Best used-car programs

Certified programs offer warranted, inspected used cars. Volkswagen's program called best.

By Peter Valdes-Dapena, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Volkswagen has the best "certified pre-owned" car program of any non-luxury brand, according to a survey by IntelliChoice.com.

Among luxury brands, Cadillac's "certified" program is the best, the IntelliChoice.com survey said.

Volkswagen
Volkswagen has the best "Certified pre-owned" program of any non-luxury brand, according to IntelliChoice.com

IntelliChoice.com is known for its "cost of ownership" and value-based evaluations of new vehicles. This is the eighth year IntelliChoice has ranked "certified pre-owned" vehicle programs.

Used cars that carry a manufacturer's "Certified" badge can cost hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars more than the same used car without certification. But the extra money can be worth it to someone looking to simplify the used car shopping process.

"Certified pre-owned," or CPO, programs offer longer warranties than you would get with an ordinary used car. To be certified, vehicles also have to meet certain standards of quality and condition. You should, at the very least, be able to count on a decent, well-cared for car.

For example, the vehicle will have to be younger than a certain age and have fewer than a certain number of miles on the odometer. Furthermore, to be certified, a vehicle will have to undergo an inspection covering a set number of items, or "points," on the car.

In announcing Volkswagen as having the best program, James Bell, publisher of IntelliChoice.com, said that VW offers the best warranty. VW's warranty extends to two years or 24,000 miles beyond the original manufacturer's warranty.

Volkswagen also has a strong enforcement program, Bell said, to make sure that dealers comply with the program's requirements in terms of vehicle condition, inspection and customer service.

Cadillac, General Motors' (Charts) U.S. luxury division, offers the best program among luxury brands, IntelliChoice.com said. (Saab, also a GM brand, finished fourth in the Luxury rankings.)

Luxury brands tend to have stronger CPO programs, Bell said. Cadillac's CPO warranty extends for two years or 50,000 miles beyond the car's original warranty.

All of Toyota (Charts)'s U.S. brands finished in the top of the rankings. Scion and Toyota were third and fourth, respectively, among non-luxury brands. Lexus ranked as having the third-best program among luxury brands.

Ford Motor Co. (Charts) saw two of its brands' programs finish near the top. Volvo had the second-best program among luxury brands, according to IntelliChoice.com. Mazda, in which Ford owns a controlling interest, had the fifth-best program among non-luxury brands.

IntelliChoice.com's rankings take into account the details of the programs themselves, but not the desirability or quality of the vehicles offered by that manufacturer. Points are given for the relative value of the brand's used cars, in terms of depreciation and other ownership costs, compared to the brand's new cars.

Manufacturers operate CPO programs because they have an interest in supporting the value of their products in the used vehicle market. Car companies like to tout the high resale value of their cars. A vehicle that does not get a good price in the used car market will ultimately cost its owner more than a similarly-priced vehicle that holds its value better.

Consumer's should avoid CPO programs that are not run by the manufacturer, Bell said. Some dealerships offer their own CPO programs, or ones run by third-party companies, but those programs leave a disgruntled buyer with nowhere to turn if the program's promises are not kept.

When considering a CPO car, buyers should first narrow down the list of cars they're considering, Bell said. Once that's done, shoppers should compare the terms of the CPO programs, as well as the cars themselves, to decide which is best for them.

IntelliChoice: Best Non-luxury CPO Programs

  1. Volkswagen (Program/Vehicles)
  2. Honda (Program/Vehicles)
  3. Scion (Program/Vehicles)
  4. Toyota (Program/Vehicles)
  5. Mazda (Program/Vehicles)

IntelliChoice: Best Luxury CPO Programs

  1. Cadillac (Program/Vehicles)
  2. Volvo (Program/Vehicles)
  3. Lexus (Program/Vehicles)
  4. Saab (Program/Vehicles)
  5. BMW (Program/Vehicles)

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Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.