Buying a car through Costco, is it worth it?

We don’t currently have a Costco membership, but I occasionally shop there with a friend that does. I see their advertisements for buying cars through them.

Does anyone have experience buying a car that way? How does it work? Do you save a noticeable amount on the car? Is the selection limited, or can you get any car you want? Is it an easy process, or did you feel like banging your head against the wall?

Anything I should know? We’d consider getting a membership, if the savings on a car purchase were worth it.

It’s been 10 years, so maybe they are better now, but when I tried to use them they beat the best deal I found by myself by a couple of dollars. But at a dealership 240 miles away, despite the fact that there was a Honda dealership 4 miles from me. Of course, we already had the Costco membership so it didn’t cost me anything extra to try the service.

Do you get a better deal if you buy the four pack in non-retail packaging?

I tried to use Costco, and found Truecar easier and better.

One strategy is to get a quote from a car-buying service (Costco is one of several) and take it to your local dealer and see if they will match it (or at least come down on their price).

If you are a great negotiator these buying services probably won’t save you money; but if you are a lousy negotiator they probably will.

I’ve used their auto buying service for every new car I’ve bought in the last several decades. I’d recommend the service highly if you, like me, don’t want the hassle and frustration of negotiating, but still want a great price.

I’ve bought Hondas, Chryslers, and Toyotas using this service.

It’s a MUCH better buying experience than dealing with a salesperson and all of the games and crapola you have to put up with with them.


I bought my new Civic two years ago using Costco and was very happy with the experience.

I also have a AAA membership so I also started the process with their car buying service (which IIRC is affiliated with and received a quote that was something like $30.00 below the estimate that gave when I checked their site directly.

Costco just gave me an appointment with a dealership and no actual quote, so I took the information I had gathered via AAA to make sure I had some ammunition in case they didn’t offer a good price. Turned out that was unnecessary, as the price ended up being nearly a thousand dollars lower than the AAA quote.

I did it about 5 years ago.

You need to know what kind of car you want. You let them know. They tell you “for <Brand>, we work with this dealership.” You go to the dealer and they give you the Costco price. (mine was below the Truecar price, but I think Truecar was new-ish then and they might be better now). If you don’t want to deal with negotiating for a car, it’s a pretty good deal.

I hated my dealership experience and have not been back since (it is amazing how awful they can be even when there’s nothing to do but handle the paperwork) but I didn’t walk away thinking I’d been cheated or that I could have done better on my own. It more than balanced the price of the membership.

We did twice. First time 2004, easy… second time 2015 , they beat all the prices and it was easy too.

I once bought a full sized van through my credit union.

They told me to call a specific dealer and figure out what I wanted. The credit union came back with a price which I accepted.

The dealer delivered the van to the credit union where we did the paperwork. Easy peasy.

I am an auto salesperson and I can tell you a couple things:

One, the “games and crapola” you have to “deal with” when working with a salesperson are pretty much gone, excepting dealers that still cling to “the old way” (pre-internet) or when dealing with a buy here/pay here lot where if you’re there, you’re pretty much out of options anyway because your credit sucks.

Two, many, MANY times a dealer will beat the TrueCar or Costco pricing. I wouldn’t even bother with it quite honestly.

Your best ammo in negotiation is to be ready to buy a car right now, and have settled on a specific vehicle from a specific dealer that you have previously visited to test drive the car. NEVER buy the car right after a test drive. This is the salesperson’s “ace in the hole”…capitalizing on the emotional aspect of car buying. You’ll likely make a mistake or pay too much. But coming back (and keeping in communication with your salesperson, IF YOU LIKE HIM or HER) and being “ready to buy” is YOUR “ace in the hole”. The sales manager(s) will very likely not want to let you leave until they have sold you a car, so they will slash prices beyond what they might normally do just to get a sale.

For God’s sake, be realistic. Do your homework. Don’t be a lunatic because you’re a cash buyer (cash is no longer “king” in the car business as there’s too much kickback money flowing between dealers and lenders for loans on autos…it’s a parasitic, but very REAL relationship).

For instance, you cannot buy a car for less than what the dealer owns it for (except under VERY rare and special circumstances…like getting rid of the doo-doo brown rear wheel drive single cab pickup truck that’s been collecting dust on the lot forever because nobody else wants it).

Protip: buy a new car on one of the last days of a month, especially in the months following the transition between one model year and another (July, August, September…or the end of December). The downside of that is limited availability on outgoing model years as they’re not being produced anymore so you may have to be “colorblind for the right price”, for instance.

Shit, it’s time for me to get dinner together and finish laundry. Direct your car buying questions to me, I will help you as best as I can.

I’ve been trying to tell people this on this board for years. Unfortunately, everybody “knows” that car sales people are scumbags and only want to screw you with their head games and dirty tricks. Sure, if you’re dumb enough to walk in the door and plunk down the MSRP, the sales guy is going to take it without argument, but that’s on the uneducated customer, not the sales person. Do your homework, bring it with you, and walk away if you don’t get the deal you want.

If you don’t want to do the work, then by all means go through a buying service; just don’t bitch if you find out you could have gotten it for less.

I agree. Car sales people are just people doing a job.

Especially the ones who are not on commission. When I sold RVs, it was commission based, so there were definitely some sales folks who would grind on customers to get them to upgrade. It may get you a sale, but it won’t get you return business, and people who sell vehicles as a permanent living really depend on return buyers and referrals.

Perhaps we have different definitions “games.”

For me, the actions you recommend are exactly the “games” that I don’t want to have to deal with. So - I find out what the dealer price is. Then I have to figure out what’s “fair” (something above cost, something less than MSRP. Where in between is the headache that I don’t need. And I don’t want to go back and forth with a dealer to land on the “perfect spot.”)? I don’t want to do that. And I don’t want to spend time “walking away.” Especially if I’m the one being unreasonable.

What I want is to get the car I want and not feel cheated. Costco buying gave me that. And while I’m sure that somebody who was a harder negotiator than I am could probably have gotten the car cheaper, I doubt I’m that somebody.

(Also, FoieGrasIsEvil - the people in my neck of the woods must not have gotten the “no games” memo. Before I decided to go through Costco - while I was still settling on which car, I got all of the stereotypical car buying crap. All of it.)

Do you negotiate with someone over the asking price of a house?

Depends on the market and market conditions. I didn’t negotiate a bit for my current house. Not price, not concessions, nothing. This is my third house purchase, but the first time the conditions were perfect for not having to negotiate.

You still have to take delivery from a dealership, don’t you? Don’t they still send you to the Finance desk to try to sell you paint coating, fabric protection, service packages, etc., etc.? Or do they leave you alone if you bought through a service?

I read a long article (maybe it was on Edmunds) by a guy who worked in a dealership for a while. The dealer was trying to make quota to get a big bonus from the manufacturer. They had one car to go and I think they took a loss on that car to get the bonus. And of course the buyer would never know about any of this, so there is still an imbalance of information.

A house is not a commodity, every house is different. Car selling is still built around exploiting lack of transparency in pricing. There’s still a fictitious stated price that nobody pays - so why does it exist? It exists, of course, to facilitate ripping off the occasional little old lady who doesn’t understand the process.

I just started a new thread here asking whether car sales scams and games are truly a thing of the past.