When you're shopping for a new car, you have plenty of options. Buying from a private seller or a dealership, leasing, and deciding whether to buy a new or used vehicle are all part of the research that goes into making your final decision. However, one purchase that's becoming more popular is a certified pre-owned vehicle or CPO. 

Offering many of the same perks as a new vehicle, CPOs combine value with peace of mind. If you're in the market for a new car, here's everything you need to know about certified pre-owned vehicles.

What Is a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle?

Nearly every manufacturer offers some sort of certified pre-owned program. However, automakers have different standards that allow CPO vehicles to qualify for that status. For example, Toyota certified vehicles in Canada come with:

  • A $0 deductible
  • 160-point inspection and any necessary reconditioning or refurbishing
  • Powertrain and roadside assistance coverage
  • Vehicle history report, such as a Carfax

In addition, these Toyota CPO vehicles must be newer than seven years old and be in good to great mechanical condition.

In contrast, luxury vehicle manufacturers may have more stringent rules regarding their CPO programs. Mercedes-Benz also offers certified pre-owned vehicles, but with more perks than their non-luxury counterparts. Its program includes:

  • Four-year unlimited-mile limited warranty plus one-year extended warranty
  • A personal concierge service
  • 24-hour roadside assistance program
  • Carfax history report
  • Complete reconditioning, if necessary

Furthermore, Canadian Mercedes-Benz dealerships only accept late model year vehicles — usually the same generation of vehicle — that have 120,000 kilometers or less on the odometer. Again, each certified pre-owned program will have its own set of perks, as well as the necessary criteria to certify the vehicle. 

Keep in mind that CPO isn’t exclusive to manufacturers. Other companies, like Clutch, have similar benefits to certified pre-owned programs including thorough inspections, a money-back guarantee, a Carfax report, and more.

What to Look For With a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle 

Magnifying glass observing a certified pre-owned vehicle

Whether you're searching for a hatchback, minivan, or something in between, you need to know what to watch out for with regard to a certified pre-owned vehicle. Just because a vehicle is certified pre-owned doesn't mean you should automatically let your guard down. Before you write a check for the down payment or meet with the financial services department, keep these factors in mind.

Take a Long, Hard Look at the Inspection Report

Even if a vehicle undergoes an inspection, that doesn't necessarily mean it's in perfect condition. To protect yourself in the event that the vehicle isn't up to standard, ask to review the vehicle inspection report. Well-done reports go into extreme detail about every aspect of the vehicle from the thickness of the brake pads to the depth of the tire treads. By reviewing these reports, you’ll have a clear picture of what you're getting.

Clutch understands the importance of vehicle inspections on used cars, not just for the customer’s peace of mind but also to maintain a strong reputation in the industry. Unlike most other car companies, Clutch has a 210-point inspection, which is far more thorough than the 100- or 150-point inspection offered by manufacturers and used car dealerships. Plus, with a Carfax report included with every Clutch purchase, you never have to worry about any surprises.

Understand the Fine Print of the Warranty

Warranties are another product that provides CPO buyers with some comfort while also alleviating any concerns about the vehicle. However, these limited and extended warranties may not cover as much as you think — or they may require certain scenarios or specifications before the dealer honours your warranty. 

As such, always read the fine print and ask questions if you find some aspect of the warranty you don't understand. In addition, many certified pre-owned programs require you to follow a specific maintenance plan for the vehicle. If you fail to follow this regimen for your vehicle, it can void the warranty.

With Clutch's straightforward 90-day, 6,000-kilometer warranty offered through First Canadian (one of Canada’s largest warranty providers), you won't have to worry about whether your vehicle qualifies for the warranty. For even more peace of mind, you can consider one of Clutch's extended warranty programs, including:

  • Clutch Protection Plan
  • Gap Insurance
  • Undercoat Protection

Understand the Exchange Policy

Even if you test drive a vehicle, you may find over time that it wasn't the vehicle you wanted. Perhaps it drives a bit bumpy on the highway or it doesn't have those little extras such as SiriusXM radio or Apple CarPlay. In some cases, dealerships will take the vehicle back, but other times, you might be out of luck. That's why you should always understand the exchange policy upfront.

At Clutch, each used vehicle comes with a "test own" exchange policy. So instead of worrying about whether a car is for you, simply test it out for seven days. If the vehicle isn't everything you hoped for, return it within seven days as part of our hassle-free, no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee.

Illustration of a piggy bank, point of sale system, and wallet

What About Financing?

Financing and trade-ins are another integral part of buying a used vehicle, whether or not it’s certified pre-owned. In some cases, CPO vehicles may come with specialized financing. This is because the vehicle has been certified by the manufacturer or dealership, which allows the vehicle to qualify for new car interest rates that are typically the same as new vehicle rates.

That said, financing a CPO vehicle isn't always a straightforward process. Dealerships may have hidden fees, stipulations on rebates or bonus cash, or even penalties for prepayment. However, only 4% of Canadians shop for their car rates online and 70% accept the first financing offer that comes their way. That's a formula for wasteful spending.

With Clutch, you'll always get easy, straightforward financing that provides the best possible rate and a term that fits your budget, needs, and lifestyle. To get the best rate, we partner with banks throughout Canada. By doing so, you aren't locked into a specific rate or term that only benefits the lender. So while you're free to shop around, we can often get you the best possible deal and pre-approval without even leaving the house.

CPOs and Trade-Ins

If you want to get more value for your vehicle without the hassle of selling your car privately, trade-ins are the way to go. However, trading in a vehicle at the dealership isn't always the best choice. You might get far less value for your vehicle, especially if you're trading in a vehicle that's from a different manufacturer.

However, Clutch circumnavigates this issue by offering a handy trade-in value estimator. Simply put in your VIN or car details, and we'll zip over an estimate of how much you can get your vehicle. It's just that easy.

Holding Used Cars to a Higher Standard: The Clutch Difference

Get a certified pre-owned vehicle with Clutch in Canada

Even with all of the benefits of a certified pre-owned vehicle, you may find an improved benefits package for your needs on the vehicle of your choice with Clutch. We hold our used vehicles to a higher standard, providing a Carfax report and a 210-point inspection that covers everything from the powertrain all the way down to the smallest dents. And with competitive finance rates and a 90-day, 6,000-kilometre warranty coverage, you can ease your concerns and get a quality vehicle—all while shopping from the comfort of your own home.