making sure car buyers in Tucson find great deals on used cars

Top 10 Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles

By Kirk Bell of MSN Autos

When it comes time to buy a car, consumers basically have two choices: new or used. Buying new will cost you, but you'll get all the latest bells and whistles, a imagecomprehensive manufacturer warranty and the peace of mind that you're not purchasing a vehicle that has been put through the wringer. Go the used route, and you typically get more for your money. However, you never know if you'll get a peach or a lemon — or do you?


There's a relatively new type of used car on the market that offers the advantages of buying both new and used. That is, you get more for every dollar spent, as well as the solace of knowing that the vehicle's health and well-being is guaranteed by the vehicle's manufacturer or an independent agency. It goes by many names, but is most commonly known as certified pre-owned (CPO).


To qualify as CPO, a vehicle must be inspected, refurbished to "almost new" condition and certified as such by the vehicle's manufacturer or an independent certifying authority. This helps to almost eliminate the chance of a consumer getting a lemon. Furthermore, CPOs typically come with some type of factory-backed warranty and financing, just like a new car.

There are variations regarding what is termed certified pre-owned, however, so it's important to note the distinctions. Manufacturer (or "factory") CPO vehicles are sold only at authorized dealers. The cars are generally five years old or newer and have fewer than 80,000 miles, and they often cost more than vehicles certified by independent authorities. Independently certified CPOs can represent good value, especially since independent authorities may hold a vehicle to a higher standard than a manufacturer. Independents include brands such as the National Vehicle Certification Program, CarMark and others. Finally, there are dealer-certified vehicles. These generally have not been inspected by anyone outside the dealership, but do typically carry a warranty or extended service contract to provide some protection to the consumer.


While we aren't fans of the dealer-CPO vehicle programs, we do think the others, in general, take much of the worry out of buying used, and the value proposition of CPO cars has garnered consumer interest in this tough economy.


"Across almost every major [manufacturer], new car behaviors have trended downward, used has gone downward and, for the most part, CPO has trended up," says Steve Gallagher, marketing manager for Toyota's CPO program. Gallagher also notes that May was Toyota's best-ever CPO sales month and that the company is on track for its best CPO year ever.


Be careful, though. CPO certification adds, on average, $1,300 to the price of a used car, and it can go as high as $2,000. In today's strong used-car market, that can bring the price of a CPO car close to the price of a new car, and that's before manufacturer incentives. Many manufacturers offer more favorable financing rates, though, so buyers can save money that way.


Take a look at the 10 best-selling CPO vehicles through the first six months of 2010. We examine what makes them hot sellers and talk about the strengths and weaknesses of each.


Sales numbers are up to date through June 2010. Data provided by the individual manufacturers and compiled by MSN.

10. Lexus RX

Roughly half of all luxury cars are leased, imageso it is important for the manufacturers to have effective CPO programs to keep the sales flowing once the cars come off lease. One of the hottest CPO vehicles is the Lexus RX. Though it's a highly desirable crossover as a new vehicle, premium pricing puts it out of reach for many consumers. A lightly used CPO version is the next best thing. However, CPO prices aren't that low, as the RX's residual value is among the best in the industry. RX buyers get a vehicle with easy ingress/egress, a luxurious interior, plenty of room for five, useful cargo space and a glass-smooth ride. They can also go green by opting for a hybrid.


9. Honda Odyssey

Minivans are the ultimate in practical imagetransportation. They offer room for up to eight people, and all passengers can get to their seats easily thanks to sliding side doors and thoughtful seat arrangements. But minivans can also be expensive, especially if they are loaded with the entertainment features families desire. The Honda Odyssey is no exception, with starting prices as high as $40,000 for a brand-new, loaded EX-L. But it's a roomy, comfortable minivan that handles well. The Odyssey also gets a powerful engine, useful interior storage and the benefits of Honda's reputation for reliability and high resale values.


8. BMW 5-Series

Luxury automakers tend to put more backing imageinto their CPO programs, hoping to turn CPO buyers into new-car buyers. BMW's CPO program adds a 2-year/50,000-mile warranty at the end of the original 4-year/50,000-mile warranty, and includes two years of BMW Roadside Assistance, a comprehensive inspection and a CarFax vehicle history report. The BMW 5-Series' mix of usable space and on-road dynamics makes it tempting for families who want precision German engineering. It is the most fun-to-drive car of its size, and the BMW roundel badge is a desired status symbol.


7. Mercedes-Benz E-Class

The Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a model of imageluxury and sophistication. Though it isn't Mercedes' most affordable car, it's the company's best CPO seller. "We like to say the E-Class is the heart and soul of the Mercedes brand," says Rob Moran, manager of product and technology public relations for Mercedes-Benz USA. "It really does offer a compelling balance of quality, value, safety and exclusivity." The Mercedes CPO program consists of a 162-point inspection (including a road test), a 12-month extension on the original factory warranty and roadside assistance for the life of the vehicle. Customers can also extend their warranties by 12 or 24 months, but the warranty can never exceed seven years or 100,000 miles.


6. Toyota Corolla

Toyota's sparkling reputation for quality and reliability has taken a series of imageheavy blows in the last few months, but the company's CPO program is still one of the strongest in the industry. The program includes a 160-point inspection, a CarFax report, a 3-month/3,000-mile comprehensive warranty, a 7-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty, roadside assistance and new-car financing rates. The vehicles are also required to have less than 85,000 miles. The Toyota Corolla is a no-frills car that doesn't quite have the sporty character of the Mazda3 or the engineering precision of a Honda Civic. It does, however, have a reputation as a reliable, safe and affordable means of getting from point A to point B. Add the backing of a CPO program, and the Corolla becomes a very attractive second car for the family, or a starter car for younger buyers.


5. Chevrolet Impala

Though the Chevrolet Impala sells fairly well imageto the masses, it makes this list due to large-volume fleet sales. Many of those cars are used for only a few years and then go into Chevy's CPO program. Compared with the other vehicles on this list, the Impala isn't as modern. Its architecture dates back into the late 1980s. The last redesign was in 2005, and even that didn't mark much of a change from the previous generation. Still, the Impala has lots of interior space, a large trunk and some good-looking variants. Chevrolet's CPO program includes the remainder of the original warranty, a 12-month/12,000 bumper-to-bumper warranty, a 117-point inspection, a vehicle history report, three months of OnStar and XM radio, and special financing rates.


4. Honda Civic

Given Toyota's recent troubles, Honda has the best reputation for quality and reliability imagein the industry. Civic buyers will find more than they expect in a small car. It offers lots of usable room for the size, a fun-to-drive character and a level of engineering quality that is matched by few in its class. Plus, the Civic, perhaps more than any other car, holds its resale value well. That means CPO prices may be high, but you should do well when it comes time to sell. Be sure to check the price of your targeted CPO vehicle against a new one, though. A hot CPO seller could cost as much as a new car. Honda's CPO program includes a 150-point inspection by a dealer technician, a CarFax report, a 12-month/12,000-mile extension on the original warranty and special financing offers.


3. Toyota Camry

It's no surprise the Toyota Camry is on this imagelist. It has been the best-selling car in the US. for the last several years, so there are plenty of used cars eligible for the program. The Camry is practically a luxury car in midsize sedan guise. It features a plush ride and interior trim and amenities that make for a very comfortable environment.


2. BMW 3-Series

The new BMW 3-Series is one of the best-handling, most driver-oriented vehicles on imagethe market, but it is priced out of reach for many of us. However, a 2- or 3-year-old 3-Series with between 6,000 and 60,000 miles on the odometer and similar looks and handling can be had for thousands less. Buyers can opt for a coupe, convertible, wagon or sedan — all of which feature driving dynamics that are the envy of the industry. Be thrifty with equipment and watch pricing, though, because the 3-Series holds its value well and can be slathered with expensive options.


1. Honda Accord

Like the Toyota Camry, the Honda Accord has been among the top sellers for many years. The Accord is a well-engineered car. imageIt's larger inside and out than any of its competitors yet weighs less than all of them, which gives it fine handling characteristics and impressive fuel economy. Both of its engines are quite capable, and the interior environment is modern but inviting. The Accord is a reliable car that delivers great value for the dollar, but be careful how much you pay. The Accord holds a high resale value, so it will cost you more up front but will bring more when it's time to sell.


List of Resources:

Bell, Kirk “Top 10 Certified Preowned Vehicles” MSN Autos

9 August 2010

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Government Auto Loans

Auto Loans 1 

Congress trying to weigh in on the Auto Loan Industry

In a recent article by Jim Puzzanghera of the Los Angeles Times, there was some interesting information in regards to the government and their interest in consumer auto loans.  The article hits on some interesting side notes, but the main focus of the article deals with the Governments most recent interest of consumer auto loan regulation and how soon it might actually happen.


The article talks about a customer in San Diego who purchased a vehicle, drove the vehicle home, and then a week later was forced into signing new terms at an unfavorable interest rate.  Let me say that this story is very far fetched and misleading to anyone not well versed in the auto industry. 


Don’t get me wrong, it is highly common and normal for Dealers to sell cars without having loan approvals.  It happens all the time, and the finance department usually ends up securing the auto loan within the following days of sale.  The difference is that a consumer is only obligated to their original contract.  This means that if a dealer comes back and says, unfortunately the best option the lenders have given us is: this rate, this term, and this payment amount, then it’s totally at the consumers digression to accept it.

Auto Loans 2


The caveat to this is that dealers aren’t doing this to be your enemy and they’re not trying to make your life miserable.  A lot of times vehicles get sold outside of banking hours and in that case it is not favorable for the customer or the dealer to sit around and wait for the bank to open.  The second point is that most of the time dealer financing is very accurate with their original rates and terms, but there is an occasional adjustment that is required. The third and more important point is that more than 50% of the time, the lender actually comes in at better terms and the consumer’s payment and finance charge end up going down.


The  bottom line is that dealers are in this to make money, and the only way that dealers will make money is if consumers buy cars, and the only way consumers can purchase vehicles is with consumer auto loans.  So let’s face it, with the tight economy right now (2010) not everyone can get a loan, and if you’re reading this, then let me ask how many loan officers and bank managers do you know.  Probably nowhere near the amount as your average dealer finance manager. 


Auto Loans 3 Dealer finance departments work countless hours to get you approved and 9 times out of 10, the dealer finance dept will be able to get a sub prime person approved well before that person will find themselves a loan.  So take this advice.  If you have flawless credit, then remember, you can’t do your own financing and you don’t have to let the dealer do it; it’s your choice.  If you have sub-par credit, then chances are the dealer will get you a far better approval then you will ever find.  Use the dealers financing connections to your benefit and when you use that loan for good payment history, then you can do your own financing in the future.


In the end it is your right and your responsibility to ensure that your loan is fair.  In my opinion the government doesn't need to regulate more lending, we just need consumers to know their rights, and it is absolutely your right to arrange your own financing before ever walking into a dealership.

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10 Incredible photos of Used Cars

The next time that you feel like your old car just isn’t cutting it, try changing the angle that you’re looking from.  Here are some brilliant photos of old and newer cars that might not be worth their weight on four wheels, but place them on a piece of film and these things become priceless.


All photos have been back-linked to the original destinations so please feel free to check out similar shots from the original authors.











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Most Fuel Efficient Cars

If you’re thinking about getting a new or used car pretty soon then there’s a great chance that you’ll be taking vehicle fuel consumption into consideration.  With gas prices slowly rising, and rising, and rising some more there’s really a high importance in making certain that the car you purchase stays affordable.  In all reality if you’re a heavy driver then gas can add up to just as much as the car payment itself so this is important to purchase a vehicle that makes sense for your budget and fuel economy can be a major factor.


Here’s the EPA’s most efficient vehicles for your consideration:



Toyota Prius

51 mpg City
48 mpg  Highway

Most Efficient Two Seaters


Mazda MX-5
4 cyl, 2 L, Manual(5), Premium

22 City
28 mpg  Highway

Most Efficient Minicompact Cars

MINI Cooper

4 cyl, 1.6 L, Automatic(S6), Premium

25 mpg  City
33 mpg Highway



Toyota Yaris
4 cyl, 1.5 L, Automatic(4), Regular

29 mpg City

35 mpg Highway

Most Efficient Compact Cars


Honda Civic Hybrid
4 cyl, 1.3 L, Automatic(CVT), HEV, Regular

40 mpg City
45 mpg Highway



Volkswagen Jetta
4 cyl, 2 L, Manual(6), Diesel

30 mg City
41 mpg Highway

Most Efficient Midsize Cars


Toyota Prius Hybrid
4 cyl, 1.8 L, Automatic(CVT), HEV, Regular

51 mpg City
48 mpg Highway

Most Efficient Large Cars


Hyundai Sonata
4 cyl, 2.4 L, Automatic(5), Regular

22 City
32 Highway



Honda Accord
4 cyl, 2.4 L, Manual(5), Regular

22 mpg City
31 mpg Highway


Most Efficient Small Station Wagons


Audi A3
4 cyl, 2 L, Automatic(S6), Diesel

30 mpg City
42 mpg Highway



Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen
4 cyl, 2 L, Manual(6), Diesel

30 mpg City
41 mpg Highway


Article Resources:

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Top 10 Stolen Cars

Buying a used car that won't get stolen


MSN Autos Recently published a list of the top 10 most stolen vehicles for 2010 and it really gives car buyers something to think about.

The article can be found here:

Hot Wheels: America's 10 Most Stolen Cars by James Tate

If you’re in the market for a vehicle and contemplating a purchase then don’t set yourself up for failure.  There are many vehicles available to you and it’s important to get one that will last for more then a week.  Sometimes it even helps to find a vehicle that is a bit newer and a little more money just based on the fact that newer vehicles have more build in security. Either way, price and age aren’t everything as you’ll see in this list there are vehicles from a wide range of years that our top choice steals for many crooks.  Here is the list:


10. 2002 Ford Explorer



9. 199 Ford Taurus

1999 ford


8. 1994 Acura Integra

1994 acura integra


7. 1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee

1996 jeep grand chr


6. 2000 Dodge Caravan

2000 dodge grand car


5. 2004 Dodge Ram

2004 dodge ram


4. 1997 Ford F150

1997 ford f150


3. 1989 Toyota Camry

1989 toyota camry


2. 1995 Honda Civic

1995 honda civic


1. 1994 Honda Accord

1994 honda


Overall, the next time that you go used car shopping keep these vehicles in mind.  If you don’t there is a good chance that you will be used car shopping again sooner than you might expect.

Keep following Used Cars in Tucson for new tips on buying cars, saving money, honest vehicle reviews, and even how to find great deals on newer autos.
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