CPO Programs Explained

CPO Programs Explained

Buying a used car can raise some reliability concerns. How do you know how the last owner(s) treated the car? Sure you might have a car-fax or pre-purchase inspection, but that doesn’t cover everything.

There’s another option if you want to get a deal on a used car, but still want some peace of mind: Certified Pre-Owned (CPO.)


CPO Headline

Think of a CPO car as a refurbished product. The car has either been traded in, or is coming off lease. In order for it to be certified, it has to be inspected, and fixed up so that it’s in tip-top condition, and worthy of the CPO designation.

The best CPO programs involve the automaker directly. The automaker provides a set of conditions and requirements that must be met in order for the vehicle to be deemed certified. These include the vehicle’s age, mileage and accident history. Only the best examples are kept to be sold as certified pre-owned vehicles, so the standard is set high. Finally, these cars get a factory backed warranty, to ensure that future visits to the service department are painless and stress-free.

Different manufacturers have different definitions for certified, so check out our other articles which compare the different types of certified pre-owned offers, and what a certified car means for each manufacturer.

CPO programs are created to alleviate the usual stresses of used car shopping, like pre-purchase inspections and the uncertainty of a vehicle’s life-span. Not everyone has a trustworthy mechanic on speed dial to check out every interesting used car, so a CPO program helps bring some simplicity and peace of mind for prospective buyers.

SEE ALSO: What is a Certified Pre-Owned Car and What Types of CPO Cars are there?



CPO cars are a great idea for luxury vehicles. Often long-term reliability on German brands is questionable, with repairs costing an arm and a leg. With the added benefit of a warranty in addition to a pre-purchase inspection and repairs, a CPO luxury car can help lift a huge weight off the shoulders of informed buyers.

The added benefit of a manufacturer-backed warranty also helps sway people towards a CPO vehicle. While third-party warranties are available, getting them to pay out for a repair can be a hassle. A manufacturer backed warranty is much easier to deal with, and can be used at any location where the brand is sold, ensuring coverage practically anywhere.

Buyers who are also looking at a new car often consider a CPO car, just to save some money. It helps that most dealerships allow financing deals.

SEE ALSO: Should You Buy a Certified Pre-Owned Car?


Due to the extensive testing and reconditioning process, CPO cars often carry a huge price premium over the usual crop of used cars. For more experienced car shoppers this might not be worth it, since a pre-purchase inspection and trustworthy third party warranty (if deemed necessary) will be cheaper than the extra price a CPO designation carries.

There are also different kinds of CPO programs and some dealers or franchises have a different idea than the manufacturer. This can cause confusion with the quality of the car you’re buying, and whether this will be different than any other used car, despite the CPO nametag. For some, CPO might be a superficial designation, or marketing ploy to get you to trust the vehicle, and make your decision with less hesitation.

SEE ALSO: Certified Pre Owned Programs Compared – Listed by Manufacturer

Take a look at our other articles to get a better idea if a CPO car is for you, and how to choose the best CPO program for your budget and needs.

  • Mukhtar

    And all this time I thought CPO stood for “complete pushover.” Like as in you would need to be a complete pushover to take that price for a used car. Now it all makes sense… :)

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