The newest vehicle to join the KBB.com long-term test fleet isn't exactly new. But this Buick Enclave is about as close to new as you can get. Though it already has thousands of miles on the odometer, this premium 3-row crossover SUV looks and feels as if it were just delivered from the factory, and it is backed by a manufacturer's warranty to boot. The only thing this Enclave lacks is that new-car smell -- and the pricing of a comparable brand-new model.
Our newest member is a certified pre-owned (CPO) vehicle, the first such kind we've tested. In a nutshell, CPO signifies a used vehicle that has undergone a rigorous inspection and maintenance service, and is backed by a manufacturer's warranty, similar to a new car. Such programs vary by manufacturer but usually the vehicles are six years old or newer and can't have more than a certain number of miles on the odometer. Our particular CPO Enclave is on the young side. It's a 2014 model with just under 10,000 miles (then again, those miles were put on it by hard-driving automotive journalists, the equivalent of dog years when it comes to mileage). CPO vehicles usually come from rental companies or are just off lease, but some can also be from individual owners on a trade-in. Whatever their origin, they must pass muster to qualify as CPO, or else they'll simply be resold as standard used vehicles.
For details specific to each car brand, check out our complete guide to Manufacturer Certified Pre-Owned Car Programs.
Why Go CPO?
CPO vehicles have become increasingly popular, and it's easy to see why: They offer the manufacturer-backed confidence one gets when buying a new car, but at a lower price because someone else has already taken the initial hit in depreciation. Of course, CPO cars are still used cars, which means you probably won't know who previously owned the vehicle or how it was treated. But unlike a normal used car where you may feel you're simply rolling the dice to obtain a low price, these vehicles have been certified for their quality and reliability, and come with a warranty to back it up. Because of this, CPO vehicles typically are more expensive than a non-CPO used vehicle.
As of this writing, the KBB.com Certified Pre-Owned Price for our top-line 2014 Enclave with the Premium Group and options such as rear-seat-entertainment system and dual moonroof is $46,955, compared with $44,780 for a non-CPO. Granted, this price isn't that far from the Buick's manufacturer's suggested retail price of $51,620, but that's to be expected since this car is so new and hasn't depreciated much. If you buy a CPO vehicle that's older and has more miles, the potential savings only increase. Along that line, in addition to detailing our experiences driving and living with the Enclave in the coming year, we'll be tracking how its resale value holds up.
Despite a CPO vehicle's initial price premium over a standard used vehicle, more and more buyers say it's worth the peace of mind, according to David J. Greiner, President of Greiner Buick GMC in Victorville, California, where we saw our Enclave go through the CPO inspection process. "It's the stamp of approval and the manufacturer's backing" that make CPO vehicles favorable to non-certified vehicles, Greiner said.
In the case of our Buick, that stamp includes a 12-month/12,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a transferable 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, 24-hour roadside assistance, and a 2-year/24,000-mile scheduled maintenance plan. And then there is the vehicle inspection and reconditioning process, which is anything but pointless.
Making it Like New
Many brands tout the number of "points" their particular CPO process entails, but the collective objective is for the vehicle to be in top shape for its next owner. In the case of GM's Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC brands, there is a 172-point inspection the vehicles go through. Jeremy Barrone, the technician inspecting our Enclave, summed up the rationale like this: "We want to make sure it's like a new car when the buyer gets it."
One of the first steps in the process involves the technician test-driving the vehicle. Jeremy drove our Buick Enclave on a 7-mile loop to warm it up and check for any obvious issues. From there it was an hours-long process combing through the vehicle. In addition to inspecting mechanicals such as the engine, transmission and brakes, the CPO process also involves aspects of the vehicle that are just important -- if not more -- to today's buyers: technology and amenities. That meant a run-through of everything from the Buick's Bluetooth connectivity and navigation functionality to its ventilated seats and power liftgate. For the record, the vehicle passed the inspection with flying colors. At the end of the day, after the point-by-point inspection and services such as oil and filter change, our Buick was ready to be relinquished to the KBB.com team of editors.
The (Long) Drive Home
My first day in our CPO Buick Enclave felt more like a week, but it was certainly no fault of the car. Just call it bad timing. We had the unfortunate luck of being in Victorville the same day a bridge under construction caught fire and closed the 15 freeway, the main thoroughfare through the region. Thankfully there were no serious injuries among workers, but for motorists it meant miles of detours and hours of delays.
The silver lining? It gave me a chance to experience the Enclave in a stressful commuting situation. My first step was taking a remote highway far to the west to get out of the area and onto a mountain road that would lead me south of the accident site, but that implanted me into miles of traffic created by others who had the same brilliant workaround.
On the highway and amid the honk-filled congestion, one thing quickly became apparent: The Buick Enclave lives up to its reputation for being quiet. Outside noise was well-muted, good for drowning out the curses from outside drivers (okay, and some from the one within). The big Buick also made good on its commitment to comfort. It floated over the highway, though conversely that required me easing up the throttle on the twisty mountain road. The 288-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 also proved competent and never hesitated to move the Buick up steep grades or around slower traffic.
In the end the 2014 Enclave delivered me home safe, sound and sane. You could say its first day in our fleet was a trial by fire, but that might sound cliché. Let's just say it helped ease a stressful situation. In the coming year we'll put thousands more miles on the Buick's odometer and surely create many more memories in it. We're eager to chronicle the journey and take you along for the ride.
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