Top 10 Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles Today's economy
presents some enticing alternatives to buying new.
When it comes time to buy a car, consumers basically have
two choices: new or used. Buying new will cost you, but you'll get all the
latest bells and whistles, a comprehensive manufacturer warranty and the peace
of mind that you're not purchasing a vehicle that has been put through the
wringer. Go the used route, and you typically get more for your money. However,
you never know if you'll get a peach or a lemon — or do you?
There's a relatively new type of used car on the market
that offers the advantages of buying both new and used. That is, you get more
for every dollar spent, as well as the solace of knowing that the vehicle's
health and well-being is guaranteed by the vehicle's manufacturer or an
independent agency. It goes by many names, but is most commonly known as
certified pre-owned (CPO).
To qualify as CPO, a vehicle must be inspected, refurbished
to "almost new" condition and certified as such by the vehicle's
manufacturer or an independent certifying authority. This helps to almost
eliminate the chance of a consumer getting a lemon. Furthermore, CPOs typically
come with some type of factory-backed warranty and financing, just like a new
There are variations regarding what is termed certified
pre-owned, however, so it's important to note the distinctions. Manufacturer
(or "factory") CPO vehicles are sold only at authorized dealers. The
cars are generally five years old or newer and have fewer than 80,000 miles,
and they often cost more than vehicles certified by independent authorities.
Independently certified CPOs can represent good value, especially since
independent authorities may hold a vehicle to a higher standard than a
manufacturer. Independents include brands such as the National Vehicle
Certification Program, CarMark and others. Finally, there are dealer-certified
vehicles. These generally have not been inspected by anyone outside the
dealership, but do typically carry a warranty or extended service contract to
provide some protection to the consumer.
While we aren't fans of the dealer-CPO vehicle programs, we
do think the others, in general, take much of the worry out of buying used, and
the value proposition of CPO cars has garnered consumer interest in this tough
"Across almost every major [manufacturer], new car
behaviors have trended downward, used has gone downward and, for the most part,
CPO has trended up," says Steve Gallagher, marketing manager for Toyota's
CPO program. Gallagher also notes that May was Toyota's best-ever CPO sales
month and that the company is on track for its best CPO year ever.
Be careful, though. CPO certification adds, on average,
$1,300 to the price of a used car, and it can go as high as $2,000. In today's
strong used-car market, that can bring the price of a CPO car close to the
price of a new car, and that's before manufacturer incentives. Many
manufacturers offer more favorable financing rates, though, so buyers can save
money that way.
Take a look at the 10 best-selling CPO vehicles through the
first six months of 2010. We examine what makes them hot sellers and talk about
the strengths and weaknesses of each.
.Like the Toyota Camry,
the Honda Accord has been among the top sellers for many years. The Accord is a
well-engineered car. It's larger inside and out than any of its competitors yet
weighs less than all of them, which gives it fine handling characteristics and
impressive fuel economy. Both of its engines are quite capable, and the
interior environment is modern but inviting. The Accord is a reliable car that
delivers great value for the dollar, but be careful how much you
pay. The Accord holds a high resale value, so it will cost you more up front
but will bring more when it's time to sell.
.The new BMW
3-Series is one of the best-handling, most driver-oriented vehicles on the market, but it is priced out of reach for many of us. However, a 2- or 3-year-old 3-Series with
between 6,000 and 60,000 miles on the odometer and similar looks and handling
can be had for thousands less. Buyers can opt
for a coupe, convertible, wagon or sedan all of which feature driving dynamics that are the envy of the industry. Be thrifty with equipment and watch pricing, though, because the 3-Series holds its
value well and can be slathered with expensive options.
It's no surprise the Toyota Camry is on this list. It has been the
best-selling car in the U.S. for the last several years, so there are plenty of
used cars eligible for the program. The Camry is practically a luxury car in
midsize sedan guise. It features a plush ride and interior trim and amenities
that make for a very comfortable environment.
recent troubles, Honda has the best reputation for quality and reliability in
the industry. Civic buyers will find more than they expect in a small car. It
offers lots of usable room for the size, a
fun-to-drive character and a level of engineering quality that is matched by few in its class. Plus, the Civic, perhaps more than any other car, holds its
resale value well. That means CPO prices may be high, but you should do well
when it comes time to sell. Be sure to check the price of your targeted CPO
vehicle against a new one, though. A hot CPO seller could cost as much as a new car. Honda's CPO program includes a 150-point inspection by a dealer technician, a
CarFax report, a 12-month/12,000-mile extension on the original warranty and
special financing offers.
Chevrolet Impala sells fairly well to the masses, it makes this list due to large-volume fleet
sales. Many of those cars are used for only a
few years and then go into Chevy's CPO program. Compared with the other vehicles on this list, the
Impala isn't as modern. Its architecture dates back into the late 1980s. The last redesign was in 2005, and even
that didn't mark much of a change from the previous generation. Still, the
Impala has lots of interior space, a large trunk and some good-looking variants.
Chevrolet's CPO program includes the remainder
of the original warranty, a 12-month/12,000 bumper-to-bumper warranty, a
117-point inspection, a vehicle history report, three months of OnStar and XM
radio, and special financing rates.
sparkling reputation for quality and reliability has taken a series of heavy
blows in the last few months, but the company's CPO program is still one of the
strongest in the industry. The program includes a 160-point inspection, a
CarFax report, a 3-month/3,000- mile comprehensive
warranty, a 7-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty, roadside assistance and new-car financing rates. The vehicles are also required to have less than
85,000 miles. The Toyota Corolla is a no-frills car that doesn't quite have the
sporty character of the Mazda3 or the engineering precision of a Honda Civic.
It does, however, have a reputation as a reliable, safe and affordable means of
getting from point A to point B. Add the backing of a CPO program, and the
Corolla becomes a very attractive second car for the family, or a starter car
for younger buyers.
.The Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a model of
luxury and sophistication. Though it isn't Mercedes' most affordable car, it's
the company's best CPO seller. "We like to say the E-Class
is the heart and soul of the Mercedes brand," says Rob Moran, manager of
product and technology public relations for Mercedes-Benz USA. "It really
does offer a compelling balance of quality, value, safety and
exclusivity." The Mercedes CPO program consists of a 162-point inspection
(including a road test), a 12-month extension on the original factory warranty
and roadside assistance for the life of the vehicle. Customers can also extend
their warranties by 12 or 24 months, but the warranty can never exceed seven
years or 100,000 miles.
.Luxury automakers tend to put more backing into their CPO programs,
hoping to turn CPO buyers into new-car buyers. BMW's CPO program adds a
2-year/50,000-mile warranty at the end of the original 4-year/50,000-mile
warranty, and includes two years of BMW Roadside Assistance, a comprehensive
inspection and a CarFax vehicle history report. The BMW 5-Series' mix of usable
space and onroad dynamics makes it tempting for families who want precision
German engineering. It is the most fun-to-drive car of its size, and the BMW
roundel badge is a desired status symbol.
.Minivans are the ultimate in practical
transportation. They offer room for up to eight people, and all passengers can
get to their seats easily thanks to sliding side doors and thoughtful seat
arrangements. But minivans can also be expensive, especially if they are loaded
with the entertainment features families desire. The Honda Odyssey is no
exception, with starting prices as high as $40,000 for a brand- new, loaded EX-L But it's a roomy,
comfortable minivan that handles well. The Odyssey also gets a powerful engine, useful
interior storage and the benefits of Honda's reputation for reliability and
high resale values.
.Roughly half of all luxury cars are leased, so it
is important for the manufacturers to have effective CPO programs to keep the
sales flowing once the cars come off lease. One of the hottest CPO vehicles is
the Lexus RX. Though it's a highly desirable crossover as a new vehicle,
premium pricing puts it out of reach for many consumers. A lightly used CPO
version is the next best thing. However, CPO prices aren't that low, as the RX's residual value is among the best in the industry.
RX buyers get a vehicle with easy ingress/egress, a luxurious interior, plenty
of room for five, useful cargo space and a
glass-smooth ride. They can also go green by opting for a hybrid.
source : MSN AUTOS, KIRK BELL
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