(iSeeCars) – Buying a new car is more expensive than ever, with the average new car price exceeding $40,000. Although used cars are more affordable, you might be reluctant to purchase one because it comes with uncertainties beyond what a vehicle history report can uncover. Luckily savvy car shoppers can have the best of both worlds thanks to certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicles.

What is a certified pre-owned vehicle and is it a good idea to buy one? We have the answers.

What Does Certified Pre-Owned Mean?

If you’re shopping for a car, you’ve likely come across CPO vehicles. But what does that mean exactly, and how do they differ from traditional used cars? A certified pre-owned car is a low-mileage, accident-free used car that is typically less than 7 years old and has been reconditioned to meet strict manufacturer or dealer standards. Backed by an extended warranty from their original manufacturer, CPO cars have undergone a rigorous, multi-point inspection to achieve Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) status.  Additionally, many CPO vehicles come with added perks like roadside assistance replacement/loan vehicle access and trip interruption protection. Check out our handy guide for more information on how to buy CPO cars.

Buying a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle: Pros

Purchasing a CPO vehicle comes with some advantages. Here are the main reasons why purchasing a CPO model might be a smart decision:

Savings: Certified pre-owned cars are less expensive than new cars. In fact, the average used car depreciates by 16.9 percent over three years according to a recent iSeeCars study on the cars that hold their value best. Buying a lightly used car allows you to save money by purchasing a vehicle after it’s taken its main depreciation hit. In fact, you can find certified pre-owned cars across a wide range of budgets. Buying the right CPO car can also save you money over a non-certified used car because they hold their value better after purchase and have lower maintenance costs due to warranty coverage. Better still, CPO cars often come with special financing rates that are better than what’s often found on non-certified used cars. 

Modern Vehicles: Although you’re buying a pre-owned car, you’re still buying a modern late-model vehicle. Many CPO vehicles are 2-3 years old, which means that they are often in the vehicle’s current model generation and have the same basic styling as new models, along with the latest vehicle technology. Or, if driving a modern car isn’t a priority, you can find an older version for even more added savings.

Added Peace of Mind: In order to qualify as a CPO vehicle, a car must pass a rigorous multipoint inspection of up to 300 items by trained technicians. You can even request a copy of the inspection to see exactly what was covered. CPO vehicles come with factory warranty coverage which generally includes a limited powertrain warranty for the engine, transmission and major mechanical components; and a limited bumper-to-bumper warranty for other issues that may arise that aren’t part of the powertrain. CPO warranties also extend coverage beyond what the manufacturer offers for a new car. This warranty coverage can ease anxiety of buying a used car, because it means that you won’t be on the hook for expensive repairs shortly after purchasing your vehicle.

Buying a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle: Cons

Limited Options: If you’re looking for a vehicle in a specific color and trim you might have trouble locating a CPO version of the car you want. If you don’t have the option to wait it out to find the vehicle you’re looking for, you might have to settle for a different vehicle. Because CPO cars have to follow a certain criteria and are the cream of the crop of used vehicles, inventory is more limited than what you would find for non-certified traditional used vehicles. 

Added Cost: While CPO cars cost less than new cars, they often cost more than traditional used cars. Check out our guide on CPO cars with the highest premiums to understand the added cost of CPO cars compared to their traditional used car counterparts. When looking at the extra cost, it’s important to understand the extra protection you’re getting to see if it’s worth it. One way to check is to compare it to a comparable non-certified used car and to research its estimated repair costs during the warranty period. Remember, CPO cars are often negotiable, so you may be able to talk a dealer down to a price that is more budget-friendly.

Required Maintenance Schedule: One potential downside to a CPO vehicle is that CPO programs require that you follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule for services like oil changes and tire rotations. Not adhering to this schedule could void your warranty. This maintenance work also has to be done at a franchised dealership, which could be a potential drawback if you have your own independent trusted mechanic. Some CPO programs include a deductible for all covered repairs, so make sure you understand the terms of the warranty and that even covered repairs can come with a cost.

Bottom Line:

Consumers should always do their research before making a final decision to buy a CPO car. In some cases, buying a certified pre-owned car may not add a significant amount to the cost of a traditional used vehicle and could even save you money in the long term if you take advantage of special financing deals. Conversely, some CPO cars come with expensive premiums that may outweigh what you would pay in maintenance costs. Vehicles that have strong reliability and low maintenance costs can be smarter used vehicle purchases because you likely won’t need to make repairs that are covered by the CPO warranty. 

More from iSeeCars.com:

If you’re interested in a new car or a used car, be sure to check out iSeeCars.com’s award-winning car search engine. It uses advanced algorithms to help shoppers find the best car deals across all vehicles, and provides key insights and valuable resources, like the iSeeCars free VIN check report and Best Cars rankings. You can even search for just CPO cars. Filter by make, model, interior color, exterior color, price, fuel type, and special features to find the best deal on your next vehicle. This article, What Does Certified Pre-Owned Mean? originally appeared on iSeeCars.com.