Certified Pre-Owned vs Used Vehicles: Which Is Better?

If you’re like most car shoppers, you probably wouldn’t mind buying used. Studies have shown the around 70% of Americans would consider getting a used car instead of a new one. People know that used cars are much better deals. 

However, at certain dealerships, you may come across certified pre-owned vehicles. The name might throw you off, but all they are is another type of used car. 

That being said, there are some differences between certified pre-owned vs used cars that you should be aware of.

So, what do you need to know? Keep reading to learn all about certified pre-owned vehicles and how they compare with used cars.

What Are Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles?

If you’re unfamiliar with car lingo, certified pre-owned vehicles, or CPO vehicles, are a type of gently-used vehicles sold by dealers. Besides being in great condition, CPO cars also have low mileage and are accident-free.

In the past, only certain dealerships offered CPO programs. Most of the time, these were luxury brands and dealers. Now, almost every automaker has CPO offers for all sorts of vehicles, including cars, trucks, and vans.

Not all of the cars that you see on the lot of a dealership are certified pre-owned vehicles. You can also only buy CPO vehicles from dealerships that sell a specific brand of cars. For example, you can buy a CPO Buick from this company

How Does a Car Become CPO Used?

As mentioned, not all the cars that you see on a used car dealership lot are certified pre-owned vehicles. There are some different requirements that a car needs to meet in order to meet CPO status.

Most of the time, the car needs to be a recent model and have a low number of miles. It can’t have gone through any collisions or other types of accidents, and also needs to have a history of proper maintenance and upkeep.

If the vehicle meets that criteria, the dealership will then inspect it to figure out which areas require maintenance. Cars have a set of standards that they need to meet in order to enjoy the CPO status. 

Certified Pre-Owned vs Used

Besides the condition of the car, there are a few other factors that differentiate CPO cars from general used cars. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest ones.


One of the best perks of buying a certified pre-owned vehicle is that you get a warranty. The exact stipulations differ between CPO plans, but all of them provide you with more coverage than you would get with a non-CPO vehicle.

If you buy a used car and want to buy a warranty plan, you’d end up paying thousands of dollars for a comparable level of protection. It also might not be a manufacturer-backed protection plan, which a CPO warranty is. 

That being said, CPO warranties aren’t quite as comprehensive as warranties that you get when you buy a new vehicle. Make sure to check the stipulations before you buy a certified pre-owned vehicle to ensure that the plan is worth the cost. 


As is the case with other types of cars, the price that you’ll pay for a CPO vehicle depends on the make, model, and general supply and demand. However, in most cases, you’ll end up paying a bit more than you would for general used vehicles.

As mentioned, certified pre-owned vehicles come with a warranty, which causes the price to inflate a bit. Aside from that, CPO cars also undergo a refurbishment and inspection process. The dealer pays for this, so they add additional money to the final price.

Again, the exact amount that you pay will vary, but you can expect to pay anywhere between 10-20% more for a certified pre-owned vehicle. 

Financing Deals

While the cost of a CPO vehicle is higher than that of a traditional used car, there are some different financial deals that you can take advantage of. These are exclusive to certified pre-owned vehicles and can cut down costs substantially. 

Used cars have you paying market interest rates, which in many cases, can be unfavorable. On the other hand, dealerships often offer special interest rates for their certified pre-owned vehicles. 

If the dealership or manufacturer doesn’t offer special interest rates or a deal, auto lenders can also help you. Many of them view CPO cars as new vehicles when it comes time to issue out loans. 

Remember That CPO Vehicles Are Also Used Cars

Certified pre-owned cars come with a lot of benefits that set them apart from other used vehicles on the market. However, remember that they are also a type of used car and have, therefore, been on the road for a period of time.

CPO vehicles undergo extensive inspections and refurbishment processes, but you might find some minor wear and tear that a new vehicle wouldn’t have. This means that before committing to any purchase, you need to do your research.

Some dealerships may provide it to you for free, but make sure to request a vehicle accident report if they don’t. This will give you some insight into the car’s past and can help you decide whether or not it’s worth buying.  

Choose What Works Best for You

If you’re on the market for a car, it’s important to understand the options you have to choose from. Part of that means understanding the difference between certified pre-owned vs used vehicles.

Use this guide as a resource to ensure that you end up with a car that won’t let you down.

If you enjoyed reading this article on certified pre-owned vehicles, make sure to check out the rest of our site for more auto-related guides, tips, and explanations.

Will Hopstetter
Will is an automotive market enthusiast living in the United Kingdom. He holds a diverse background in automotive and enjoys utilizing that to produce insights into the inner workings of the industry.