what the dealers list on the website (even the exceedingly rare Trailer Tow Group).

    – I’m curious as to all the recommendations for a PPI. Is it only for the wear items? I can look at the pads/rotors, check tire tread and the fluids, bounce the corners, etc. What else should I be looking for on a vehicle that still has the 5yr/100kmi warranty?

  • avatar

    I’m in a bit of a rush so sorry if I missed something in the OP or in the later comments which I haven’t read. A lot depends on how long you plan to keep the vehicle and what the price differences is. You can buy the same extended warranties from Chrysler that you can on a PPO vehicle without buying it, probably will cost more though. I woud want one on a minivan, especially one that I planned to keep a while because of the high amount of wear on that transmission as well all the power operated doors and liftgate that I’m assuming the T&C has.

  • avatar

    Nearly every 1-3 year old Chrysler minivan for sale is a former rental. Count on it. And yes, they do get abused by customers but I’m more worried about the way the lot jockeys start up the engine stone cold, redline it in every gear moving it from the front lot to the back lot (or the back lot to the front lot), then shut it down and walk away. I see it every time I go to the airport.

    So I’d suggest doing a Carfax to try and find the needle-in-the-haystack non-rental or try to find a 2013 on the lot that some poor dealer is desperate to move.

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