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Car buying services explained
Hate negotiating with pushy salespeople? Let someone else do the work for you.
You can avoid a trip to the dealership by using a car buying service. And while the costs can vary widely, you may be able to save money and avoid stress by working with a service dedicated to getting you a good deal.
What is a car buying service?
A car buying service helps you research and negotiate the price of a car. But the exact discount you’ll get — along with the features available to you — will depend on the type of service you use.
- What does it cost? Upfront fee based on the type of car you want — the more expensive the car, the higher the fee — plus, a percentage of the money it saves you
A car concierge does the shopping and negotiating for you, usually providing more of a comprehensive and personal service than car brokering. You simply explain the type of vehicle you’re looking for, and it does the research to find potential offers available. It then contacts the dealership or manufacturer to begin negotiations.
This allows you to sit in the backseat and avoid the hassle of salespeople — some may even be able to get your vehicle delivered to you. One example of a car concierge service is Clutch, which operates primarily out of Halifax and Toronto.
- What does it cost? A flat fee, often between $200 and $500
Car broker services like Automall Network and Car Compass are similar to car concierge services — a professional car buyer researches and negotiates a deal for you. They can often secure a lower price for the vehicle you want because many are former salespeople. And since hunting for good car deals every day is their job, they likely have a better idea of where to look than you would.
Car broker services may be less comprehensive than concierge services, meaning you may not get your car driven straight to your door. However, the fees can potentially be lower as well.
Club car buying programs
- What does it cost? Typically free with membership
Many banks and credit unions, as well as some big companies like Allstate, allow you to browse cars through an online network of certified dealers. They typically offer discounted rates to members, which allows you to avoid having to listen to sales pitches when you visit the dealership. However, you may find that the price you get isn’t much better than what you could negotiate yourself, and you aren’t guaranteed to find the exact vehicle you want.
Note that you don’t need to be an Allstate customer to use its car buying service.
Online car buying stores
- What does it cost? Services may charge a small markup on the car you end up buying, or you may be able to choose from a tiered service list with different prices ranging from free to around $100.
Online car buying stores like Unhaggle and CarCostCanada offer a fast and convenient way to shop for cars — no haggling or dealership visits required. Typically, these services provide information such as price reports, dealership locations and available discounts or promotions on the type of vehicle you’re looking for. With this knowledge, you’re better equipped to shop for the right car on your own. Or, for an extra fee, the online service will solicit offers from a network of dealers and send these offers to you for review.
Many services offer a money-back guarantee and give you several days to drive your car after purchasing it to make sure it’s right for you — much longer than the 20-minute test drive you get at a traditional dealership. However, because you’re not actually meeting with a salesperson, there’s little room for back-and-forth negotiation when it comes to the price.
Not sure whether you should use an online service to buy a car? Take a look at our guide on buying a car online versus in person to find out if this option is right for you.
How much does a car buying service cost?
It depends on the type of service you use. Some charge a flat fee, others charge a percentage of the amount you save and some are completely free. Check with the concierge, broker, club or online store to see what you might have to pay. You can also take a look at our explanation of different car buying services above to get a rough idea of the costs you could be looking at.
Do car buying services provide auto financing?
Usually, no. Car buying services help connect you with dealers that offer the vehicle you’re looking for at a price that suits you. Though some services, such as Unhaggle, will help transmit offers to you and convey your acceptance to dealers, how you decide to finance your purchase is ultimately up to you.
Want to learn more about your options? Check out our guide on how to find the best vehicle financing for your needs, or check out the table below to compare auto loan options from reputable online lenders.
Is using a car buying service actually worth it?
It can be. Some people find that the money they save counterbalances the fees that brokers and concierges charge. Others enjoy the fact that they don’t have to deal with persistent salespeople during the negotiation process.
If negotiation isn’t a hassle — and you don’t want to pay any fees — then some car buying services may not be the best choice. However, you can still use an online car buying store or a club car buying program to compare deals.
How do I find a good car buying service?
Go online, check out the company’s website and read the terms of service. Reach out to the company and see what types of fees they charge. In the case of brokers or concierges, make sure they aren’t affiliated with any dealerships — they might not have your best interest at heart.
You may also want to read actual customer reviews on trusted websites like the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or Trustpilot as well as forums like Reddit. This should help give you a well-rounded picture of what you can expect with each company so you can find the best one for you.
While dealerships have some advantages, dealing with pushy salespeople can make many people uncomfortable — and leave you wondering if you’ve actually gotten a good deal. A car buying service may come with fees that you avoid at the dealership, but it could save you money in the long run and help you avoid stress. And the expert help during the research and negotiation process could be well worth what you spend.
Before you commit to a service, check out these tips and tricks for buying a car so you know what to expect and how to land a good deal.
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