Getting Used?

Sonja Haggert

IN THE PAST, WE’VE always bought certified preowned cars. We know new cars lose a big chunk of their value when you drive them off the lot, so we had our eye on a used car when we started our search earlier this year.

Our goal was a Mercedes Benz GLC 300 AWD 4MATIC. My husband enjoys the negotiating and drama that comes with buying a car, so he investigated choices, checked out prices at dealerships and was ready to start his usual two-to-three-month car hunt. Seriously.

He discovered, as in years past, that the certified preowned cars, or CPOs, available to us were leased or loaner cars with all the expensive bells and whistles. But because the cars had depreciated, they had always provided good value, along with a decent warranty.

This time around, however, those bells and whistles turned out to be a significant added cost. The price of a CPO suddenly didn’t look so attractive, plus some of the options weren’t ones we wanted. There was the panoramic roof, which we often forget we have and never open. There was the car’s GPS, which is less reliable than a cell phone GPS. And, of course, the cars already had miles on the odometer. In January, my husband located four 2016 CPOs, ranging from $34,900 to $38,000.

Our first surprise: They were almost the same price as a leftover, brand new 2018 model. The manufacturer’s retail price on a 2018 GLC 300 AWD was a little over $40,000. The vehicle had no miles on it and was ready to drive off the lot. But you also had to pay for the options already included. It was too late to build your own, and incentives for the 2018 models were weaker than those for 2019.

Our next surprise: Even better than the 2018 model was a 2019 bought through Costco. The store identified a dealership that was approved for the transaction and, much to my husband’s surprise, it was quick and simple.

The Costco discount got us into a new model 2019 vehicle with options for under $40,000, excluding title, taxes, destination, registration, tags and other fees. This was less than the price of a leftover new 2018 model. In fact, several options in the 2018 model are now standard equipment on the 2019.

The best part was that we could build the new car from the wheels up. Gone were the expensive sunroof, the GPS and so on. It took eight weeks for the car to be built and shipped from Germany. The dealer even delivered the car to our front door.

An hour later, I had one happy husband driving around in our new car. It even came with an added benefit: savings on car insurance. It seems the new safety features make a difference. Moral of the story: Do your homework, check multiple sources—and don’t assume a certified preowned car is your best deal.

Sonja Haggert’s previous article was Check’s in the Mail. She’s the author of Invest, Reinvest, Rest. You can learn more at

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