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What is the Difference Between Used and Certified Pre-Owned Cars?

4 Mins read

We often muddle up, the meanings of a used, pre-owned and certified pre-owned car (CPO), and as we are not fully aware of the pros and cons involved, we often end up paying for something we did not sign up for. So, here are some fundamentals with a bit of useful, consumer advice at the end.

Pre-owned Vehicles

Before diving into the difference between the two, learning that both used and CPOs fall under the banner of ‘Pre-owned Vehicles’ might elucidate half the matter.

And if you’re shopping for pre-owned vehicles, digging into the differences between used and certified, pre-owned vehicles may save you from pitfalls ahead.

Used Vehicles

Any vehicle that has been bought or leased by at least one owner is known as a used car. However, understand that all CPO vehicles are used as well, but not all used vehicles are CPOs.

And to explain in this context, a used vehicle is any pre-owned vehicle that is not a CPO. And, OEMs or dealerships are not entitled to inspect used cars or pay for their maintenance for any detected/rising issue. So, before buying a used car make sure you keep these factors in mind;

  • Some dealerships and OEMs may offer inspection or maintenance as an additional perk, but that doesn’t mean it is a CPO;
  • When buying a used car, make sure you get it inspected by a third party;
  • If any issue is detected, add the maintenance costs to your budget to evaluate your total expenses beforehand;
  • Used cars car now last more than or up to 300,000 km if properly maintained.

Certified Pre-owned (CPO) Vehicles

Generally, certified pre-owned vehicles are ‘like-new’ pre-owned/used vehicles that are factory-certified, accident-free, carefully used, few years old, and have a comparatively low-mileage. But, that’s not it. Usually, CPOs are available for purchase at a dealership of the same brand.

For a used car to qualify as a ‘certified pre-owned’, the vehicle must meet the criteria of the manufacturer’s or dealership’s CPO program. And, upon failing to be eligible, the vehicle is also refurbished with genuine OEM parts to qualify when inspected again.

Note that different manufacturers have different criteria/programs. For example, automakers like Toyota and Ford have 160-point and 172-point inspection programs. But principally, the following factors distinguishes a CPO from a non-CPO/used car;

Age and Mileage

First off, a used car must be three (03) years old (not more than 6 yrs.) to qualify as a certified one. And it must have an average mileage ranging between 36,000-45,000, although it can be up to 80,000 miles too.

For instance, Ford’s ‘Gold Certified’ program is for models up to 6 years old with approximately 80,000 mileage and the ‘Blue Certified’ is for models up to 10 years old with no more than 120,000 miles.

The objective is that a vehicle must be in a good condition when it comes to the dealer, having low age and low mileage on the odometer.

Multi-point Inspection

Once the vehicle qualifies in terms of age and mileage, it must pass an extensive and rigorous multi-point quality assurance inspection devised by its manufacturer and conducted by professionals. The inspection also includes reconditioning of the vehicle if any issue is detected.

The quality of your CPO may differ from manufacturer to manufacturer and program to program, since sometimes the same automaker can have multiple CPO programs. For instance, Ford’s ‘Blue Certified’ has a 139-point inspection and ‘Gold Certified’ has 172-point inspection criteria.

The difference between the two programs is that Gold Certified cars go through a more thorough inspection and refurbishment process, and the cars are provided with extra extended warranty or coverage than Blue Certified ones including some other perks that may vary too.

Since CPOs are ensured of their high-quality status thoroughly, for automakers, they are considered as extremely reliable cars, almost like an entry-level addition to the brand.

Factory Warranty

Apart from reconditioning, the most value-added benefit of buying a CPO is that along with the left-over original factory warranty, it comes with a manufacture-backed warranty on top.

The additional warranty begins once the original expires or at the date of purchase if it’s already expired.

Ford Gold Certified cars are provided with a 12-month/12,000-mile comprehensive limited warranty coverage and a 7-year/100,000-mile powertrain limited warranty coverage. Similarly, Honda, Toyota, and other automakers have different warranty packages for their CPOs.

Additional Perks

Along with these many valuable benefits, a CPO also comes with short-term or long-term additional/complementary benefits like;

  • 24/7 or emergency roadside assistance or towing;
  • Vehicle history report;
  • money-back guarantee (for a limited time);
  • travel/destination/rental car expense reimbursements or concierge services in case your CPO car broke down;
  • limited-time complimentary oil/fluid change;
  • new wiper blades or any accessory;
  • vehicle exchange privilege (until limited time) etc.

For example, Ford and Honda both offer SiriusXM® complimentary three-month trial including other benefits. 

Source of CPO Vehicles

Generally, any used vehicle that fits the criteria explained above, but specifically, vehicles that are turned in at the end of the lease are prime candidates. You’ll mostly witness CPOs coming-off 3-year leases.

Pros and Cons of Buying a Certified Pre-owned Vehicle


  • CPOs are the best used cars available in the market, almost ‘like-new’ but at a far more affordable price point.
  • You’ll enjoy new features/technologies + nearly-new condition.
  • Additional benefits will help you save more in the long run.
  • Compared to used cars, you’ll drive your CPO in peace and with confidence knowing that it has no technical issues, and in case of an emergency your loss will be reimbursed.
  • Your car won’t suffer a steep depreciation like a brand-new car, meaning you’ll secure a good resale value.


  • It won’t be as expensive as the brand-new version, but surely more expensive than the same non-certified unit/model.

    According to Forbes Wheel, on an average, a premium CPO will cost you $4800 extra compared to a non-CPO and a standard one will cost you $600 additional versus a non-CPO.
  • Despite the extensive multi-point inspection and the reconditioning, it is not guaranteed that your car won’t break down as it depends how you maintain it plus escaping the unforeseen is inevitable.

CPO Prices are Expected to Fall in the Second Half of 2022

2022 may be the best year for you to buy a CPO for mainly two reasons;

  • the supply of off-lease vehicles (a major source of CPOs) is expected to decline in 2023;
  • plus, new car inventories will improve till the half of 2022 and then the demand for CPOs will certainly fall, decreasing the prices and making it the right time to secure the best deal.

We hope this guide cleared your misconceptions and if you’re up for more car tips and guides, subscribe to our blog. And, to learn more about how to secure the best CPO deal, we suggest conversing with our Vehicle Experts at +𝟴𝟭𝟱𝟬𝟰𝟱𝟲𝟭𝟭𝟬𝟵𝟬 and/or +𝟰𝟰𝟴𝟬𝟬𝟬𝟬𝟲𝟭𝟯𝟭𝟰.


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