Comparing CPO Warranties
How do certified pre-owned warranty terms and conditions differ? What should you look out for if you're interested in buying a certified car?
One of the major reasons for buying a certified pre-owned car is to get the warranty that comes along with it, yet those warranties differ among automakers and even the terms can be confusing.
General Motors, for example, offers what's left of its five-year, 100,000-mile new-vehicle powertrain warranty on its factory-certified used vehicles, plus it adds 12-month/12,000-mile bumper-to-bumper coverage. Lexus, meanwhile, offers a three-year, 100,000-mile warranty for its certified used cars.
Some automakers, like GM, offer a three-day/150-mile buyback period. Most automakers also offer roadside assistance, but for different periods of time.
"The automakers all offer full details of their certified used car warranties on their websites," said Jerry Cizek, former president of the Chicago Automobile Trade Association. Consumers should scour automaker sites for full explanations of each program. Be aware, however, that those terms can change over time.
Rob Gentile, director of web product management for Consumer Reports, warns consumers to do their warranty homework.
"Your risk increases as the car gets older and the mileage gets higher," he said. "You want to see a copy of the warranty, not just a sales brochure. You want everything spelled out. You want to see what the warranty covers and doesn't cover, what deductibles you must pay — if any — and how often, where the car has to be brought for service, and who will perform the service. Sometimes what's covered is vague."
Make sure you're clear on whether the car is a manufacturer-certified vehicle or a dealer-certified one. The former are warrantied at any like-brand dealership anywhere in the country. The latter may not be, said Art Spinella, president of CNW Marketing Research.
Factory certified pre-owned warranties typically state that if brakes have 60 percent or less of their normal life left, they must be replaced; typically, used cars say little or nothing about the remaining brake life. Likewise, a factory-certified warranty requires that a scuffed alternator belt be replaced, but that's not the case with uncertified used cars, Spinella said.
Some final words of warning: When you buy a factory-certified car, don't get talked into purchasing an extended warranty.
"No reason to," Spinella said.
Also, Gentile said there's another rule of thumb when it comes to buying a factory certified pre-owned vehicle:
"Negotiate the price, which has been padded to pay for the inspection and repairs," he said. "It's been marked up, so find out the fair market value of similar cars of that age and with those miles so you don't end up spending too much."
While a factory-backed warranty is a plus that makes factory-certified used cars an attractive proposition, Gentile said certified factory-backed warranty programs have at least one shortcoming that should be addressed.
"There is no industry or government standard on what components and systems should be covered or what must be covered by a factory-certified warranty," he said, "and that's why even the factory-certified program isn't trouble-free."