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Bottom Line Up Front

  • Certified pre-owned cars are refurbished inside and out, if necessary, to appear as new as possible, but without the new car price.
  • Certified pre-owned criteria, programs and standards can differ from manufacturer to manufacturer.
  • The available selection of certified pre-owned vehicles is often smaller. If you choose this option, prepare to be more flexible. 

Time to Read

3 minutes

October 23, 2023

Buying a car is a big financial decision that often starts with a simple question: new or used? While some people buy new vehicles for the peace of mind, many others choose to purchase used cars because they're more affordable. But what if you could get many of the same benefits of a new car at the price of a gently used one? That’s the benefit of a certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicle.

What Is a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle?

A certified pre-owned car is a used vehicle that’s been vetted to meet certain manufacturer standards. These vehicles are generally newer (typically 6 years old, or less) and have relatively low mileage. To gain the CPO designation, a car needs to pass the manufacturer’s specified inspection and undergo any necessary maintenance and reconditioning.

CPO cars generally come with factory-backed warranties, roadside assistance and other perks that you wouldn't get with a regular used car. In short, you get many of the benefits of buying a new car, but at a lower price.

Certified Pre-Owned Facts to Remember

Whether you’re buying a used car for the first time, or you’ve been through the process before, there are some things to keep in mind if you’re considering a CPO car. Key things to keep in mind are:

  • Price. While CPO cars offer numerous benefits, they often come with a higher price tag compared to non-certified used vehicles. Buyers should consider their budget and weigh the added features and warranties against the higher cost.
  • Depreciation. Like all vehicles, CPO cars still experience depreciation over time. While the initial depreciation might not be as significant as with new cars, buyers should be aware that CPO cars will still lose value over time.
  • Selection. Depending on the manufacturer or dealership, the selection of Certified Pre-Owned cars is typically limited. Be prepared to be a little flexible in terms of make, model and features if you’re searching CPO purchases.
  • Research. Not all CPO programs are created equal. Research the specific certification process and benefits offered by the manufacturer. For example, some programs might provide more comprehensive warranties or additional perks.

Should I Consider a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle?

Shopping for a new-to-you car can be exciting, but it can also be confusing. If you’re looking for a used vehicle that looks and runs just—or almost—as well as it did off the factory floor, it’s smart to consider a CPO option. Set your budget, do your research and arrive at the dealership prepared to negotiate. With a little flexibility, you’ll be able to find a car that not only meets your needs, but also provides the confidence you need to navigate the roads.

Don’t forget to apply for a preapproved auto loan before you start shopping! Navy Federal Credit Union will make the process simple, so you can focus on finding the perfect CPO vehicle.

Next Steps Next Steps

  1. Use Navy Federal Credit Union’s Auto Loan Calculator to help you figure out what purchase price will work with your budget before you start looking at CPO vehicles. This will help you understand what you qualify for.
  2. Do research into the CPO programs for different manufacturers. They can differ in criteria and benefits, so it’s important to know what you’re getting for paying the premium that accompanies a CPO designation.


This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.