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Certified pre-owned is the way to go for Mr. Indecisive

2009 BMW 3-Series


I am currently a leaser who has decided to return his leased vehicle in order to buy a "new" vehicle. Leasing no longer seems to be financially wise since I now drive less than 15,000 kilometres a year. Essentially, I want to buy a vehicle that I will hold for the next four years, that reflects our financial status (above the average Canadian mean), that has relative power (when needed), but is also economical on the fuel tank. I am trying to determine my best options between buying a CPO vehicle – certified pre-owned – or a new vehicle. I am also thinking about buying a lower-end vehicle versus an older but higher-end vehicle. For example, a fully equipped Chevrolet Cruze versus a 2010 Volkswagen Passat 2.0 or 2007-08 BMW/Mercedes. While I can be somewhat emotional about buying a vehicle, at the end of the day, I mostly rely on financial numbers to make a decision. Do you know if there are any retail car agents that work to matching your requirements with the proper vehicle? – Ian, Toronto

Cato: Let me see if I have this right. Ian wants an economical status symbol with lots of power and he's not opposed to a Detroit-based ride versus a German import and he wants someone to do most if not all of the legwork.

Vaughan: Eeesh, what a windbag. Ian, my boy, buying a car isn't that hard. And what the hell is a BMW/Mercedes 2007/08?

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Cato, I've been doing this too long to put up with utterly vague, non-flexible requirements from our dwindling core of devoted readers. Ian is both a journo's and a car seller's nightmare. He wants a lot, but he has no idea what he wants.

Hello! Buying a car is simple. Set a budget, decide what sort of vehicle suits you – sedan, hatchback, sport-utility, minivan, pickup – and then stop dithering and make a choice.

Cato: Dithering can be a road to great successes. Remember our former Liberal prime minister, Mr. Dithers, Paul Martin.

Vaughan: Martin was the best prime minister we never (or hardly ever) had, apart from Robert Stanfield. The one-dimensional Harper could stare down any car salesman on the planet.

Cato: I didn't say Paul Martin lasted long as prime minister. Ah, no matter. We're here to help our Mr. Dithers.

Ian, I really like the CPO route for you. Why? You'll get a car with some status for a good price and with a decent warranty. If you're thinking about VW Passats and Bimmers and Mercs, a compact Chevy will not cut it – no matter how well-loaded.

If the numbers drive your choices, consider this: you should be able to get an all-wheel-drive, 2009 German sedan for less than $30,000. You really want a rolling status symbol. Here's a way to avoid paying full pop, Ian.

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Vaughan: I have no idea where this guy is coming from. But he says, "at the end of the day, I mostly rely on financial numbers to make a decision." If it's numbers, and I assume he means the lowest numbers, then the Cruze is his ride. It's a comfortable, good-looking car at a terrific price. But then he goes on about "our financial status," which suggests he's in Rolls-Royce territory.

Cato: C'mon, Vaughan. You want numbers? Look at the numbers.

So far this year, BMW Canada has sold some 11,000-plus CPO cars. It's big business.

Vaughan: And your point Cato … if you have one.

Cato: Ian should get a two- or three-year-old BMW 3-Series, or a Mercedes-Benz C-Class or an Audi A4.

Vaughan: Cato, you're obviously a psychic, apart from your other less-obvious talents. I have no idea how you could decide on such a firm conclusion on the evidence of such an ill-defined requirement.

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Cato: The luxury car companies love CPO cars because they allow them to keep their used vehicles in the selling funnel and away from auctions, where the marketplace sets prices with cutthroat precision. When the upscale companies lease, they take those leased cars back and re-sell them with more control over pricing. That keeps residuals high and helps maintain the strength of the more expensive brands.

Vaughan: Yawn.

Cato: CPO is Ian's answer.

Ian, you need to know what sort of vehicle inspection and warranty is offered with the CPO car. Is that inspection done by an independent third party? Is it a 150-point inspection or a 300-point one? And what's the warranty? Two years, three years? How many kilometres? Is there a warranty deductible?

Vaughan: I've completely lost the plot. Yes, if the indecisive Ian doesn't like the car, under some CPO programs he can return it no strings attached.

Cato: Ian, also find out if the warranty is transferrable.

Vaughan: Ian, this is all good advice. What you will end up doing – I have no idea. Thanks for your letter.


2009 Audi A4 2.0T

2009 BMW 328i xDrive

2009 Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic

Wheelbase (mm)




Length (mm)




Width (mm)




Height (mm)





2.0 litre four cylinder, turbocharged

3.0 litre six-cylinder

3.0 litre V-6

Output (horsepower/torque)

211/258 lb-ft

230/200 lb-ft

228/221 lb-ft

Drive system

All-wheel drive

All-wheel drive

All-wheel drive


Six-speed manual

Six-speed manual

Seven-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)




Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

8.5 city/6.6 highway

12.3 city/7.6 highway

12.0 city/8.0 highway

Base price




* Canadian Black Book average asking price on used market

Source: car manufacturers

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Fridays at 8 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.

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About the Author
Senior writer, Globe Drive

In 25 years of covering the auto industry, Jeremy Cato has won more than two-dozen awards, including three times being named automotive journalist of the year. Jeremy was born in Montreal and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. More

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