Costco Auto Program Review: Is It the Lowest Price?
Can you actually get the best deal buying a car through Costco's Auto Program?
Well, the answer is "sometimes", but it still pays to shop around.
Let's dive into my review of the Costco Auto Program, and if it’s worth it for car buyers.
Table of Contents
- What is Costco Auto Program?
- Does Costco Offer Financing on a Car?
- Can You Negotiate With the Costco Auto Program on the Vehicle Price?
- Costco Car Buying Steps
- Costco Auto Program Policies
- Does Costco Offer Specials or Incentives?
- How Much of a Discount Can You Get Through Costco Car Buying Program?
- Costco Auto Program Review - The Good & Bad
- Is It Possible to Beat Costco Auto Program Prices?
- Alternatives to Costco Car Buying Program
- Best Car Deals by Category
- Frequently Asked Questions
Before you bother reading any Costco Auto Program reviews let me tell you it is possible to beat Costco prices. Do not settle for their member pricing. More on that later, but first...
What is Costco Auto Program?
The Costco Auto Program is available for Costco Members. It provides them with prearranged special membership pricing on vehicles in dealerships across the country. The goal of the program is to provide a “smooth, seamless buying experience for Costco members.”
Essentially, the program connects members to participating dealerships that offer deals on car prices. Through their call center, Costco can help you with your purchase directly. However, you can use the online platform directly to compare reviews and examine monthly pricing.
Each participating dealer pays a monthly fee to be part of the program. Costco does not make a percentage of each sale. Instead, they make money from the program through the membership fees the dealers pay. Dealers participate for access to Costco’s large membership base.
The program includes:
- New vehicles
- Pre-owned vehicles
- Parts and services
- Recreational vehicles
Does Costco Offer Financing on a Car?
Costo allows you to buy cars via financing, but they do not provide the financing. The deals from the Costco Auto Program apply to the price of the car, whether it is bought outright or through financing. However, you will need to get financing from a third party or the dealership. You should still shop around for the best financing options and rates before buying a car through the Auto Program.
Can You Negotiate With the Costco Auto Program on the Vehicle Price?
No, you cannot negotiate with the authorized Costco dealers on vehicle price. One of the biggest benefits and drawbacks of the program is that it is haggle-free. This is helpful for inexperienced car buyers or those who do not want to deal with negotiation. However, some buyers can get better deals negotiating than they can from the program.
Costco Car Buying Steps
Here are the steps to buying a car through the CAP:
Car buying should always begin with research. Before going to buy your car, you should know:
- Your budget
- Your credit score
- The vehicle features you want
- Local dealers in case you can find a better deal elsewhere
Know Your Financing
Costco does not provide financing. If you need financing for your car purchase, get it from an online lender. Research financing options ahead of time and get preapproval before heading to the dealership.
Head to the Costco Auto Program website to start searching for inventory. You will have to ultimately buy the car from the dealership, but it helps to first look for qualifying vehicles that you are interested in.
Many of the vehicles on the site are customizable. You can choose the features, trim, and color you want. Other times, you can only select the model.
Fill Out the Form
Once you have selected your preferred vehicle, fill out the form. You’ll need to enter your membership number and contact information. Then Costco will send you the contact information.
Head to the Dealership
You can then call the dealership or go in person to find out the discounted price and decide if you will make the purchase. Make sure to ask for the designated salesperson.
Costco Price Sheet
You will receive the Costco Member-Only Price Sheet at the dealership. The Costco Auto Program Price Sheet will break down the prearranged vehicle price, savings through rebates, and any optional equipment.
Complete the Purchase
After you’ve reviewed the discount, you can choose to buy or lease the vehicle. However, you are not obligated to do so. You can decline the offer at any time. You may also trade-in your vehicle.
Costco Auto Program Policies
When purchasing the Costco Auto Program, you are buying through a dealer, not Costco. This means that the dealership provides information on warranties, returns, deliveries, and more.
The program does include trade-ins. Car buyers can trade in their vehicles for credit toward the new purchase.
Additionally, as part of the program (whether you buy a vehicle or not), Costco members receive a 15% discount on services, parts, and accessories.
Does Costco Offer Specials or Incentives?
Gold Star and Business Costco members receive a $100 coupon for oil changes, extended warranty plans, parts, and accessories from the dealership where the vehicle is purchased. The same incentive applies to executive members, but for a value of $200.
On occasion, Costco will offer incentives for a limited time on a particular manufacturer.
How Much of a Discount Can You Get Through Costco Car Buying Program?
The average discount for those who buy cars through the Costco Auto Program is $1,000. However, discounts vary greatly and can be significantly less or more depending on the dealership and vehicle.
Costco Auto Program Review - The Good & Bad
Pros: Here's What I Like About the Costco Auto Program
There are many advantages to using the Costco Auto Program, including:
- No-haggle Pricing. The fixed pricing alleviates the pressure and stress of negotiating with dealers.
- Transparent Pricing. All of the listings show the invoice price or how much the dealer paid the manufacturer for the vehicle. The listing also shows the MSRP. This transparency is helpful for car buyers.
- Large Selection. Car buyers have many options available to them through the Auto Program, including several makes and models of cars, SUVs, trucks, vans, RVs, ATVs, UTVs, and more.
- Helpful Research Tool. Via the Costco platform, you can compare three models side-by-side. Through the website, you can compare pricing, specs, features, tech, and more.
- Purchase Agreement Check. Costco will check your purchase agreement to ensure you receive the agreed-upon purchase price.
- Monitors Discounts. Costco closely watches its discounts to ensure they are appealing. There’s a good chance you’ll drive off a happy buyer.
- Member Advocacy Group. Costco has a group that can help shoppers find answers to their questions and get the best deals.
- 15% Discount. Whether or not you buy a car, the program includes a 15% discount on services and parts.
Cons: Here's What I Don't Like About the Costco Auto Program
Despite the many perks of Costco’s Auto Program, there are some drawbacks to consider as well.
- Only Available to Members. The auto program is only available to paying Costco Wholesale members. The Gold Star membership is $60 per year, and the executive membership is $120 per year.
- No Phone Pricing. Authorized dealers in the program cannot provide prices over the phone. This is an inconvenience for many car shoppers.
- Can Only View Discount at the Dealership. You will not be able to see the value of your discount unless you head to the dealership with a Costco Member-Only price sheet. The discounts can vary drastically.
- Choose Between Incentives. Some dealerships may require car buyers to choose either the Costco discount or their other limited-time specials.
- No Negotiation. Haggle-free can be a positive, but it can also be a drawback. Customers who are good at negotiating can get better deals than the Auto Program offers.
Is It Possible to Beat Costco Auto Program Prices?
According to the Costco Auto Program, buyers can save on average up to $1,000 on the vehicle price. This is just an average, and savings can vary greatly depending on the dealership and model.
However, it is possible to beat the Costo Auto Program prices.
It comes down to your negotiation skills at the dealership to get a better price. Costco Auto Program has a network of dealerships they work with, but there's no negotiation on your part. Since Costco Auto Program only works with participating dealerships and salespeople, there could be a wider net to cast if you do it yourself. We recommend reaching out to 6-8 dealerships to get a truly competitive price.
You may also be able to negotiate dealer add-ons that can save you more money than going with the pre-determined Costco Auto Program price.
In addition, some dealerships may not let you take advantage of manufacturer or dealer incentives when shopping through Costco, so be sure to keep yourself updated with the best car deals.
In the end, it is possible to beat the Costco Auto Program price, but it really depends on your research and negotiation skills.
Alternatives to Costco Car Buying Program
Overall, the CAP is a good option for existing members, but it is not the only option. There are many different car buying alternatives, including:
- Find The Best Car Price. Having dealerships compete can get you the best price. You can check out our detailed guide on how to get a competitive price on a new car. Or use our free service to connect you with up to 5 dealers at once. We are powered by Rydeshopper and work with the largest network of dealers in the U.S. to help get you the best price on a new car.
- Sam's Club Auto Buying Program. Sam’s Club, powered by TrueCar, offers competitive pricing on new and used cars for its members. Read our full review here.
- Rocket Auto. Rocket Auto is an online vehicle marketplace for buying and selling vehicles. Their goal is to improve the car-buying experience through customer-centric shopping. Read our full review here.
- Carvana. Carvana is an online-only dealership. Carvana also provides financing options and no-haggle buying and selling for used cars. Learn more about Carvana and read our full review here.
- Carmax. Carmax buys and sells certifies used vehicles. They offer delivery and curbside pickup as well. Read our review of Carmax here.
- Shift. Shift is a digitally-driven company that offers car buying and selling. Shift owns all the cars they sell and offers haggle-free pricing. Learn more about Shift and read our full review here.
- WeBuyAnyCar. They provide a fast, convenient process for selling a car from the comfort of your home. Learn more about WeBuyAnyCar.
- CarsDirect. Shop for a car and loan on CarsDirect. Read our full review in this post.
- Vroom. Vroom is a platform for buying, selling, and trading in vehicles. You can find low mileage pre-owned vehicles under 3 years old with clean titles. Read our full review of Vroom here.
- Rental Car Companies. If you are looking for a well-maintained used vehicle on a budget, then buying from a rental car company can be a good option. Check out our comparison of Enterprise, Hertz, and Avis here.
Does BJ's Have a Car Buying Program?
BJ's offers plenty of exclusive member benefits, but they no longer have an auto buying program. Members can still get savings and free maintenance on tires.
Here is a quick video on how the Costco Auto Program works:
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it worth buying a car through the Costco Auto Program?
If you already have a Costco membership, it is worth checking out the Auto Program pricing for cars you are interested in. However, it’s not worth buying a Costco membership just for the Auto Program because you may be able to get better deals by negotiating on your own. Always compare pricing for the membership program with dealership incentives and offers.
Does Costco sell used cars?
Car buyers can shop for factory-certified used vehicles and select pre-owned vehicles through Costco.
Does Costco sell new cars?
The Costco Auto Program includes new cars.
Why should I buy a car through Costco Auto Program?
The major perk of the Costco Auto Program is haggle-free shopping. Costco is looking to provide a haggle-free experience and preferred pricing to its members. If you already have a membership, it is worth considering the Auto Program.
Does Costco deliver vehicles?
When buying through the Costco Auto Program, you are purchasing the vehicle from a participating dealership. Costco does not deliver vehicles, but some of the authorized dealerships may. Discuss delivery options with the dealership at hand, but be prepared to pay extra for delivery.
Can you trade in your vehicle through the Costco Auto Program?
Yes, you can trade in your vehicle for a new or used vehicle through the CAP. The trade-in amount can be used as credit toward your new purchase.
Can you sell your vehicle through Costco Auto Program?
As of right now, you cannot sell your vehicle via the Costco Auto Program.
Does the Costco Auto Program lease cars?
Yes, you can lease a car with an Authorized Dealer Contact with the Costco Auto Program. The "Agreed Upon Value of the Vehicle" is the special discounted price for car leases. You will also be able to trade in your vehicle at participating dealerships.