CPO programs explored: What do you get for your extra money?

We take a look at various certified pre-owned programs to see how they stack up.

When you're shopping for a new or used car, it's inevitable that you'll encounter ads for certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles. Whether you look at it as getting a discount on a nearly-new car or getting a better guarantee on a gently-used one, CPO cars can be attractive values.

We've detailed the ins and outs of CPO vehicles in the past, but more than once our readers have asked us to take a closer look at the differences between manufacturers' CPO programs. Today, we're going to do just that.

To fully break down every manufacturer's CPO program would fill more space than we have, so this will by no means be exhaustive. However, it should give you a good idea of what to expect when you shop for nearly-new cars in these segments.

Some things to note: Manufacturers often advertise their CPO warranty terms starting from the date of original purchase. For example, a "six-year" warranty on a certified pre-owned vehicle that was purchased four years ago effectively has a two-year warranty period remaining.

Many automakers will also honor new-car warranties if they are still in effect when the car is purchased used (CPO or not), but be sure to ask how much of that warranty is transferable.

Where it all started: the luxury segmentWhen CPO programs first took root in the United States, it was here, in the luxury sphere, where off-lease used vehicles in good condition first became plentiful.

Here at Leftlane, when we talk about "the luxury segment," we're generally referring to Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. It should come as no surprise that all three offer comparable programs, though there are a couple of key differences.

Lexus and Mercedes-Benz will certify vehicles going back six years (or fewer) from the current model. Lexus caps mileage at 70,000; Benz will allow up to 75,000. Certified BMWs can only be five years old or newer with no more than 60,000 miles.

The Lexus warranty goes out to six years with unlimited miles and two years are included for CPO purchases regardless of age. Mercedes includes a one-year CPO warranty with unlimited miles; BMW's goes to six years from the date of purchase or 100,000 miles, whatever comes first, and has a $50 deductible.

Elsewhere in the luxury segment, Audi sells CPO vehicles up to five years old with fewer than 60,000 miles. Jaguar Land Rover does the same. Audi's warranty covers one year from the expiration of the company's new-car warranty (and unlimited miles). JLR's certified warranty goes out to six years from the original purchase date or 100,000 miles. Neither has a deductible.

All five manufacturers include 24-hour roadside assistance and trip interruption protection. As an added perk, Mercedes-Benz offers a seven-day exchange period for CPO buyers.

Premium and entry-luxuryFor this segment, we chose to look at Volvo, Acura and Infiniti. Volvo caps its CPO vehicles at five years old. Acura goes to six years and 80,000 miles. Infiniti also goes to six years, but caps mileage at 75,000.

Volvo and Acura have fairly straightforward CPO warranties. Volvo's covers the vehicle for six years from the original purchase date and up to 100,000 miles (whichever comes first). Acura has a 12-month, 12,000-mile CPO warranty plus a seven-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Infiniti uses a more stratified system. Vehicles still under their new-car warranties get a CPO guarantee out to six years and either 75,000 or unlimited miles, depending on the vehicle mileage at the time of the CPO purchase. Vehicles that are outside their original warranty coverage get a two-year, unlimited-mile CPO-specific warranty.

All three offer 24-hour roadside assistance and trip interruption protection plans. Acura also has a three-day exchange program similar to Mercedes-Benz.

Going mainstream: the domesticsOnce you dip below the premium segment, certified pre-owned programs become slightly less robust. As examples of these programs, we selected Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge. These are generally representative of the brands sold under each's corporate umbrella, but we'll note some exceptions below.

Ford caps its certified cars at six years old with fewer than 80,000 miles. Chevrolet and Dodge both cap at five years and 75,000 miles.

Ford's certified warranty is one year and 12,000 miles for bumper-to-bumper and seven years/100,000 miles (from original purchase) for powertrain. Chevrolet's comprehensive warranty is the same as Ford's, but its powertrain warranty only goes out five years (rather than seven) for the same mileage.

Dodge's warranty is the outlier in this segment. Its comprehensive warranty is only three months and 3,000 miles, though a seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty covers powertrain components.

Chevrolet offers a three-day "satisfaction guarantee" return program. 24-hour roadside assistance is included with all three, but only Ford offers trip interruption protection.

That's all well and good for volume brands, but what about premium domestic nameplates? Lincoln and Cadillac differ slightly from their corporate stablemates, offering blanket six-year, 100,000-mile coverage from the original date of purchase.

More mainstream: AsiaWhen you think Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge, you probably also think Toyota, Honda and Nissan. We've got you covered.

Toyota offers CPO vehicles as much as seven years old and with up to 85,000 miles. Honda and Nissan cap at six years and 80,000.

All three offer one-year, 12,000-mile comprehensive CPO warranties and seven-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranties running from the original date of purchase. We suspect that's no accident. Note that programs for special vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf may differ.

Surprisingly, all three offer some form of trip insurance.

Hyundai and Kia cap their CPO inventory at five years and 60,000 miles and transfer the balance of the vehicles's 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranties. Normally, this benefit is not available to used-car buyers.

Niche brandsDon't see your brand of choice above? Well, we grabbed a few of the more niche players for this as well. Mazda, Volkswagen and Subaru offer quirkier models at mainstream-like prices. Do their CPO programs stack up, too?

Mazda offers CPO vehicles as much as six years old and with up to 80,000 miles. Volkswagen also goes to six years old, but caps its mileage at 75,000 (for the time being; newer model years may have lower caps). Subaru goes to only five years but allows up to 80,000 miles.

Mazda's warranty adds one year and 12,000 miles of comprehensive coverage after the new-vehicle warranty expires (or on the CPO purchase date, if it has already expired). Volkswagen offers two years and 24,000 miles of coverage on older vehicles, but only one year and 12,000 miles on 2018 or newer CPO sales. Note that TDI models have special exemptions. Subaru simply extends its new-car warranty to 6 years and 100,000 miles.

Leftlane's bottom lineCertified pre-owned programs are often comparable, but not always equal. Know what you're getting (and what you may be missing elsewhere) before you sign on the dotted line.

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