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A Certified Pre-Owned Chevy white 2020 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD is parked at a construction site.

The Lowdown on Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles

When you’re shopping for used cars and see some called “used” and some “pre-owned” and still others labeled “Certified Pre-Owned” (CPO), it’s easy to wonder: why are some used cars not CPO? Quite simply, models can only be sold as CPO when they meet strict requirements set by the original manufacturer, so used cars are not CPO if they don’t meet those criteria. If you’re looking at a Certified Pre-Owned Chevy, for example, then it has to be within the last 6 model years and cannot have more than 75,000 miles on it, and must pass a rigorous inspection to be sold as a CPO vehicle.

By meeting these requirements, the vehicle is held to a higher standard than other used cars, which is why it will also come with some benefits that you won’t find on non-certified models. Today, I’m going to take you through the differences between “used,” “pre-owned,” and “Certified Pre-Owned” so you’ll have a thorough understanding of what this means. To keep things simple, we’ll look at the requirements for Chevrolet, but just understand that every manufacturer sets their own standard for what can be a CPO model. They might be slightly different, but they’re going to be very similar to what we look at.

Basics: Used and Pre-Owned

Before we start talking about what it takes for a vehicle to be a Certified Pre-Owned Chevy, let’s get some basics out of the way. First of all, the terms “used” and “pre-owned” (note the distinct lack of “Certified” there) essentially mean the same thing. In both cases, what you’re looking at is a vehicle that has had a previous owner or was driven on a lease for several years. In other words: they’re both the opposite of “new” when looking at a vehicle.

So, why are there two terms that mean the same thing? It’s basically just a matter of marketing and what people think sounds “nicer.” The word “used” has some potentially negative connotations associated with it – the idea of something that’s been used and perhaps not treated very well. Dealerships use the term “pre-owned” because it’s a bit softer than “used,” but it’s the same thing with a different name.

The Certified Pre-Owned Difference

Adding the word “Certified” makes a tremendous difference, however, and is not just a third way of saying the same thing. A Certified Pre-Owned Chevy, or any other vehicle for that matter, has to meet strict criteria set by the original manufacturer in order for it to be sold as such. If a used model doesn’t meet these requirements, no matter how good the condition it’s in, it cannot be sold as a CPO vehicle.

Now, one thing to note is that you might see some dealerships offer something like a “dealer-certified pre-owned” or something similar. This is not the same thing and is sort of a sneaky way of trying to make a used car sound like a CPO vehicle when it’s really not. “Dealer-certified” just means they have their own category for some used models, and they might offer their own warranties or whatever on it. These can be fine vehicles, but don’t get them confused with CPO models that are backed by the original manufacturer.

A silver 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71 is shown from the side parked on sand in front of mountains

Requirements for a Certified Pre-Owned Chevy

Now let’s take a look at what’s required for a vehicle to be offered by a dealership as a Certified Pre-Owned Chevy. It’s worth pointing out, also, that only approved dealers are able to offer these vehicles for sale. You won’t find a CPO model for sale from a private seller posting his vehicle online or at a lot of dealerships that purely focus on used models from a wide range of manufacturers. The dealership has to have an agreement with the maker to be able to offer vehicles with the kind of benefits and support that come with a CPO model.

In order for a vehicle to qualify as a Certified Pre-Owned Chevy, it must first meet two clear requirements: it has to be within the current 6 model years, and it must be within a maximum of 75,000 vehicle miles. In addition to that, the vehicle has to have a clean title and pass a Vehicle History Report from CARFAX, which is also offered to customers interested in the CPO Chevy so you can see whatever it has been through. This is all designed to ensure the vehicle is recent, has relatively low mileage on it, and hasn’t been through anything traumatic.

These three requirements are only the beginning for a vehicle that’s looking to be offered as a Certified Pre-Owned Chevy. Once these terms are met, then it has to pass a rigorous inspection by a certified Chevy expert to ensure it is in the best condition possible. Chevy’s process includes a 172-point inspection with a thorough checklist including the tires and brakes, maintenance record, engine and functionality, a road test, and both the interior and exterior of the vehicle. Only once this has been passed, with all other requirements met, can a vehicle be offered as a Certified Pre-Owned Chevy, which means you know it’s in great shape.

Benefits of Choosing a CPO Chevy

Beyond the fact that a Certified Pre-Owned Chevy has been through an extensive inspection and is in great condition, you also get a couple of tangible benefits when you choose a CPO model. All Chevy CPO vehicles come with two warranties on them from the manufacturer, which means they’re honored at any certified dealership or service center that works with Chevy. This makes it easy to take advantage of this coverage and get the most out of these warranties.

They include:
12-month/12,000-mile Bumper-to-Bumper Limited Warranty
6-year/100,000-mile Powertrain Limited Warranty

In addition to these two warranties, every Certified Pre-Owned Chevy vehicle also comes with 24-hour roadside assistance provided for free for the duration of the Powertrain limited warranty. CPO Chevy models also come with two scheduled maintenance visits at a certified service center, which includes an oil and oil filter change, tire rotations, and a multi-point inspection just to ensure everything is in good shape. As you can see, picking a Certified Pre-Owned Chevy is one of the best ways to enjoy one of these vehicles.

A red 2020 Chevrolet Equinox is shown from the side parked at an outlook.

What Does This Mean for You?

Now that you’ve seen what a Certified Pre-Owned Chevy has to offer, is this kind of vehicle right for you? That really depends on what you’re looking for. A CPO model is going to cost more than a comparable used car that doesn’t qualify as a Certified Pre-Owned vehicle, so keep that in mind. While you pay more for it, however, you also get the added peace of mind from knowing that it’s met all of the requirements set by Chevy, plus great warranty coverage that you’re not going to find on most other used models.

A CPO vehicle is a great option if you want to pay less than a brand-new model while also getting some of the features and benefits that you typically miss out on with a used car. Not every vehicle is necessarily worth choosing as a CPO model, but it’s an especially fine choice when looking at luxury vehicles or if you want a high-end trim. Buying a CPO Chevy, fresh off its lease, is a great way to save money while getting a nearly-new vehicle, so head to your favorite dealership to find out more.