I always wondered about the Costco car buying program.

Does it save money?  Is it hassle-free?

So, I tried it.  And, I did save money.

But, you should think twice before buying through it.

Because savings is not guaranteed.  In fact, if might cost you money!

Like all things in buying a car.  It’s in the details.

And with the Costco car buying program there are two key factors:

  • Market conditions.
  • The vehicle you’re buying.

Costco Car Buying Program

First, the Costco car buying program itself.

Costco offers its members prearranged pricing on most new cars.  And the program’s intention is to make the sale ‘hassle-free.’

So, you can go to any participating new car dealer and ask for the Costco price sheet.  (They might ask you to show them your Costco card.) But they’re required to share it with you.

Of course, the dealer has to be a participating member of the program.  And not every dealer participates.

Because dealers pay Costco to be part of the program.  And it’s not cheap.

So a dealer that participates one month might not the next.

And with that in mind.  Some dealers will redirect to the AAA Motor Club program.

How I Used The Costco Car Buying Program

Here’s how I used it to save money.

First, keep in mind.  I own and operate a website that offers up car buying tips and reviews.  Which gives me unique insight.  :0)

So, late last year, I bought a Toyota Tacoma.  And at the time Toyota had some sale happening.

It was a typical manufacturer model year-end sale.  (Also, it’s good to note the Costco car buying program works with any manufacturer incentives too.)

And I did something I usually don’t do.  I got very specific about what I wanted.

Four-doors. short-bed, but not four-wheel-drive.  Sport trim with leather interior and the technology package.

Finally, it had to be a specific color.  Calvary blue.

Because my 2-year-old son and I love reading the book series Little Blue Truck.

So, first, I had to find what I wanted.  Then get the best deal.

And when you are hyper-specific about what you want.  It’s tough to get the best deal.

Especially when it was the model year-end.  Because that means the vehicle I’m trying to buy is no longer in production.

Also, Toyota Tacomas are rarely discounted much because they’re popular vehicles.

And, over the past many years.  They’ve been atop the charts for holding their resale values.

Market conditions

So, by being so specific I create challenging market conditions.  Making it tougher for me to get the best deal.

Vehicle You’re Buying

Because limited supply existed for what I was demanding.

Thus, any savings I could get was going to be helpful.

Is the Program Hassle-Free?

Touching base on the hassle-free part.

First, how you and I define a ‘hassle’ might be different.  The term is used too much in marketing.

But I wouldn’t call the transaction without hassle.

So, the dealer did share the Costco car buying price sheet with me.

Yet, the process felt a bit pressured at times.

Also, the finance manager tried to sell me GAP insurance.

And, that’s a bit shady.  Because I leased the vehicle.  And in California, all new car leases come with GAP insurance.

So hassle-free?  No.

Where Costco Car Buying Might Cost You

Plus, here’s the kicker.

The Costco car buying program might work against you in a different car.  And/or in different market conditions.

Vehicle You’re Buying

For example, a Honda Civic.  It’s one of the global best selling cars in history.

And there are lots of them made each year.  Along with lots of dealers selling them.

So, plenty of supply for the demand.

Market Conditions

But, many dealers will have a Civic for you.

Providing you’re open to trim configuration, features, and colors.

Plus those dealers are likely to compete for your business.  Because Civic tends to be a very high volume car anyway.

So shop around first.  On a vehicle like this especially.

Then check the pricing with the Costco car buying program.

How To Use Costco Car Buying

First, know the market for what you want.  And if you are able, be flexible.

Because the more open you are in your specifics the better deal you’re going to land.

And research online for a baseline.  New car dealers websites provide a good place to start.

And if you’re not sure about dealers in your area.  Go to the manufactures website.  Then find dealers near you.

Once you’ve gotten a feel for the dealers you’re open to working with.  And the ballpark pricing.  Then check the Costco car buying program.

But keep in mind.  Some salespeople might get flustered.

Because dealers have specific salespeople that handle Costco customers.

So be sensitive.  And be kind.  We’re all trying to make a living. :0)

Pro Tips:

  • Costco will connect you with a specific dealer.  If you’re not happy with that dealer.  Ask them for a different one.
  • If you decide to use the Costco car buying program.  It helps to stay in touch with your Costco rep through the process.  In case anything comes up.

I’m happy to answer your car-buying questions.  Tom [at] iDriveSoCal [dot] com.