Is Your Trade-in a CPO Candidate?

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CARS.COM — If you’re trading in a low-mileage, late-model vehicle that has been well maintained and looks nearly new, your car could be a candidate for a certified pre-owned program.

If it qualifies to become a CPO vehicle, does that mean you’ll get more money for your trade-in? In theory, you should. Any vehicle that has low mileage and high curb appeal should have better-than-average resale value.

Although you may think your 4-year-old car warrants CPO status, it isn’t up to you, so don’t suggest that it deserves certification. That decision rests with the dealers who are considering taking your trade. They will choose whether to keep it and put it on their used-car lot, either as a CPO or non-CPO vehicle, or sell it at a used-car auction.

Some factors to keep in mind:

  • Under factory CPO programs, dealers only can certify vehicles that are from the brand they sell, so a Honda dealer can’t sell a CPO Toyota.
  • Dealers taking your trade-in already may be overstocked with that particular model, so they will probably take yours to an auction.
  • Although your car is in great shape, it may not be a hot-selling model on the local used-car market (such as a two-door coupe versus an SUV or pickup). No dealer wants a used car sitting on the lot for two months because that costs the dealership money.

In addition, each car deal is different, and how it shakes out depends on a number of factors. For example, if you’re buying a new vehicle at or near the dealer’s cost, don’t expect the dealer to be overly generous with your trade-in.

The bottom line is, no matter what you’re trading in or what shape it’s in, there are factors beyond your control as to how much a dealer will offer you and whether it is a CPO candidate.

One alternative is to shop at other dealers and see how much they offer for comparison. Another is to try to sell your used car yourself. Though it’s more work, you’ll probably get more money, plus you can personally “certify” the vehicle’s condition and history.

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