I'm looking for a newer used German luxury sedan for less than $30,000. I'm wondering whether buying certified pre-owned (CPO) is worth it, just for the warranty? – M.
Buying CPO will cost you extra, but it may be worth it for luxury cars that might be pricey to repair.
"CPO for luxury vehicles is worth considering," says Andrew Tai, CEO of Unhaggle. "The drawback is really in the pricing premium that you pay for CPO, but it is a trade-off for convenience and peace of mind."
And it depends how much legwork you want to do, Tai says. If you're not okay with sifting through Kijiji ads and taking any finds for a full mechanical inspection, CPO might be for you.
"For the average consumer, there is value in the convenience of knowing that their purchase is backed by a manufacturer warranty," Tai says.
Carmakers' CPO plans can provide manufacturer-backed extended warranties, roadside assistance and deals on financing.
But Consumer Reports says it's better to take the money ($2,000 or more) you may be spending on a certified used car and putting it aside in case your car needs repairs. It warns that, sometimes, inspections aren't particularly exhaustive. "Choose a reliable model and a vehicle that receives your mechanic's approval," the magazine says.
Tai says to do your homework – compare CPO to online sites and car dealerships and see what works best for you.
Wherever you buy the car, newer cars in your price range will generally be at, or near, the entry-level.
But we're not talking Toyota Yaris entry-level. These still qualify as luxury cars. Although, at this price, you might get synthetic leather seats instead of the actual thing.
Here are two contenders.
2012-2013 BMW 328i
The 3-Series makes up about a third of all BMW sales, and when it was redesigned for 2012, BMW made sure not to mess up a good thing. It's roomier than the previous car, and this was the year it switched from a six to a four-cylinder.
It's still fun to drive: The 240-horsepower, 2.0-litre, turbocharged, direct-injection engine gets it to 100 km/h in 6.1 seconds. It also delivers better fuel economy than the 2011 car: 9.0 litres/100 km city and 5.6 highway for the manual six-speed, or 8.0 city/5.3 highway for the eight-speed automatic. It uses premium gas.
It also has a start/stop system. It shuts down the engine when you come to a complete stop. Then, it restarts it when you take your foot off the brake.
It comes standard with a sunroof, iDrive control and Bluetooth. Reviewers still aren't thrilled with iDrive: Consumer Reports complains about complicated controls. But the magazine praises just about everything else – fuel economy, handling, ride, acceleration, transmission and fit and finish.
It's rear-wheel drive. You may be able to find BMW's x-drive AWD system for less than $30,000.
CPO warranty: Six years from original vehicle in-service date or 160,000 kilometres, whichever comes first.
2011-2012 Mercedes C-250
Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes-Benz? For $30,000 or less, you can snag the base model of Mercedes-Benz's top selling car. The C-Class was updated for 2012. The rear-wheels are powered by a 201-horsepower, 1.8-litre turbocharged engine and a seven-speed automatic. It uses premium gas and is rated at 9.5 city/6.2 highway. Like the BMW, it has a start/stop system.
Like the BMW, if you don't like the engine shutting down at every red light, you can switch it off.
Consumer Reports says the BMW 328i is "quicker, handles better, and is more fun to drive" but the Mercedes is "quieter and provides a more refined powertrain and simpler controls."
Even though controls are simpler than BMW's iDrive, the C-250 requires digging through menus for certain functions, reviewers say.
You may only get the fake leather for this price, but it feels close to the real thing (and a far cry from the vinyl seats of the 1970s).
CPO warranty: Six years from original vehicle in-service date or 120,000 km.
At this price, you can also get a 2011 Audi A4. Or a brand-new A3. Then there's the non-German competition: Cadillac ATS, Lexus IS, Infiniti Q50, Volvo S60, Acura TSX and Buick Regal.
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