Shopping for Cars: Used vs. Pre-Owned vs. CPO and More…

A woman is holding keys in front of a used car at a used Chevy dealer.

When done properly, shopping for a used vehicle should be a series of decisions and disappointments. This may seem simple enough, but if you head to a used Chevy dealer without being properly prepared for the jargon and industry nomenclature that you’re going to encounter, then you can be easily flummoxed or caught off-guard and end up buying something that doesn’t really meet your needs. As a bastion of truth within the auto industry, however, I’m here today to help you with some of this and guide you toward the light of vehicular bliss.

There’s a lot you need to know when shopping for a used vehicle, but for now, I’m going to focus simply on the different kinds of used models you’re going to find. These can be cars, trucks, SUVs, vans, consumer or commercial vehicles, whatever. But you’ll find these terms used to refer to them, and while some of them are interchangeable and really come down to marketing speak, there are some very important differences between some others.

So read on and discover the terminology that will help you make a more informed decision with your next purchase.


A man inside a car is giving a thumbs up with a green icon next to him.

This is one of the most common terms you’ll encounter, and so it’s a great place to start. A “used” vehicle is one that has been owned or leased before by another person and driven for a while––usually some years. This is a general term that simply refers to all models that aren’t sold as brand-new by a dealership.

Used vehicles can be found from all sorts of different sellers, including a used Chevy dealer, a private seller posting a sign on a vehicle in their driveway, or from third-party websites that allow people to post their vehicle listings. You’ll pay less for a used car than one that’s new, but you never really know what it’s been through before you see it. It’s a bit of a gamble, but there are plenty of used cars in good condition that will last you years if treated well.


A man is sitting in a car giving thumbs up with a Monopoly man icon over his face and another icon in green next to him.

The term “pre-owned” is essentially synonymous with “used” and can be said interchangeably with no difference in meaning. So why does “pre-owned” even exist? It’s basically a marketing term. The word “used” suggests that someone has really driven the hell out of a vehicle before selling it – and there have been some pretty negative connotations associated with “used” cars and dealerships that sell them.

But “pre-owned” sounds much more dignified and genteel. “Oh, this car wasn’t used really, it was simply pre-owned… by an old woman who only drove it on Sundays, to church around the corner from her house, and always parked it in the garage.” See? Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Certified Pre-Owned

A couple is talking to a salesman at at used Chevy dealer with a check mark in a green circular icon next to them.

While “pre-owned” is just a nice way of saying “used,” the term “Certified Pre-Owned” or CPO does actually have a different meaning, and this can trip some people up. A CPO model is one that’s been bought back by a manufacturer through a dealership and is certified to be in the best condition possible. In order for a vehicle to be offered as a CPO model, it has to meet certain specific guidelines set by the manufacturer: typically a limit on its age, mileage, and condition.

CPO models are only sold by dealerships – you won’t find them posted by some guy online – and typically come with warranty coverage. They usually have a short-term comprehensive warranty, as well as a longer powertrain warranty. Other benefits and such can also be offered by manufacturers and dealerships on these vehicles to sweeten the deal. All of this means that these models tend to be more expensive than the standard used cars while still being cheaper than new vehicles.

Certified Un-Owned

A woman in a car is holding up keys next to a green icon with a price tag on it.

This is a flashy term you’ll sometimes see used at car dealerships advertising new vehicles but with a real sense of prestige to them. Anyone can buy a new car from a dealer, but only a select few are offered the opportunity to purchase a “Certified Un-Owned” or CUO model. The certification process is extensive and set by each manufacturer, so there are some differences between them.

For example, some luxury companies require that the interior be hermetically sealed prior to selling it, while others provide a lab report on the interior analysis to guarantee the lack of any biological material inside the vehicle. Other manufacturers set different terms: a “Gold Star” CUO model at a Chevy dealer, for example, is one that’s never had a man inside of it.

Un-Certified Pre-Release Post-Industrial

A woman is in a car with a green icon with arrows going in a circle.

If you find yourself at a dealership that sells German vehicles, such as a Volkswagen or BMW, then you’ll probably encounter “Un-Certified Pre-Release Post-Industrial” or UCPRPI vehicles. These are models designed, developed, and manufactured exclusively by nihilists and engineers influenced by late-20th century philosophers. They’re typically built with an uncomfortable combination of angles and curves and include a wide range of features.

It’s not uncommon to find a UCPRPI model that has no motor or that features a series of hundreds of potatoes as a power supply. Safety features are almost always absent since life is meaningless and your safety behind the wheel is merely a futile attempt to exert control over the chaotic whirlwind of existence. At some dealerships, the term is simply used as a synonym for “New,” since language is inherently devoid of meaning and content is derived only by a combination of context and intent.

Certified Undead

A wounded couple is talking to a salesman with a green icon with a zombie next to them.

When you go shopping for a vehicle at a used Chevy dealer, you might find a limited selection of “Certified Undead” or CU models available. These are vehicles that were imbued with the gift of life, typically through an accident involving a lightning strike or large quantity of plutonium, but have since expired from their mortal existence. Not satisfied to have lived, loved, and moved on, however, such vehicles have returned from the shadow realm of death to haunt our world.

CU vehicles are a great option if you work third-shift and need a car that you only plan on driving at night. Exposure to direct sunlight can cause catastrophic harm to CU vehicles, so you should avoid them if you have the desire to go for a drive during the day. Some CU models have also exhibited an unquenchable hunger for human flesh, blood, or bone marrow. These vehicles are a great option if you’re on a budget since their financial cost is quite low – and they require almost no maintenance, so long as you’re willing to feed them regularly.

Anyone living near an animal shelter or orphanage can quickly find that these vehicles really do pay for themselves over time.

Gently Abused

Two firemen are standing on a wrecked car with a green icon next to them that has a sad figure on it.

If you’re lucky enough to stumble upon a “Gently Abused” or GA model, then I suggest you act quickly. These vehicles are in the worst condition possible – don’t let that word “gently” fool you; they’re just awful. Due to the fact that they might explode into a fireball at any moment, however, they’re incredibly affordable. Considering the world we live in and how quickly it seems likely to descend into cannibalism or serious discussions of QANON at any given moment, I’d say you’re better off with a cheap car that can easily destroy you.

Now get out there, and good luck, shoppers!

Editor’s Note: After several attempts and calls to numerous used Chevy dealers near us, we have failed to track down any CU models. That being said, we were offered a lovely GA vehicle that still has three of its doors and is missing only one tire. At this time, we were not able to jump on that incredible offer, though we suggest you not pass up such an incentive when you’re shopping. Thank you.


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