Should I Use a Car-Buying Service?
When it comes to buying a car, haggling is (ahem) nonnegotiable. “There’s about a $3,000 difference on average between the invoice price of the car and what the dealer is likely to agree to sell it for,” says Philip Reed, a senior consumer-advice editor for the auto-buying site Edmunds.com. If you hate playing hardball, you might consider outsourcing the task. That’s easy to do if you’re a member of AAA or a warehouse club, like Costco, or if you subscribe to ConsumerReports.org—all of which offer an auto-buying service for no extra charge. (Most AAA clubs offer this program; check with yours for specifics.) Tell the service the make, the model, and the extras (like a sunroof) you desire. The service will match your specs with vehicles from at least one local dealership (and often more) with which it has partnered. Within a day, you’ll receive details on any deals that meet your criteria, all at prearranged discounts.
Pluses: These programs claim to knock anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 off the sticker price. And they do indeed save you from haggling.
Minuses: Most services work with a limited number of dealers, so it’s possible you could score a better deal elsewhere. (Go to Edmunds.com to verify the true market value of the car.) Also, if you have custom requests, you’re better off going solo.
The bottom line? Worth it if you don’t want to go back and forth with a dealer about costs. And if nothing else, it can help you get a better sense of how your car is priced, which can ultimately help you drive a hard bargain yourself.