Used car sales were down overall in the first quarter of 2013, but certified pre-owned cars are more popular than ever, Edmunds.com says.
Sales of certified pre-owned cars or CPOs, as the auto industry refers to them, were up 6.2% in the first quarter, to 483,109 vehicles, Edmunds said.
Used car sales overall dropped by the same percentage over the same period to 9.7 million vehicles.
CPOs also accounted for 21% of used car sales in the first quarter of 2013, which was the highest percentage ever, Edmunds said.
The qualifications for certified pre-owned status differ from company to company, but they all have gone through at least a 100-point inspection and come with the added reassurance of extended warranties, Edmunds said.
Experts said there were many reasons for the increasing popularity of CPO cars. For one thing, they offer cautious consumers a less costly alternative to a new car.
A brand new 2013 Acura TL will cost about $34,092, according to the Edmunds website. A CPO 2012 Acura TL will typically be priced $1,594 higher than dealer retail, but still come in at $4,422 less than the new 2013 model.
Jonathan Piol, a pricing analyst for Edmunds, added that many more automakers have realized the benefit of certified pre-owned marketing, which largely began with Lexus and BMW.
It's a point Lexus still drives home, referring to its CPOs as "late model, low-mileage vehicles in exceptional overall condition that provide full access to the Lexus experience."
"BMW and Lexus have been doing this a long time and found that it was a great way to introduce new buyers to their brands," Piol said in an interview.
Now, buyers are just as likely to hear the same kind of pitch from Cadillac and other General Motors brands:
"No matter what you're looking for, there's a Cadillac certified pre-owned vehicle that's a perfect fit...you won't just get everything you need — you'll get everything you want."