CPO Cars vs Used Cars

April 26th, 2020 by

Buying a used car is an important investment to make. It’s crucial to assess your overall goals and budget before deciding to purchase a certified or non-certified used car. Your decision may depend on whether financial coverage and additional benefits are most important to you or if affordability is your top priority. To help you decide which option is best for you, we’ve highlighted the differences between a CPO and non-certified used car.

What Is a CPO Car?

A certified pre-owned (CPO) car is a used vehicle sold at either a franchise dealership, an independent dealership, or a rental car company that is typically under five years old with low mileage and warranty coverage. Dealers purchase used vehicles for resale, or they’re traded in by customers who are buying a new car at the dealership.

For a used car to become certified, dealers conduct a safety test and hire mechanics to perform a multi-point inspection on the car to ensure it’s reliable enough for future buyers. Independent dealers can follow their own inspection process while franchise dealerships must follow certain manufacturer inspection guidelines to deem it a certified pre-owned car.

A car has to meet specific age, mileage, and maintenance requirements for the dealer to deem it a certified pre-owned car. These requirements depend on the manufacturer, make, or model of the car.

What Is a Used Car?

cpo car fort worth

Image via Flickr by Stefans02

Non-certified used cars are pre-owned vehicles that often had more than one previous owner and are usually over five years old. There are many places you can purchase a non-certified used car, including independent and franchise car dealers, leasing offices, a private party, rental car companies, or auctions.

When a used vehicle is non-certified, this usually means the car has not passed a certification test. The reasons for this could be that the car’s mileage is too high, the car is too old, the car has suffered too much damage from a collision, or the seller hasn’t fully inspected the car.

Differences Between a CPO and Used Car

Though both types of used cars hold similarities like being previously owned, there are certain factors that differentiate them from each other, including:


A vehicle’s warranty is the financial coverage you receive if you damage something on your vehicle. When a dealer sells a CPO car, they often sell it with warranty coverage. The coverage usually expires when the car reaches a certain age or mileage amount. Depending on its age, a non-certified car most likely doesn’t come with a warranty because the original manufacturer’s warranty no longer covers the older used car.

Some CPO warranty coverage programs may expand upon the original warranty your vehicle’s manufacturer held. Depending on the CPO program the dealer offers, your warranty may extend for a certain number of miles you drive or months after you buy the car. If you purchase a CPO car at a factory dealership, and it contains a manufacturer CPO, you may qualify to receive warranty repairs at the service center of that dealership.

Overall Price

CPO cars often come with warranty coverage, refurbishment costs, and any other additional benefits that are all financially covered by the dealer. This may cause the overall price of your certified pre-owned vehicle to be much more expensive than a non-certified used car. When you purchase a CPO car, the dealer also handles the sales contract, meaning they draw up the paperwork and ensure it includes the necessary information to properly register your vehicle.

If you’re purchasing a non-certified used vehicle, the price may be significantly lower because the seller may not handle your sales paperwork or cover costs like warranty, refurbishment, and inspections. If you’re capable of handling these details yourself and want a more affordable option, purchasing a used car may be the better choice for you.


When a certified pre-owned vehicle’s warranty is still in effect, the manufacturer who’s offering your warranty is responsible for any potential repair costs. To limit the costs to fix these damages, the dealership or manufacturer conducts an extensive multi-point inspection. They typically inspect the car for potential damages and pay to fix them before considering it a certified pre-owned vehicle and putting it up for sale. A full inspection involves checking the tires, shocks, electrical and technical features, and any other mechanical elements.

Even though the dealer inspects the car, it may be wise to still have the vehicle checked by an outside source, like a professional mechanic, before buying it. This ensures the dealership didn’t miss any important, necessary repairs you may have to pay for after your warranty expires. It isn’t a requirement for the seller to inspect a non-certified used car, so you can take the vehicle to a mechanic to ensure it meets the standards of a safe and reliable car.

Additional Benefits

When you purchase a certified pre-owned vehicle, the dealer may offer you additional benefits you may not receive with a non-certified used car. For example, some dealerships may offer free maintenance for the first year of owning your vehicle. They may also offer benefits like roadside assistance, or they may cover the costs of a rental vehicle while your car is in the shop.


Evaluate your needs as a car buyer, and keep these in mind as you look for a car.  If purchasing a certified pre-owned vehicle puts your mind at ease and is worth the extra cost, that could be the best option for you. Ask the dealer or seller extensive questions about the car’s history. If the car still seems like a reliable choice but isn’t certified pre-owned, take it to an independent mechanic. They can help you better understand if it’s still a smart option to purchase the car without the warranty.

Bring your car-buying questions into Hiley Hyundai of Fort Worth. Our team of professionals will let you browse through our large selection of CPO and used cars to help you find one that meets all of your driving needs.

Posted in Car Tips