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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Caz

17 years of experience
57 reviews
Caz
17 years of experience
Honda Insight - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Acworth, Georgia
Patient, thorough, professional and takes his time to explain things. This is the second time I have used Caz's services, and he consistently delivers. Look forward to working with him again.
Volvo XC90 - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Alpharetta, Georgia
My husband and I are looking for a reliable used car for our teenage drivers. We had two that we were considering and wanted to have them inspected prior to purchasing. Caz did a thorough inspection of both vehicles and recommended we walk away from both. We really appreciated his transparency and knowledge. We will definitely use Caz again.

Chris

22 years of experience
2001 reviews
Chris
22 years of experience
Porsche Macan - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Irvine, California
Chris you as so knowledgeable and really out my mid at ease with the private seller purchase. Highly recommend to anyone shopping for a car :)
Lexus ES300h - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Temecula, California
Amazing guy.... called and gave me what felt to be his honest and straightforward opinion on my vehicle.... def will book him again in the future for work

Casey

19 years of experience
27 reviews
Casey
19 years of experience
Hyundai Santa Fe - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Katy, Texas
Casey is awesome. Helped me fully understand the health of the used vehicle I was buying for my mother in law. Great service and very knowledgeable for sure. Casey found only one issue we needed to deal with and was able to book the repair just a few days later.

Colby

14 years of experience
21 reviews
Colby
14 years of experience
Ford Ranger - Pre-purchase Car Inspection - Longmont, Colorado
Colby called to notify me he was in route to the inspection--to ease my mind and to ask if there was anything in particular/extra I wanted him to check out. He was going to do a pre-purchase inspection of a 2002 Ford Ranger. He assured me that I hired the right guy since he'd worked for Ford for 13 years. An hour or so later, he called me while he was driving home to discuss his inspection. I could ask him everything I wanted as we dialogued. That was so helpful! And way more personable and real than just reading the report he emailed. The report was thorough and included a test drive. He had recommendations for some work to be immediately done; rotors & brake pads. Then, included the cost for him to do that work should I choose. The price was fair and not crazy expensive. I'm still deliberating on whether to have that done or to wait for my mechanic to do it once I have the truck. Thank you again Colby.

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