When shopping for a used car, you really have two options. You can go the traditional used-car route and buy from a random dealership or a private seller, or you can consider purchasing a certified pre-owned car. They’re both still used cars, but a certified pre-owned comes with a few extra perks than a regular used car and is backed by the manufacturer.

On the surface, it may seem like a no-brainer. Certified pre-owned (CPO) all the way right? Well, the reality is a little more complicated because CPO cars come with a significant price hike. So before you buy a CPO, ask yourself, is it really worth it?

What Makes Certified Pre-Owned Different?

certified pre-owned cars

A CPO car is different and generally better than a typical used car because it has to meet certain criteria to be called certified pre-owned. This usually entails an age and mileage restriction and a rigorous inspection. Most manufacturers require a car to be less than five years old and have less than 60,000 miles. The inspection usually has well over 100 inspection points. Each CPO programs is a little different and the specifics change from automaker to automaker.

Once the car has reached certified status, it is offered to buyers with a special warranty and a couple other perks like roadside assistance. Any warranties the car is still under from when it was purchased new are also honored. The length and robustness of the warranty differs from company to company, but most offer some kind of limited powertrain warranty for several years and some also offer bumper-to-bumper warranties for a short time after purchase.

How Much More Expensive Are They?

Certified Pre-owned car costs

All of that sounds great until you look at the extra cost of a CPO car. According to Bankrate, a car’s CPO status can add anywhere from $500 to a couple of thousand dollars to the overall price. However, in some cases, a car’s price can jump by several thousand dollars. It depends on the car and the program that goes with it.

The perception of a CPO car is that it is a safer buy, meaning it will have less go wrong with it and fewer surprises. If anything major does go wrong, it could be covered by the warranty included in the CPO program. However, you’re paying a lot of extra money for things that might happen. Also, there's a fee sometimes for warranty-covered repairs, meaning you'll still pay a minor fee for using the warranty that you already paid for. Not all automakers have a fee, but it's worth noting.

Is It Worth It?

certified pre-owned

In many cases, yes. The peace of mind that comes with knowing the car has been looked over and deemed high-quality can be worth a lot. Also, the manufacturer-backed warranty can really come in handy if something unexpected goes wrong.

Before you run out and buy a CPO car, you need to take a close look at your situation and the cars you’re interested in. If you can find a used car that’s not a CPO in excellent condition for a great price, it’s most likely the better option. If you’re worried about the car, you can always buy a third-party, extended-warranty. While these third-party warranties aren’t usually as good as the manufacturer ones, they can still offer you the coverage you need.

The bottom line is that if you’re not going to buy a certified pre-owned car, you need to do tons of research on the car you’re considering and crunch some numbers to see if the money you save on the initial purchase will be worth it in the long run.

You Have to Make Sure It’s Manufacturer Backed

certified pre-owned car

Car sellers can be tricky people. There’s a number of cars being sold out there with a sticker on them that says “Certified” that didn’t pass the manufacturer’s qualifications. Some car sellers have their own certification process. While this can be okay, if you’re looking for a CPO car, you need to ensure that the car has passed the manufacturer’s qualifications and not some random dealership’s “Certified” qualifications, because they’re not the same. If you’re going with a CPO car, make sure it’s backed by the manufacturer.