May 25, 2024

How Used Car Dealerships Inspect and Certify CPO Vehicles

4 min read

Manufacturer-backed CPO cars must pass a detailed inspection and come with an extended warranty valid at any dealer. They also offer perks like roadside assistance and vehicle history reports.

Non-certified used cars may not be inspected by the manufacturer, but they are usually subject to a multipoint inspection. In addition, independent inspectors can verify whether a used car has been properly maintained.

Mechanical Inspection

A mechanical inspection will evaluate the physical condition of a vehicle’s engine, transmission, drivetrain, and other mechanical components. It will also inspect the interior and exterior for any damage, dents, or scratches. The inspector will make note of any issues that need immediate attention or may require a future service, such as an oil change. The mechanic will also conduct a test drive to check the power steering and brakes.

Many used car dealerships use multipoint mechanical inspections to ensure their CPO vehicles are in good condition. However, it’s a good idea to find an independent mechanic and have them do a thorough inspection. The resulting report can help prevent you from buying a car that will require more repairs than it’s worth.

Manufacturer-backed CPO programs typically have strict multipoint inspection checklists that can include as many as 300 individual points. They are designed to demonstrate that the used cars meet a certain standard and have significant value added compared to non-certified pre-owned vehicles.

Dealerships that offer private-party sales might not use this rigorous a process, though they may still inspect the vehicles and provide a warranty. If you’re considering a private-party sale, ask the seller to allow you to bring your own mechanic for an independent pre-purchase car inspection. If they balk at this, you should consider walking away from the deal.

Safety Inspection

During a safety inspection, a certified technician will look for obvious things that can cause a car to fall apart while driving. A car must have working brakes, for example, and the tires must be properly inflated to prevent uneven tread wear. The inspector will also check the rear and side view mirrors to make sure they are present and undamaged.

Most dealerships will inspect a used car thoroughly before selling it. However, a buyer should have an independent mechanic examine the vehicle, as well, to ensure that the dealer’s evaluation is accurate.

If the car passes the dealer’s inspection, it may be considered a certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicle and include extra perks, like roadside assistance and complimentary satellite radio for a limited time or money toward a rental car in case of an emergency. A CPO program can also provide peace of mind that the vehicle has been reconditioned, meaning it has been repaired to meet manufacturer specifications.

Oftentimes, luxury car dealerships will use their CPO inspection process to filter out cars that should not have qualified for the certification. This can be beneficial for the purchaser, as it will highlight any issues that they should address before buying the car, giving them leverage in pricing negotiations. In this case, the buyer can choose to pay for the repairs or buy the car anyway.

Electrical Inspection

If a dealer sells certified pre-owned vehicles, they must ensure that these cars are in good condition before offering them for sale. Many CPO programs require a detailed multi-point inspection. The process can differ by manufacturer, however. Honda, for example, requires that their CPO vehicles pass a 182-point inspection and are under a certain age with limited mileage.

If an issue is discovered, the dealership can repair it and retest the car. It might also make mechanical improvements like changing the fluids or adjusting the suspension. The mechanics can also check the wiring and electrical system to make sure that it is safe and up to code.

Some dealerships will send these vehicles to a third-party inspection company. This is a more costly option, but it may be worth it to make sure that the dealer hasn’t missed anything important.

Generally, the sales department will make the final decision on whether or not to recondition the used car for sale. The goal is to turn the vehicle over quickly and for the maximum profit.

Exterior Inspection

The exterior inspection involves checking the paint and trim for signs of damage. Dealerships want to make sure that the vehicle looks good for potential customers. In addition, they will look for evidence of collision or other body damage. In some cases, dealerships may have to repaint the car or replace parts like a door handle or bumper.

Some manufacturers offer certified pre-owned programs. These vehicles go through a multi-point inspection process that’s backed by the manufacturer. Other dealers run their own dealer-certified programs. These vehicles don’t include a manufacturer-backed warranty, but they do typically come with an extended warranty.

Both types of certifications can be worthwhile, but it’s important to know who performs the inspection. OEM programs often use an independent third party inspector to ensure objectivity, but dealer-certified programs don’t always do this.

If you’re thinking of buying a used vehicle, it’s wise to have it inspected by an independent mechanic before you sign any documents. This can help you avoid problems that could cost you thousands of dollars down the road. It’s also a good idea to take the car on a test drive. Start by driving around the parking lot and then drive it in normal traffic. Test it on highway speeds and take it over speed bumps or railroad tracks if possible.

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