CPO vehicles are generally several-year-old cars, trucks or SUVs that have been returned to the dealer after being leased. Most CPO vehicles on lots currently range from 2005 to 2007 model years, though it is possible to find 2008 and even the occasional 2009 model year vehicles for sale as well.
Details of manufacturers' CPO programs vary but typically involve an extended warranty and assurances that the car has been carefully scrutinized during a comprehensive, multipoint inspection. Automotive Web sites such as AutoTrader.com can be useful resources for learning about and comparing CPO programs.
Experts say that buying what is essentially a factory-backed used vehicle can save consumers money. While a CPO car will generally cost between $500 to $1,000 more than a used car lacking the inspection guarantee, it also will likely cost thousands less than a nearly identical brand-new model. For consumers, this can translate into car payments that will often match the lease payments on a new car, truck or SUV.
Another factor driving consumers to CPOs is that many are finding it more socially acceptable to buy used. Car buyers, especially those in the luxury sector, find that buying certified gives them many of the perks of buying new, such as access to factory-sponsored maintenance programs, without the worries of appearing fiscally irresponsible in a down economy.
"For a consumer wanting the prestige and customer service that comes with owning a luxury car, balanced with the sensibility of purchasing used, buying CPO is hard to beat," says Chip Perry, CEO of AutoTrader.com.