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Roadfly Magazine
Issue Nine
Table of Contents

Past Issues Index
Roadfly Magazine
Issue Nine
October 29, 2003
Fernandez Racing
Fernandez Interview
Hot Lap: Strong Strut
CPO Nightmares
Lotus Elise Preview
Coming Next Issue
Bimmer Roundup Coverage
Hot Lap: The Wheel Exchange
Review PowerBook G4 17 inch
Want Clean Glass?

CPO Nightmares, continued.

Used Car Warranties CPO

Certified Pre-Owned Cars

Sure enough, all talk about the problems on the message boards stopped soon after we attempted to contact the owners. The manufacturers had successfully swept the issue under the rug; we can only speculate as to what has happened with the vehicles. Several of the people who were having problems with their recent CPO purchased vehicles appear to have new replacements. Calls to the respective manufacturers were not returned, so we can't confirm the exact outcome of these events.

Rest assured that these incidents are not typical, and are probably the result of a few rogue dealerships. After all, a manufacturer would not want to develop a reputation of certifying anything and everything that sat on the lot - that would negate any benefit of a CPO program.

But, the problems present another question - if damaged vehicles can be inspected, certified and sold as CPO vehicles, why isn't a service like CARFAX or Experian catching some of these problems? That's what they're is supposed to do, right?

Again, the answer is "not exactly." The vehicle history services appear to only catch problems that have a direct impact on the title and/or "history" of the vehicle. Transactions such as ownership transfer, or a change in status (i.e., Salvaged title) are the major components of a report. In theory, a vehicle could have tens of thousands of dollars of damage from an accident, and so long as the vehicle wasn't "totaled" by the insurance company, the reporting services might not be able to pick-up on the damage.

Ultimately, buying a vehicle is still a somewhat risky business, even though the vehicle may be "Certified Pre Owned." An inexperienced technician may have missed a few inspection points, or a dealership might be desperate to move a vehicle off the lot quickly, and a seemingly perfect CPO vehicle might turn into a real nightmare.

We strongly suggest that a prospective buyer take the following actions when considering the purchase of a used vehicle, even if it is a Certified Pre Owned vehicle:
  • Drive the vehicle not as a buyer, but as an inspector. Pay attention to any rattles, squeaks, odd noises, or problem indicators. A vehicle should not pull or drift to one side or another, nor should it smoke, smell odd or exhibit any other unusual characteristics. If you're uncertain as to what's normal, ask to drive a similar vehicle for comparison.
  • Carefully inspect the vehicle for proper equipment. We've heard dozens of stories about CPO vehicles not having the correct spare tire included with the vehicle, or components like CD changers and tool kits missing. Spare tires should be in good condition, properly inflated, and the proper size and style for the vehicle.

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