How to Buy a Car at Costco

Purchasing a new or used vehicle can get expensive, which is why wholesalers like Costco have come up with a way to save its members money when buying a car. Costco's special member vehicle purchase program is called the Costco Auto Program. The Costco Auto Program allows Costco members to get discounted prices on new, factory-certified, or certified pre-owned used vehicles from local dealerships.

When using the program, members are given a lower, haggle-free price on select models of automobiles. In addition, Costco specially trains and certifies individual salespeople at participating dealerships to handle the needs of their members when they purchase a vehicle through the program. In order to take full advantage of the Costco Auto Program, members must first understand how the process works, as well as how to take advantage of all the program offers.

Part 1 of 2: Search for a vehicle online

Available only to Costco members, the Costco Auto Program requires members to only use participating dealerships. To find a participating dealership in your area, visit the Costco Auto site, where you can search for the vehicle you want.

  • Tip: To use the Costco Auto Program, you must have either a Gold Star, Business, or Executive membership.
costco homepage
Image: Costco Auto Program

Step 1: Search the Costco site online. When utilizing the search features to find a vehicle on the Costco site, you have a few ways of doing so.

The first way to search is by vehicle year, make, and model. From there you can choose the vehicle trim and get a look at vehicle specifications, including engine, transmission, and the manufacturer's suggested retail price, also known as the MSRP.

A second way to search for vehicles is by body type. Once you have clicked on the body type you want, you are taken to a page where you can enter a price range, vehicle make, minimum miles per gallon (MPG), transmission type, and the vehicle type you prefer.

The final way to search on the Costco site for automobiles is by price which ranges from less than $10,000 and increases by 10,000 dollar increments until reaching 50,000 and beyond.

car selected
Image: Costco Auto Program

Step 2: Select vehicle. Once you enter your preferences for a vehicle, the site pulls up a general vehicle page related to your search.

On this page, you can look at what the invoice and MSRP price is for the vehicle type you have an interest in. Tabs also take you to vehicle specifications and features, photos of the vehicle type you are interested in, safety and warranty information, and any rebates or other incentives available from dealers on this type of vehicle.

car options
Image: Costco Auto Program

Step 3: Select vehicle options. In addition to vehicle type, you also need to select other options, such as engine type, transmission, as well as wheel packages, paint color, and more.

Each option should have a listed price, allowing you to pick and choose according to how much in dollar amount you want to add to the vehicle's final price. For example, options that are standard on the vehicle type should have a listed price of $0.

  • Tip: Before purchasing a vehicle using the Costco Auto Program, use the Costco finance calculator to calculate how much you can expect to pay according to vehicle price, length of the loan, interest rate, cash down, and the value of any trade-in.

Part 2 of 2: Locate a dealer

Once you have found the vehicle you want and selected all of the options you are willing to pay for, it is time to find a participating dealer in your area. This part of the process requires you to have a Costco Gold Star, Business, or Executive membership.

Step 1: Fill in information. Before you can search for a participating dealer in your area, you must first fill in the necessary information.

The only information that is required is your name, phone number, and email address.

You do not have to have a Costco membership to use the dealer search feature and find a participating dealership. You do need a Costco membership to view the member-only price sheet and to take advantage of any special deals and prices offered exclusively to Costco members through the Costco Auto Program.

car dealer
Image: Costco Auto Program

Step 2: Locate dealer. A participating local dealership that sells the type of vehicle you are searching for should come up.

In addition to the dealership name, the search results should give you the dealership address, an authorization number from Costco, and the names of the trained Authorized Dealer Contacts at the dealership.

Step 3: Visit the dealership. Print out the webpage with the authorization number or the email that Costco sends, and bring it with you to the dealership.

Once there, show the Authorized Dealer Contact your Costco membership card. They should then show you the member-only price sheet and work with you on the purchase of your vehicle.

In addition to the special Costco membership price, you are also entitled to any relevant manufacturer rebates, incentives, and special financing. Check with the Authorized Dealer Contact for more information.

Step 4: Check out the vehicle. Before signing any paperwork, make sure to check out the vehicle you want to buy.

Before going to the dealership, search for the fair market value of the vehicle at Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, or other car aggregator site.

If buying a factory-certified or certified pre-owned used vehicle, request a vehicle history report. Many dealerships offer this with the vehicles they sell. Or, if you have the vehicle identification number (VIN), visit Carfax before traveling to the dealership to purchase your own report.

Step 5: Look for damage. Inspect the vehicle for any damage that might lessen its value. Turn the vehicle on and listen to how it runs.

Step 6: Test drive the car. Finally, take the vehicle on a test drive, making sure to drive it in conditions similar to those you expect to drive it in on a daily basis.

Step 7: Purchase the vehicle. Once you are satisfied with the vehicle price and condition, it is time to purchase the vehicle.

The haggle-free Costco buying experience allows you to find a vehicle at an agreed-upon reduced price and then purchase it free from the pressure tactics often used by dealerships with regular walk-in customers.

If you still do not agree with the price or have a problem with the condition of the vehicle, you are under no obligation to buy it.

  • Tip: In addition to saving on a vehicle purchase, you can also look for special offers on the Costco Auto Program site. Such offers includes special deals on certain models of vehicles for a limited time. Look for links to special offers on the Costco Auto home page.

The Costco Auto Program gives you an easy, hassle-free way to buy a vehicle at prices below MSRP. All you need is a Costco membership, appropriate financing, and the ability to pay off the loan. Before purchasing a used vehicle, have one of our expert mechanics perform a pre-purchase car inspection to determine its condition.


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