"The benefit to consumers is clear. Many find themselves getting a like-new car with new-car-like peace of mind," said Cars.com managing editor Patrick Olsen. "Not only do they get these benefits at a used-car price, but they're often able to buy a car that they otherwise couldn't afford."
Certification programs were pioneered by such luxury nameplates as Lexus and Mercedes-Benz as a marketing tool to sell off-lease vehicles in the late 1980s and early 1990s. As the years wore on, more auto manufacturers - who used to send such vehicles to rental car companies or used-car lots - began to see the benefit of selling them directly to consumers. When the volume of almost-new vehicles began to flood the market, manufacturer-certified used-car programs quickly became common for all automakers.
Since then, increased interest in certified pre-owned vehicles by consumers has solidified the status of the certified used car. Certified used cars account for 41 percent of all used-car dealership sales, according to a 2005 study by Westlake, Calif.-based J.D. Power and Associates. That's an increase of 4 percent from its 2004 findings.
Part of the reason for these rising figures is that manufacturers are now offering reduced-rate financing incentives for certified vehicles. Today, it's not uncommon to find great financing deals or other bonuses such as 24-hour roadside assistance, trip-planning services and complimentary oil changes accompanying a certified pre-owned car.
CPO programs today have emerged as a completely separate shopping category. In fact, sites like Cars.com now allow customers to search specifically for CPO vehicles.
"When a consumer is searching for a specific used car on Cars.com, CPO cars are clearly marked in the search results," Olsen said. "And, more and more manufacturers are using that [CPO] tag in marketing their cars to consumers on the site."
For more information on certified pre-owned vehicle programs, visit www.cars.com and click on the "Shopping Advice" tab.