How many more exhibits must we admit to the court to prove how good cars have gotten in general, and how unaffordable new cars and newish used cars have gotten? We’d have run through the alphabet at least once, right? Here’s another to throw on both piles, which we’ll call Exhibit CPO. Before this month, Toyota’s Certified Used Vehicles program had Gold Certified as the top tier, covering vehicles no more than six years old with no more than 85,000 miles on the clock. Now there’s a new Silver Certified level that includes vehicles up to 10 years old with anywhere from 60,000 miles to 125,000 miles.
We expect that surpassing the six-year age limit automatically kicks a car into the new tier. However, neither Toyota’s site nor the TCUV brochure explain the 25,000-overlap between Gold and Silver cars. The result is that cars less than six years old and with less than 85,000 miles can still be pushed into Silver Certification, like a 2020 Sienna XLE with 70,343 miles on sale at a California dealer at the time of writing.
There are five primary differences between Gold and Silver. The former gets a limited comprehensive warranty for a further 12 months or 12,000 miles, the latter gets no comprehensive coverage. The limited powertrain warranty and 24-hour roadside assistance for Gold cover seven years or 100,000 miles, Silver Foxes get another 12 months or 12,000 miles after purchase. The Gold Quality Assurance inspection covers a minimum of 160 points, Silver cars are only checked in a minimum of 136 points. Finally, Gold buyers can get Toyota’s new-car financing rates where available; no such luck for Silver buyers.
The good news is that cars are good enough to get OEM coverage for mileage that not long ago would have sold on Craigslist for a clapped-out trade and a family sized box of Dino Nuggets. The regrettable news is that cars are so expensive that it makes sense to warranty and retail products that we used to go straight to CL for. A CPO 2016 Camry LE with 121,645 miles asking $15,353 and who knows what for an interest rate? Whew, lordy.
The bargains will come, we’re sure, because they always do. Yet, being so new, there aren’t many Silver Certified vehicles in Toyota’s inventory at the time of writing, and these early entries aren’t slam dunks. Take the aforementioned 2020 Sienna XLE with 70,343 miles. The California dealer is asking $37,995 for it. A different California dealer is selling a Gold Certified 2018 Sienna XLE with 44,012 miles — right at the six-year mark — and asking $38,998. Which means that paying $1,003 more for the Gold gets a car that’s two years older, but has 25,000 fewer miles, a more thorough inspection, a one-year comprehensive warranty, a powertrain warranty and roadside assistance for either one more year or 56,000 more miles versus the Silver Sienna’s one year or 12,000 miles, and potentially better financing.
There’s a familiar story in the Camry pool. A Silver 2019 Camry LE with 87,405 miles (Gold age, Silver miles) is asking $18,792. A Gold 2020 Camry LE with 39,646 miles (Gold age and miles) is asking $21,995, just $2,400 more, for the extra benefits, less than half the miles, and a 5.99% APR.
Now that Toyota’s broken the seal on warranties beyond the minimum six-figure mark, we expect more programs will do the same. Hyundai, which was first to market with a 10-year/100,000-mile used car warranty in 2007 that it called “America’s Best Warranty,” is undoubtedly paying attention.