By on September 2, 2016

Honda CPO Civic

If you were to listen to the Experts Of The Internet, you might become convinced that Certified Pre-Owned is the only way to go when buying your next whip (I like to say “whip” because I know it annoys many of you). In this case, the experts aren’t entirely wrong — after all, there’s a lot to like about CPO. Late-model cars in like-new condition at a cost that’s considerably less than new, extended warranties, 1,857-point inspections — it’s all good stuff, right? If you play your hand correctly, you can get an outstanding deal and a car that will inspire confidence.

But CPO is a giant pain-in-the-ass for many dealers. Knowing what we know about the dealership world, is it any wonder that a good number of them game the system? If you’re looking to go CPO, you’ll want to know the tricks they pull, and how they affect you, the consumer.

You might be asking, why wouldn’t the dealers like CPO? After all, it means they can charge more money for a car.

Well, yes … and no.

Most consumers have no idea what Certified means. It’s a term that has yet to gain a lot of traction in the mainstream. In fact, at a certain third-party site that decorates itself in orange, less than two percent of customers search specifically for CPO inventory. To the rest of the non-educated car-buying world, Certified often just means “more expensive.”

This is a real problem for dealers, who already struggle to hire salespeople who can accurately describe the value of used inventory. It’s also a problem on those same third-party sites, some of which (you know who you are, CarGurus) use a complex and confusing algorithm to tell customers whether or not a deal is “good.” Even on the sites that don’t actively denigrate their own customers’ inventories, it’s not a positive thing to have the most expensive 2013 Lincoln MKZ in the market.

And then there’s the actual certification process, which is a lengthy and expensive ordeal for the dealership. Every day that a car isn’t on the lot is a day that a dealer is paying to floorplan it and a day that it’s depreciating. Certifying a car can often take up to three days or more, which eats into dealer profit and ties up a service bay that can be used for customer pay work.

That’s the negative side. There must be some positives for the dealer, right?

Of course. On that same orange site, some OEMs, most notably General Motors, have agreements to place all Certified cars into the Premium listing section for free. As a result, CPO cars are seen in many more searches than non-CPO cars.

If they’re actually able to sell the CPO inventory at full pop, then they’ll make more money in gross sales. CPO should, in theory, average about $2,200 per copy. Regular used inventory averages about $1,800. That’s not a bad return on investment (well, not in the car business, anyway).

Most important is the requirement by many OEMs for dealers to take part in CPO programs as a condition of dealer stairstep bonus plans. Ford, for example, does not allow a dealer to participate in its premier program unless the dealer certifies a certain percentage of vehicles. Why is certification so important to the OEM?

Simple. It raises the residual value of used cars, which adds to the prestige of the brand and allows it to command a higher dollar amount for new inventory. In theory, it should be a win-win.

However, dealers wouldn’t be dealers if they didn’t find a way to break the system.

There was an extremely high-profile case last year where a GM dealer was certifying cars that had outstanding recalls. Amazingly, the Federal Trade Commission fined neither the dealer nor GM for this behavior; they just got a very stern hand-smacking.

The most common way dealers break the CPO model is to list models as CPO in their DMS systems that aren’t actually CPO. Why? Again, they get premier placement on third-party sites, which might normally cost as much as $150 extra per car. But there’s a sketchier, shadier reason that they do it, too.

Let’s say a customer comes in on a 2013 CPO Maibatsu Monstrosity that’s listed at $25,000, but the customer thinks that the price is too high and wants to negotiate.

“No problem,” says Mr. Shady Dealer. “We’ll just de-certify the car for you and take $1,500 off of the price.” De-certify? How is this done, you may be asking? Well, duh — the car was never certified in the first place. It’s a neat way for the dealer to seemingly discount a car, when, in reality, the dealer is selling the car for exactly as much as it had hoped.

This also means that the dealer can avoid paying the fees and reconditioning costs involved with certifying a car unless the customer specifies that he’d like to have it certified. Less time in shop, less cost for the dealer — it’s all good. Well, not quite.

There are huge penalties involved with CPO shenanigans — not only from the OEM, but also from the lawman. FTC regulations and local laws are very specific about what must be stated regarding the warranty being offered in any used car advertisement. Advertising a car with a warranty and then removing that warranty is a big no-no. Dealers also can’t charge more for a warranty that is being offered by the manufacturer as a condition of purchase. (Extended Service Plans are another ball o’ wax.) By “certifying” the car at the customer’s request, that’s exactly what the dealer is doing: charging the customer to include a warranty. The FTC will fine the living daylights out of dealers for this sort of behavior, up to $16,000 per car.

Additionally, OEMs will occasionally send an auditor in to inspect CPO records at dealerships, and failing such an audit can result in huge, six-figure fines, and even the loss of the franchise. But, as we’ve discussed many times here, much to the bewilderment of some of the B&B, most dealers are not smart. They will risk the fines to make an extra dollar or two here and there.

So if a dealer tries to play CPO games with you, let him know that you know what they’re up to. You might even manage to scare him into a discount or two. After all, if he’s gonna play, why shouldn’t you?

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80 Comments on “Bark’s Bites: Oh, the Games They Play with CPO...”

  • avatar

    So….. is there any advantage in buying a CPO car? Seems like a pointless gamble now. How much worse could a non-CPO car be?

    • 0 avatar


      • 0 avatar

        Not sure about CPO warranties. You can buy a factory extended warranty in many cases for much less than the extra charged for a CPO vehicle. Factory warranties are good nationwide

        I found a Nissan dealer in California who was willing to sell me a factory warranty on my wife’s Altima for half what my dealer quoted for the same. I paid my dealer for the inspection to enable the warranty to be issued by Nissan.. So for less than $1000 I got a good warranty all the way to year 8/100,000 miles.

        If you can get a factory warranty for $1000 why pay more than $2000 for CPO. Is the CPO warranty good for as long and usable nationwide? Even if it is why pay more for it?

        • 0 avatar

          CPO warranty is from the manufacturer, so it’s as good as the factory warranty and is honored by any franchise dealer. Depending on the manufacturer it could be a very good value (up to 6 years, unlimited mileage). The better ones also include things like roadside assistance, trip interruption reimbursement, free scheduled maintenance, and special financing programs as well.

          • 0 avatar

            They are rarely as good as the original warranty. All sorts of exclusions for instance. Typically a deductible as well.

            CPO is just another form of extended warranty, and you can usually do better in the aftermarket if you feel you can’t own the car without it.

          • 0 avatar

            CPO warranties involve more in depth inspections so you have some guarantee that the vehicle is in good condition.

            There are factory backed extended warranties available on vehicles under a certain age that do not require any sort of inspection, like the one offered to JPWhite by a dealer who would probably never see the vehicle.

          • 0 avatar

            “CPO warranties involve more in depth inspections so you have some guarantee that the vehicle is in good condition.”

            That’s what they want you to think.


            (15 minutes long)

          • 0 avatar

            If the dealer chooses not to follow the mfg rules, that’s on them. It’ll catch up to them eventually and they’ll be forced to eat an expensive repair or get audited and get punched in the d1ck. After that, they follow the rules.

            For the most part, they’re consistent with the guidelines. Of course there will always be the few who aren’t.

          • 0 avatar

            So the CPO warranty seems to be identical to an extended factory warranty.

            The only difference I see with CPO is there is a promise that the car has been reconditioned to a minimum standard.

            @danio3834 The extended warranty I got from Nissan did require an 180 point inspection to be performed before the CA dealer would issue the warranty (as is required by Nissan). (Had the inspection surfaced an issue I’d have to pay for the repair – the car was in good shape for no additional expense was necessary).

        • 0 avatar

          Unfortunately in VA the anti-consumer, anti-competition dealer lobby enacted legislation recently forbidding out of state dealers from selling extended service contracts (ESC) in VA without posting a bond.

          You can imagine how many out of state dealers have done that — I think it’s zero.

          So with heavy-handed anti-competitive legislation stifling competition ESC prices are higher in VA and may make a CPO a better deal (all depends on the individual case, of course).

        • 0 avatar

          I must ask this how many miles on the Altima.

    • 0 avatar

      special financing and incentives are often available on CPOs

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      Without my turbo Legacy being CPOed I would have had a tougher time getting it fixed two days after I bought it when it started stumbling and throwing CELs. I bought it in another state and was able to take it to my local dealer to get fixed for free without hassle.

      Sure it took three attempts and I was never provided a loaner, but it got fixed eventually.

      it was 3 years old and had 37k miles.

    • 0 avatar

      Seems like if the car is one-owner, off-lease, in top shape, there’s more chance it will be CPO’d. That’s how i got my Honda Civic a while back. Honda’s CPO benefits are probably worst of all the automakers; measly 12 month powertrain warranty, and not even special financing terms. But knowing that i was getting a one owner car that was leased for couple years before i got it, while most of the non-CPO’d similar cars on the market had some sort of accident damage in the past or were not in good looking shape, sealed the deal for me.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m on my fourth straight CPO car. As with any warranty, it’s a crapshoot. If the car has issues, the warranty coverage *definitely* pays for itself. If the car is relatively trouble-free, the manufacturer wins. I’ve had both experiences. When the motor mounts failed on my STS and it covered the $2300(for *motor* mounts?) bill, I was quite pleased.

      Also, most CPO programs come with roadside assistance.

    • 0 avatar

      Warranty and financing incentives are probably the #1 reason.

      Take a Hyun/Kia for example – the original owner gets the 10y/100k powertrain, and I believe a 5/60 Bummper to bumper warranty. Sold used, the coverage downgrades to the 5/60. Certified, the second owner retains the full 10/100.

      Or lets look premium at the company with the best coverage right now – Mercedes Benz. Standard warranty is 4 year, 50k miles currently. With their new CPO program, you get 3 years, UNLIMITED MILEAGE(!!!) from CPO purchase. Hypothetically if you drove a lot you could buy a depreciated 4YO Benz with just under 50k on it and take it up to the low 100s while still under warranty coverage. I do 25k a year (45 mile commute each way), this would give me coverage up to potentially 130k based on my driving habits.

      Lastly, you generally can get almost new-car finance rates through the captive finance arm, as opposed to general used car rates through a regular lender. Assuming good credit of course.

      • 0 avatar

        “Or lets look premium at the company with the best coverage right now – Mercedes Benz. Standard warranty is 4 year, 50k miles currently. With their new CPO program, you get 3 years, UNLIMITED MILEAGE(!!!) from CPO purchase.”

        Actually, you only get 1 year/unlimited mileage tacked on to the end of the factory warranty with MB’s CPO program. You have the option to purchase up to two more years of extended warranty on top of that which could get you to a total of 7 years/unlimited mileage from the original date of service (or your purchase date, if the original factory warranty has expired).

        • 0 avatar

          Who are you, and why are you so reasonable and well-informed? Don’t you know where you are?

        • 0 avatar


          I guess I need to read the fine print better. To be fair though, and I don’t know how much the extra 2 years cost, it’s still probably a bargain for someone who does the miles considering a) Mercedes parts/service prices, and b) how far up in mileage you can push it.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah, I looked at Hyundai CPOs before buying my non-CPO, off-lease Elantra. Basically I could not justify paying about $2k more to get more warranty on a car with 26k miles. I’ll ride out the remaining two years and trust that like 99% of newer cars it isn’t going to blow a drivetrain early. The only downside I could see to my non-CPO was some curb rash on a wheel that CPO would probably have replaced; frankly, better it is already done than me make the first mark on the car and cuss to high heaven.

        My loan was pre-approved at a good rate so that didn’t figure into my decision.

        Now, if I were buying a car with some nightmare possibilities (looking at you, Audi and BMW), hell yes I would have gotten the most warranty possible with CPO.

    • 0 avatar

      From what I understand, if you are shopping at a dealer for a 3 year old car, then the one that is NOT CPO is not CPO for a reason – typically that it either has an accident history, or that reconditioning it would cost the dealer more than the extra margin is worth. That is a car to avoid.

      • 0 avatar

        Or that the dealer didn’t want to bother getting it certified. It costs money to certify cars, not just in the effort to inspect and recon the car to CPO spec but also to pay the manufacturer to make the certification official. Some dealers only CPO the bare minimum required to meet manufacturer-enforced quotas.

        Now it’s true that a dealer is probably going to look at his inventory and choose to CPO the cars that require the least amount of reconditioning to meet CPO standards because that’s the least expensive way to do it, but that doesn’t mean that the non-CPO cars couldn’t be certified.

      • 0 avatar

        Our CPO Hyundai was sold to us with an accident history (rear bumper replaced).

        It was clearly stated in the CarFax history. Dealer acknowledged it. Wasn’t a big deal to us.

        It’s not clear to me if accident repairs are allowed under Hyundai CPO, or if the dealer took a chance.

    • 0 avatar

      The CPO programs I am familiar with are basically a more in depth inspection and an extended warranty to go with it. The inspection goes well beyond what a dealer would normally do for a Used Vehicle Inspection, so there is some value in that. For example, compression testing is included to confirm the internal condition of the engine. This is valuable because if the previous owner dusted the sh1t out of the engine and ruined the rings, that isn’t covered under the powertrain warranty and you could be stuck with a major problem.

      In order to be CPO with the manufacturer backed warranty, the inspection form must be completed and in the deal jacket so if something comes up soon after purchase, it can be audited.

      It’s common that CPO vehicles gross more than non-CPO, especially when there’s factory backing like preferred financing etc. It’s discussed at dealer 20 groups often.

  • avatar

    Most cars I buy are CPO’able. Its is my bargaining tool in negotiations to ask how much without CPO.

    • 0 avatar

      ” Its is my bargaining tool in negotiations to ask how much without CPO.”

      I think that was the point, they can’t really de-certify a CPO car. Not only do they have to do all of this work up front, but they also pay a fee to the manufacturer to get the car registered as certified. So if it truly is certified then it’s certified. If it’s not then it’s not. Nobody is going to do all of the work to get a car certified except for the final registration step so that they can wait to see if the customer actually wants it.

  • avatar

    Reconditioning for a long time implied that a used vehicle would be reconditioned (putting value back in the vehicle) before it was sold to a customer.

    Today vehicles are reconditioned to meet an “average market price” the dealer navigates between the “average price” while the customer would rather pay a lower price with less reconditioning on a vehicle.

    CPO does not fit the customer model of “market price” with minimum reconditioning. The average customer would rather save $500 up front, and then spend at least the $500 in the following 6 months on the vehicle. Its a good deal up front with poor value.

    Its got brakes for the next 5,000 miles, or it has new brakes for an extra 500 up front as an example.

    Manufacturer supported CPO gives the franchised dealer the opportunity to make money twice on a vehicle with a distinct selling proposition compared to the independent used car dealer.

    While providing the customer with additional peace of mind.

    Dealers get called on the carpet if they are not active participants in manufacturer supported CPO programs.

    A CPO in 2016 is what a good old school used car dealer from generations ago used to do to any used vehicle, recondition (put value back in the vehicle) sell it at a fair price, keep customers satisfied, build a reputation as a provider of “good used cars”.

    The average used vehicle, at the average market price, with minimal reconditioning, and a clean record is what the informed consumer wants in 2016.

    Inspecting a vehicle for CPO is what any dealer should be doing in the first place for a used vehicle they want to retail. It moves, it brakes, it steers, the a/c blows cold, clean history “its good to go”

  • avatar

    I tend to think the better condition used cars on the lot get the CPO treatment but I could be wrong on that one.

    Either way I have bought 3 cpo vehicles and have been very happy with the value of the purchase on all cases. A Honda Pilot, VW Beetle, and Chrysler T&C. I feel it is a good hedge against possible prevous owner abuse or neglect. To me its akin to having the protection of a new car warranty.

    In the case of the T&C, I also bought the Chyrlser Maxcare Lifetime Warranty. Even with, my T&C was thousands cheaper than a comparable Odyssey or Sienna. Have certainly gotten my moneys worth out of that warranty. And its not like the Honda or Toyota Vans are trouble free either from everything I have read, so I think I came out ahead on this one too. Minivans and vacuum cleaners are about the only things I would buy an extended warranty on.

  • avatar

    It’s all a big game and in too many cases just another money grab. If a CPO car gets you a better warranty and service, then I suppose it’s worth it. But as with anything, you “pays your money and you takes your chance”.

    A car is NOT an investment, but a modern necessity, and it’ll cost you no matter what. Choose wisely, as the house always wins.

    • 0 avatar

      ” If a CPO car gets you a better warranty and service, then I suppose it’s worth it. But as with anything, you “pays your money and you takes your chance”.”

      It varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Honda’s CPO warranty is practically worthless. IIRC, GM’s is hardly much better. Ford’s isn’t bad. Mercedes-Benz has excellent CPO warranties, and Audi/BMW a little less so. It’s just a question of what you’re getting. IIRC, Lexus has pretty much the best, which shouldn’t be a surprise since their cars are the most reliable out there (making it less expensive to honor better warranties).

      The best ones I’ve seen a up to 6 years from original date of service with unlimited mileage. If you’re buying a CPO that just came off lease you can get the equivalent of 4 years, worry free. Most of the good ones will go up to 6 years/100k miles.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        This. A lot of CPOs are little more than inspections and, perhaps, another year or two on the “powertrain warranty.” If you figure out what the “powertrain warranty” doesn’t cover, there’s the potential for a lot of expensive repairs.

        I bought an ’01 Z3 3.0 as a CPO in 2003. This included scheduled maintenance. IIRC, a water pump was replaced under that warranty. I owned the Z3 until 2015. It turned out to be a very reliable car. I prophylactically replaced the entire cooling system at 40K miles, which cost me about $1,000 in parts, an afternoon of my time and lots of scrapes and bruises on my hands and forearms. The only parts that failed were part of the intake hose, which cracked, creating a vacuum leak and the “DISA valve” which changes from the long to the shorter intake tract at 3500 rpm. IIRC, those parts each cost about $100-150.

        The Detroit 3 CPOs struck me as hardly with the trouble. The only cool thing is that under VW’s CPO it was (is?) possible to get a used VW that has a longer bumper-to-bumper and powertrain warranty than a new car, if you buy one that’s a year old.

  • avatar

    If a dealership is certifying used cars to a manufacturers standard, then who validates the dealership is doing it that standard as claimed? It isn’t the consumer, and I suspect the manufacturers do a spotty job of it at best. The used car bubble will burst one day, and no tears will be shed for dealerships.

    • 0 avatar

      Manufacturers can audit the CPO records, as Bark said. You should also get a copy of the completed CPO checklist for a vehicle when you buy a CPO car, showing what the condition was, what was done to recondition it (i.e., new tires installed to meet tread requirements, etc), and of course some sort of proof that it truly is certified in the manufacturer’s DB. If you have those things then the rest shouldn’t matter. If it comes to light that the dealer was taking shortcuts and there’s a warranty claim later because of it, the manufacturer is going to come down on the dealer like a ton of bricks.

    • 0 avatar

      2010 CPO Kia Forte I got 3 years ago… had an open recall for faulty brake light switch. Nothing important, just no indication that I was braking.

      150 point inspection my ass.

  • avatar

    “I like to say “whip” because I know it annoys many of you”

    I have a nephew who when a preschooler was unstoppable in picking his nose and wiping it on any visitor he could catch. Oh, how he beamed when he landed a good one!

  • avatar

    My experience is that dealerships will offer CPO “eligibility”, where the car isn’t CPO’d unless the customer wants it, and is willing to shell out for the premium.

    I think there’s more scam in CPO than actual value.

  • avatar

    The title and reading about the shenanigans took me back to my Grandmother pounding away on the little electric organ she had singing: “Oh the Games People Play Dear…”

    The biggest advantage I see for CPO is for those of us who will buy a car in another state and do travel extensively, having a warranty that will be honored by the other franchises. Although that warranty actually needs to be long enough to make a difference and CPO varies wildly from manufacturer to manufacturer.

    When I was a very young and naive man I got hosed on an extended warranty that was only going to be honored at that specific dealer.

    • 0 avatar

      Did you have to drive all the way to Ohio to have it serviced?

      I still owe you a report on our daughter’s 2007 Trailblazer’s interior knob wear. You probably think I forgot!

      • 0 avatar

        Avis Ford, Southfield, MI. Otherwise I was very happy with them and would have gone there to look at an actual CPO Ford if I hadn’t moved to NM. I bought a car there in December of 2001 and moved to New Mexico in July 2002.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    The CPO game. The high quality dealers actually complete the CPO inspection prior to listing the car for sale, which moves the unit to the front of the line on Auto trader and the like. The, ahem, perhaps less than high quality do it in reverse and use the CPO as a closing tool to make a deal. GM, and I sure the other OEM, will audit every now and then to ensure compliance. Once the check box for CPO is done with OEM there is no going back. So, if the box is checked and miraculously the car is sold that day then you know the dealer is gaming the system.

    The Cadillac CPO is very expensive to the dealer, around $1200 or so. May be more now. But the consumer got a 6yr/100k full factory warranty going back to original inservice date.

    Typically the shady dealers check the box to get to the front of the line on the search engines like auto trader and

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      I will add, that the best CPO out there is the MB CPO with unlimited mileage if you happen to pound miles on your car. That is the real deal. I have a handful of peers who drive a significant amount annually; 40-50 and they all have CPO MB product. Where else can you have your 164,450 mile car repaired for free with factory parts..

      • 0 avatar

        “I will add, that the best CPO out there is the MB CPO with unlimited mileage ”

        Not quite. The MB CPO only adds one year to the factory warranty, though it does add unlimited mileage. MB factory warranty is 4 years/50k miles, CPO extends it to 5 years/unlimited miles, with the clock starting at the original in-service date (which should be on your CarFax).

        Lexus has a better CPO warranty, it adds 2 years/unlimited mileage to the factory 4 year/50k mileage warranty for a total of 6 years/unlimited miles. If there’s someone who has a better CPO warranty than Lexus I’d love to see it.

  • avatar

    Agree, cpo means nothing to me. Nearly any off lease 3 year old 36k car is a safe bet whether cpo or not, as long as it wasnt in a flood. Just buy an oem extended warantee if it is a known problem child brand such as bmw.

  • avatar

    That’s how I bought my current commuter. In my case, the dealer only did a car wash and fresh oil/filter. The car only had 9,000 miles and didn’t need much reconditioning. Since they didn’t have too much money in it, they were willing to take a big chunk off the asking price. I have free road service for 2 years or 24k miles, a bunch of free oil changes and inspections and that’s about it I think.
    The cars that don’t make it to the CPO market because they have too many miles or have been in serious accidents , have spawned a very successful dealership chain here in Florida that’s actually the fastest growing used car dealership in Florida. Their cars are no older than 2-3 years but they all have high mileage for the year ( tons of ex-rentals) or if low mileage, they’ve been wrecked badly while leased and the dealer doesn’t want to take them back to CPO them.
    The dealership is extremely successful and very low rent. Non-paved lots, double wide trailer as offices, but swarming with people looking for a 2 year old BMW 5XX for 24k. They provide free Carfax with every car, and they do put it in small print that sometimes the report is not 100% accurate. Basically, buyer beware, all ours cars have been wrecked at some point, but Carfax could show it as clean.

    • 0 avatar

      “or if low mileage, they’ve been wrecked badly while leased and the dealer doesn’t want to take them back to CPO them.”

      I don’t know about every manufacturer, but I have yet to see one that will allow a car to be CPO if it has been in an accident.

      • 0 avatar

        No, the manufacturer will not CPO them. That’s why they end up on the above mentioned dealer chain as used vehicles for very decent prices. You just have to take a chance and hope it was fixed right with good quality parts. Often times, this dealer buys them wrecked and farms out the repairs to the lowest bidder.

      • 0 avatar

        I snagged my Lexus from a third-party dealer (obviously not CPO) because it had had a door repaint after being damaged when brand-new, documented in the service history. In every other respect it would have been eminently CPO-able. Maybe a CPO inspection would have caught the failing front control arms, maybe not; the symptoms were exceedingly subtle.

      • 0 avatar

        “I don’t know about every manufacturer, but I have yet to see one that will allow a car to be CPO if it has been in an accident.”

        BMW will allow it.

        I purchased an 16 month old 2006 BMW 330i in 2008 as a CPO car from a BMW dealership in Saskatchewan where I was living at the time. At that time, Carfax and Carproof were in their infancy, and not much showed up on the report. The dealer advised me that the car had been purchased by the dealer principal’s best friend, who ended up having twins and needed to move to an SUV. They confirmed that they sold the car, serviced the car, and took the car back on trade. I paid a premium price for an almost new, extremely clean, no accident CPO BMW.

        In 2011, I went to trade the car in on a new purchase in Ottawa (where I had moved back to), and the Carfax showed that the vehicle had been in two major accidents in the 15 months registered. When I inspected the affected areas, the repairs were so expertly done that even on very close specific inspection they were impossible for me to tell. Desipte the quality of the repair, due to the negative Carfax my trade-in value went from $19,000 to $11,000.

        I called the dealer in Saskatchewan back – I believe they had to be aware, as they owned the only body shop in the area capable of that kind of repair. They did not deny that it had been accidented or claim that the Carfax was in error; they only denied having a responsibility to advise me, even under direct questioning (ie “has this car ever had any accident repair?”). They refused to compensate me in any way.

        I then called BMW Canada, and they confirmed that CPO does NOT mean no accident, and this was between me and the BMW dealer. They even said that there is no requirement under CPO for the dealer to disclose the accidents, as long as they are “properly repaired”.

        I don’t feel that the accidents reduced the quality of the vehicle in any way, but they sure hit my trade-in value. I was shocked by this experience and have been somewhat reluctant to by a BMW since (despite loving they way the cars drive).

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve been to the dealership you are talking about, they need to change their name to “Out of Body Shop Only”. Every car I looked at had been wrecked. It’s amazing how many of their customers don’t realize how an accident diminishes the value of the car and think they are getting a deal because the car came off lease.

      • 0 avatar

        I personally would never buy a car there but know people that did. It gives people a chance to own a luxury car for thousands less, but of course, they all have been previously wrecked. Some of the carfax reports are very scary ” airbags deployed, extensive damage noted” but people love that 44k mile 2015 BMW 528 for $23k. They have a big market for people exporting cars as well

  • avatar

    IMO the best warranty is taking the used vehicle for a $150-200 visit to a good independent mechanic you can trust. You can do this ten times for the cost of a CPO.

    Finding that person may be hard, but it is worth the effort. Use the internet. You will save you a serious amount of money in the long run.

    Certified, Schmurtified.

    • 0 avatar

      “IMO the best warranty is a $200 visit to a good independent mechanic you can trust.”

      Your mechanic can only spot problems that are present or developing at the time of purchase. If you develop expensive engine problems two years down the road is that mechanic going to fix your engine for free? No. Because if the car has a CPO warranty then they probably will (depending on warranty terms). If you’re buying cheap cars (maybe around $10k) that are inexpensive to repair and maintain then maybe it’s cheaper to not go CPO. But if you’re buying more expensive cars (especially anything German) then all it takes is one warranty claim to make it more than worthwhile.

      • 0 avatar


        If you are buying a two year old, low mileage BMW, you have a pretty good idea of what is going to need to be fixed in the next 4 years. If that is close to the cost of the CPO, the CPO is great and it will cover the things that surprise you.

        We buy German cars with CPO warranties and have found them to be at least worth the mark-up. In our case they include valet services and loaner cars which you don’t necessarily get with an out of pocket repair.

        Japanese cars we buy as is and don’t worry about it and are rarely burned.

      • 0 avatar

        Sanity clause? Sanity clause? There ain’t no sanity clause. Buying a used car is always problematic.

        A though study of Consumer Reports annual edition on used cars is a big help when it comes to anticipating what you might face three or four years down the road. This assumes you intend to keep it that long.

  • avatar
    Adam Tonge

    There are some vehicles I’d buy CPO and some I wouldn’t. My Lincoln MkT is one where I did buy CPO. It’s hard to find one that isn’t at a dealership, and anything that falls within the parameters of a certified vehicle will be certified. Still cheaper than a private party Flex Ecoboost or Explorer Sport.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “There was an extremely high-profile case last year where a GM dealer was certifying cars that had outstanding recalls.”

    My son’s CPO Sonata had 4 outstanding recalls that the dealer never bothered to fix. This was the same dealer who had originally sold and serviced the car for two years. It was annoying, and we took it to a more local dealer to have the work done. But I didn’t realize it was an FTC issue.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    This is why I only buy Motor Trend Certified Cars. The best automotive publication in the world would never lead me astray.

  • avatar

    CPO is basically an inflated warranty. My relative bought a Suburban CPO and there were all kinds of things that needed to be repaired.

  • avatar

    “Certifying a car can often take up to three days or more”? C’mon, Bark, that phrase stuck out like – well, like the nose of a ’68 full-size Pontiac. “Up to … or more” encompasses the entire range of positive numbers from zero to infinity.

    When we bought our new ’03 Subaru Legacy SE 5-speed wagon, within a year or two we started receiving letters from Subaru of America trying to interest us in offering our car as a candidate for a CPO resale (at what was suggested to be a favorable trade-in value to us). But someone had hit our car while it was parked in front of the house after we’d had it 2 weeks, requiring front fender replacement, and any car with body repairs was ineligible – not that we inquired; we were and still are happy with the Legacy.

  • avatar

    We bought 2 cars under CPO:

    The Dakota had the steering rack replaced by the selling dealer and all the required maintenance done before I bought it. (30K rear diff service, oil change, wiper blades, air filter and transfer case were serviced). The program also said that they required each vehicle to have 2 keys and remotes they made me the extra set that was missing–turned out to be the best truck I’ve ever owned.

    The second truck didn’t have any remotes with the keys so they provided new ones. Turns out they were still in the factory packaging with the owners manual so I ended up with 4 remotes. Dealer provided a extended warranty tacked on top of the CPO….which turned out to be a god send as the amount of time that thing spent in the shop, I tested a whole lot of Enterprise rentals provided no charge by Chrysler.

    The Chrysler program has since changed, I believe. I plan to pick up another truck in a few years and plan to go the CPO route again.

  • avatar

    I don’t push CPO. When you look at the list of items that is on that checklist, and know the time the dealer is given to go through that list, you know it is impossible.

    Step one on an alleged CPO car is check the fluids, especially if that check list says they were replaced. Even a noob can look at brake fluid, power steering fluid, or coolant and figure out if it is 40K miles old or not.

    I just see CPO as a big scam.

  • avatar

    According to the independent mechanic we have been patronizing for forty years, CPO simply means they will fix for free what failed because they didn’t check it during the certification process.

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