Buying a new car is more expensive than ever, with the average new car price exceeding $40,000. Although used cars are more affordable, you might be reluctant to purchase one because it comes with uncertainties beyond what a vehicle history report can uncover. Luckily savvy car shoppers can have the best of both worlds thanks to certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles.

What is a certified pre-owned vehicle and is it a good car buying decision? Do certified vehicles bring high-quality and lower risk to consumers? We have the answers.

What Does Certified Pre-Owned Mean?

If you’re shopping for a car, you’ve likely come across certified pre-owned or CPO vehicles . But what does that mean exactly, and how do they differ from traditional used cars ? A certified pre-owned car is a low-mileage , accident-free used car that is typically less than seven years old and has been reconditioned to meet strict manufacturer or dealer standards. They also typically have less than 80,000 miles on the odometer . Backed by an extended car warranty from their original manufacturer, CPO cars have undergone a rigorous, multi-point inspection and reconditioning process to achieve Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) status.  Additionally, many CPO vehicles come with added perks like roadside assistance , loaner car access and trip interruption protection.  

CPO Programs By Manufacturer: Warranty and Terms 

Vehicle qualifications and warranty terms for CPO cars vary by manufacturer. Here are some examples of current CPO programs by automakers

Manufacturer Maximum Vehicle Age Maximum Mileage Warranty Terms Extras
Honda 6 Years Old  80,000 Miles Limited Warranty: 7-years or 100,00 total miles from original new car sale Roadside assistance for the duration of warranty length

No deductible for warranty repairs

Transferable to private-party buyer

Toyota 6 Years Old 85,000 Miles Bumper-to-bumper plan that offers full vehicle coverage for 1 year or 12,000 miles. Powertrain warranty: 7 years or 100,000 miles from the original sale date 24/7 roadside assistance 
Ford (Gold Level) 6 Years Old 80,000 Miles 12-month or 12,000-miles bumper-to-bumper limited warranty. Ford also extends the limited powertrain warranty from 5 years or 60,000 miles to 7 years or 100,000 miles from the original new-car purchase date 24/7 roadside assistance

Offers points redeemable toward non-warranty repairs

Car rental reimbursement

Trip reimbursement




Ford (Blue Level) 10 Years Old 120,000 Miles 90-day or 4,000-mile limited warranty 24/7 roadside assistance

Points redeemable toward non-warranty repairs


Hyundai 5 Years Old 60,000 Miles Remainder of the vehicle’s original 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty 

10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty


Roadside assistance: 10 years/unlimited miles

Deductible for warranty repairs: $50

General Motors (Buick, GMC, Chevrolet) 5 Years Old 75,000 Miles Six-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty from the original date of purchase

One-year/12,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty


Roadside assistance: same as warranty length

No deductible for warranty repairs

Transferable to private-party buyer

Two-year/24,000-mile complimentary service plan covering two scheduled service visits

Lexus 6 Years Old 70,000 Miles Warranty is valid for a minimum of 2 years after the expiration of the original four-year/50,000-mile new-vehicle warranty Roadside assistance for the duration of warranty

No deductible for warranty repairs

Trip interruption reimbursement


Volvo 5 Years Old 80,000 Miles 7-year/100,000-mile warranty covering most vehicle components from the car's new car purchase date.


Roadside assistance: same as warranty length

No deductible for warranty repairs

Trip interruption reimbursement

Transferable to private-party buyer

Mercedes-Benz 6 Years Old 75,000 Miles Factory 4-year/50,000-mile New Vehicle Limited Warranty

Additional 12-month/unlimited-mileage limited warranty



24/7 Roadside Assistance

Trip interruption reimbursement

Note that the terms are pretty similar with the exception of Ford, which offers an additional CPO program to older vehicles. CPO cars typically come with a free Carfax report

Buying a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle: Pros

Purchasing a CPO vehicle comes with some advantages. Here are the main reasons why purchasing a CPO model might be a smart decision:

Savings: Certified pre-owned cars are less expensive than new cars. In fact, the average used car depreciates by 39 percent over three years according to a recent iSeeCars study on the best off-lease car deals. Buying a lightly used car allows you to save money by purchasing a vehicle after it’s taken its main depreciation hit. In fact, you can find certified pre-owned cars for under $15,000 and across a wide range of budgets. Buying the right CPO car can also save you money over a non-certified used car because they hold their value better after purchase and have lower maintenance costs due to warranty coverage. Better still, CPO cars often come with special financing rates that are better than what’s often found on non-certified used cars

Modern Vehicles: Although you’re buying a pre-owned car, you’re still buying a modern late model vehicle. Many CPO vehicles are 2-3 years old, which means that they are often in the vehicle’s current model generation and have the same basic styling as new models, along with the latest vehicle technology. Or, if driving a modern car isn’t a priority, you can find an older version for even more added savings.

Added Peace of Mind: In order to qualify as a CPO vehicle, a car must pass a rigorous multipoint inspection of up to 300 items by trained technicians. You can even request a copy of the inspection to see exactly what was covered. CPO vehicles come with new car factory warranty coverage which generally includes a limited powertrain warranty for the engine, transmission and major mechanical components; and a limited bumper-to-bumper warranty for other issues that may arise that aren’t part of the powertrain. CPO warranties also extend coverage beyond what the manufacturer offers for a new car. This warranty coverage can ease anxiety of buying a used car, because it means that you won’t be on the hook for expensive repairs shortly after purchasing your vehicle.

Buying a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle: Cons

Limited Options: If you’re looking for a vehicle in a specific color and trim you might have trouble locating a CPO version of the car you want. If you don’t have the option to wait it out to find the vehicle you’re looking for, you might have to settle for a different vehicle. Because CPO cars have to follow a certain criteria and are the cream of the crop of used vehicles , inventory is more limited than what you would find for non-certified traditional used vehicles

Added Cost: While CPO cars cost less than new cars, they often cost more than traditional used cars. Check out our guide on CPO cars with the highest premiums to understand the added cost of CPO cars compared to their traditional used car counterparts. When looking at the extra cost, it’s important to understand the extra protection you’re getting to see if it’s worth it. One way to check is to compare it to a comparable non-certified used car and to research its estimated repair costs during the warranty period. Remember, CPO cars are often negotiable, so you may be able to talk a dealer down to a price that is more budget-friendly.

Required Maintenance Schedule: One potential downside to a CPO vehicle is that CPO programs require that you follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule for services like oil changes and tire rotations. Not adhering to this schedule could void your warranty. This maintenance work also has to be done at a franchised dealership, which could be a potential drawback if you have your own independent trusted mechanic. Some CPO programs include a deductible for all covered repairs, so make sure you understand the terms of the warranty and that even covered repairs can come with a cost.

Bottom Line:

Consumers should always do their research before making a final decision to buy a CPO car . In some cases, buying a certified pre-owned car may not add a significant amount to the cost of a traditional used vehicle and could even save you money in the long term if you take advantage of special financing deals. Conversely, some CPO cars come with expensive premiums that may outweigh what you would pay in maintenance costs. Vehicles that have strong reliability and low maintenance costs can be smarter used vehicle purchases because you likely won’t need to make repairs that are covered by the CPO warranty

If you choose to purchase a non-certified used car, you should have it inspected by an independent mechanic. The process doesn’t have to be scary if you know what to look for when buying a used car. For more helpful car buying tips, refer to our comprehensive how to buy a used car guide.

Check out our other helpful car buying resources and price guides: 

If you’re interested in a new car or a used car , be sure to check out iSeeCars’ award-winning car search engine . It uses advanced algorithms to help shoppers find the best car deals across all vehicles, and provides key insights and valuable resources, like the iSeeCars VIN check report. You can even search for just CPO cars . Filter by make, model, interior color, exterior color, price, fuel type, and special features to find the best deal on your next vehicle.