There’s no such thing as a standard Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) vehicle warranty because there’s no such thing as a standard CPO program. Each carmaker sets its own terms—from determining which models qualify to offering special program features to deciding how much coverage you're actually going to get. If you're wondering how CPO warranties work, we're here to help. We've researched plan provisions for every automaker listed in our master contact list and can tell you the latest trends in coverage.
What Do CPO Warranties Include?
Almost every CPO warranty includes both a bumper-to-bumper and powertrain warranty as well as roadside assistance and trip-interruption coverage. But like your dad and your lawyer have been telling you for years: Be sure to read the fine print.
Manufacturer programs often rename a car’s bumper-to-bumper warranty as the “CPO limited warranty.” It won’t be as comprehensive as the bumper-to-bumper plan that the original buyer received, but it should cover things like the electronics, the HVAC system, navigation and audio, and maybe even the suspension (excluding components designed to wear, like the brakes and tires). Sometimes this limited warranty will also cover the lubricated components that send power to the wheels such as the engine, transmission, and differential. In most cases, though, automakers separate the powertrain protection from the limited warranty, setting different timeframes for each.
Does Coverage for Electric Vehicles Differ?
Yes. Hybrids, fuel-cell, and battery-powered electric vehicles get special treatment, stipulating additional requirements or varied coverage lengths for components of these powertrains (i.e., the battery packs, electric motors, and control electronics).
When Does CPO Coverage Start?
In all the cases we examined, if a vehicle falls within the terms of its original new-car bumper-to-bumper warranty at the time it is sold as a CPO unit, the CPO warranty begins once that original warranty expires. If the original bumper-to-bumper warranty has already expired by the CPO date of purchase, then the CPO warranty begins on the day you buy the car. A CPO powertrain warranty, on the other hand, usually begins from the date the car was first registered and counts from zero miles on the odometer to some predetermined maximum—often as high as 100,000 miles.
Let's look at the HondaTrue Certified program. The CPO limited warranty covers a vehicle for one year or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first, whereas the powertrain warranty runs for seven years from the vehicle’s model year or 100,000 miles.
While one year of coverage might appear stingy, it's better than what some other manufacturers offer. In Hyundai's CPO program, the South Korean automaker doesn’t extend its new-car bumper-to-bumper warranty beyond the original terms of five years or 60,000 miles. But since all Hyundai CPO vehicles are less than five years old and have fewer than 60,000 miles on the odo, there's still some coverage to be had.
For How Long Is My Vehicle Covered?
It depends. Sticking with the Hyundai example, if you were to find one that’s four years old with 50,000 miles, you’ll get one year or 10,000 miles of limited coverage under the CPO program and another six years or 50,000 miles of powertrain coverage. The HondaTrue Certified plan accepts vehicles that are up to five years old with no more than 80,000 miles on them, so you could buy a five-year-old, 60,000-mile CPO Accord and still get a year or 12,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage as well as the remaining two years and 40,000 miles of Honda’s seven-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Land Rover has one of the easiest warranties to parse, with both the limited and powertrain warranties running for seven years or 100,000 miles from the original date of sale. LR also includes an anti-perforation warranty covering sheetmetal damage from corrosion for the same term. For comparison, Honda’s perforation warranty is good for only five years from the vehicle’s original date of sale, so that Accord we were looking at in our earlier example wouldn’t be covered for rust.
Are CPO Warranties Transferrable?
Almost all CPO warranties can be transferred to the next owner in a private-party transaction, a benefit that can boost resale value. Sometimes the transfer is free (as with Ford); sometimes it costs as little as $40 (Mitsubishi) or as much as $200 (BMW and Mini). Hyundai’s transfer is free, but the fine print notes that the company changes the terms of its powertrain warranty—from 10 years/100,000 miles to five years/60,000 miles—if a CPO car goes to another private buyer. If you're the second owner of a CPO vehicle, your car may not qualify for protection anymore.
Do I Get Roadside Assistance?
We found that most CPO warranties provide 24/7 roadside assistance, but coverage lengths and reimbursement allowances vary. Mitsubishi’s roadside assistance ends with the limited warranty at five years or 60,000 miles. Ford and Mazda provide roadside assistance for the seven-year/100,000-mile terms of their powertrain warranties, which run longer than their limited warranties. Check the carmaker's policy for details.
What about Trip-Interruption Coverage?
If your car breaks down away from home, trip-interruption coverage is useful, and most CPO warranties include it. The majority of warranties stipulate the breakdown must be caused by a warrantied component and occur more than 100 miles from home, but Toyota requires you to be 150 miles from home. The warranties will typically reimburse between $300 and $500 for necessities like hotels and meals. Volvo pays up to $500, but CPO buyers must first purchase an additional warranty plan in order to get trip-interruption insurance.
What Else Do I Need to Know?
Since every program is different and OEMs tweak their terms without warning, when you find a CPO model you’re interested in, we recommend taking a few steps. First, call the dealer with the vehicle’s VIN to find out if any of the new-car warranty coverage remains. Then get a copy of the CPO warranty, including an itemized list of every component the warranty covers. You'll probably be able to find this on the internet. Note particulars such as deductible amounts, rental-car allowances, loaner vehicles during repair, transfer provisions, and extended warranty options.
Do your research and you might also unearth some perks. Acura, for instance, offers access to its Concierge service, which will mail personal items and relay messages for you. Lexus L/Certified cars include four free scheduled-maintenance visits in the first two years. Nissan automatically registers CPO owners in the CarFax three-year buy-back guarantee. And if you don’t like your CPO Mercedes within the first seven days or 500 miles of ownership, you can exchange it for another CPO Mercedes of equal or greater value by paying the difference.
It is Bentley, though, that offers the most attractive incentive to buy CPO: The company invites every new member of its CPO family to take a free guided tour of the Bentley factory in Crewe, England. After all, if you just saved a trunk-load of money by buying your Bentley pre-owned, why not celebrate your fiscal responsibility by putting some of the savings toward a trip to its birthplace?
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