When it comes to buying a car, Costco may not be the first place that comes to your mind. But the wholesale club has a robust car-buying program you should know about, in addition to other perks that can help make a Costco membership worth it.
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about the Costco Auto Program.
Buying a Car at Costco: What You Need to Know
- What Is the Costco Auto Program and How Does It Work?
- Is It Cheaper To Buy a Car Through Costco?
- What Is the Costco Auto Program Dealer List?
- Costco Auto Program Reviews: Is It Worth It?
1. What Is the Costco Auto Program and How Does It Work?
The Costco Auto Program is a members-only car-buying platform that matches area dealerships with customers looking to buy a car, truck or another vehicle at a reduced price. So yes, you need to sign up for a Costco membership to take advantage of it.
Costco says it typically saves members around $1,000 when they buy through the program, although that number could go up or down depending on make, model and mileage.
The program has been connecting store members with vehicles since 1989. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Costco’s car-buying program sold more cars than the previous year.
But here’s the thing: Costco technically doesn’t sell vehicles. Instead, it has an expansive partnership with more than 3,000 dealerships across the country.
As we’ll explain, the program offers new and used vehicles from a wide variety of automakers. Here are the types of vehicles and auto products for sale in the Costco Auto Program:
- Mobility Vehicles
- Powersports products
- Parts and services
What makes the program so attractive to car shoppers is that it offers a number of savings opportunities, including what Costco calls member-only incentives.
Does Costco Sell Used Vehicles?
In addition to new vehicles, you can also buy used vehicles in the Costco program, which it calls “factory-certified pre-owned vehicles.”
These used cars typically include extended manufacturer-backed warranties and other buyer benefits, which we will discuss in a bit.
Can You Trade in Your Vehicle?
You can trade in your vehicle and apply the value toward a new or used car. Costco’s car website has a Trade-In Appraiser that uses Kelley Blue Book pricing to let you know what your vehicle is worth.
How Can I Buy a Car Through Costco Online?
Car shoppers can choose a vehicle they see online from the inventory at costcoauto.com/.
Although the actual transaction must take place with the dealer, you use the website or a store’s call center to locate a participating dealer and to take advantage of all the savings of the Costco Auto Program.
You can browse by car type from categories like “green cars,” “coupes,” “sports cars” or “commercial” vehicles.
When searching for the vehicle of your dreams, you can also take advantage of a number of car-buying services that Costco offers, like the Build A Vehicle feature and the following research tools:
- Compare vehicles
- See reviews & road tests
- Read safety information
- Use a finance calculator
- Compare leasing vs. buying
Can You Participate in the Costco Auto Program Offline?
If you don’t want to go online to buy a car, you can still reap the full savings of the Costco Auto Program by calling the store’s call center at 1-800-755-2519 to start the car-buying process.
The Costco Call Center’s operating hours are:
- Mondays-Fridays, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. PT
- Saturdays and Sundays, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT
Once you’ve done all the work online or offline and located the dealer that has your vehicle, here comes the good part: There is no haggling over price.
2. Is It Cheaper To Buy a Car Through Costco?
It can be cheaper to buy a car at Costco in several ways, including having the benefit of seeing any fees and added-on charges after viewing the “Costco-Member-Only Price Sheet,” taking advantage of Limited-Time Specials and Manufacturer Incentives. There are also discounts available on auto parts and service. Let’s take a look at them:
What Is the Costco Member-Only Price Sheet?
One transparent thing about buying a car through Costco is that its members get access to a Costco Member-Only Price Sheet, which shows you everything you’ll pay, including savings.
Costco says you’ll get the price sheet from your dealer before any sale takes place. “The savings can be displayed in one of two ways: one version lists pricing for all models available at the participating dealership; the other will show a VIN-specific price based on the vehicle you select, including any applicable manufacturer incentives or rebates,” it says on Costco’s car website.
If you still have any questions about the price, a Costco Member Advocate can review the offer with you.
What are Limited-Time Specials in Costco’s Auto Program?
Costco offers Limited-Time Specials when the retailer teams with an automaker to give a special deal to Costco members. As its name infers, these are time-sensitive deals.
For example, through February 2023, this Cadillac sale below is a Limited-Time Special in Costco’s Auto Program:
To capitalize on a Limited-Time Special, you have to take the following steps:
- Select an eligible vehicle.
- Register to receive your certificate with its unique promotion code.
- Take your certificate to a Cadillac dealer.
Limited-Time Specials typically cover around 60 days and can include thousands of dollars in discounts.
What are Costco’s Manufacturer Incentives?
The Costco Auto Program also offers Manufacturer Incentives, which are savings specifically tied to the particular type of vehicle you select. The good thing about these incentives is that they can be combined with any rebates and limited-time specials available.
To find Costo’s Manufacturer Incentives, go to costcoauto.com/new_cars/rebates_incentives. Select the particular car make and model you’re interested in and find the “Manufacturer to Consumer” box to see any available incentives or rebates.
For example, as of this writing, the BMW 3 Series was available for a $1,000 discount to people who graduated in the past year or were about to graduate. Other Manufacturer Incentives included special lease terms.
Does Costco Offer Discounts on Parts and Service?
The Costco Auto Program offers 15% off vehicle maintenance and repair. That means for every $100 spent, you’ll pay just $85.
From this discount alone, you can see how this is a major saving to your wallet. Here are three easy steps to save 15% on car fixes at Costco:
- Get the 15% off coupon here and print it out
- Make an appointment with a participating service center
- Present the coupon along with your Costco membership
There are other savings available, as well, when it comes to repairs and replacement parts. An example of this is preferred pricing for glass replacement plus a $25 off coupon.
Screenshot via costoauto.com
3. What Is the Costco Auto Program Dealer List?
The Costo Auto program dealer list contains participating “Authorized Dealers” in your area.
To find out what dealers are a part of the Costco Auto Program near you, you’ll need to fill out the online form, including the make and model of the car you want and your Costco member number. After that, it pulls up a relevant approved dealer based on the car you selected or a similar one.
Costco says on its website that many dealerships are still dealing with limited vehicle inventories. Make sure you call the approved dealer to discuss the current vehicle availability before scheduling an appointment to visit the lot.
Clark says he expects the inventory issues to ease real soon, which should help with the vehicle choices consumers have available to them right now on dealer lots.
“Automaker by automaker, they’ve adapted. They’re building vehicles. They’re sending them to dealers,” says Clark. “Where dealers had no new cars on their lots, there’s still low inventory compared to normal numbers, but the new vehicle thing is gradually improving.”
4. Costco Car Program Reviews: Is It Worth It?
We asked Clark Howard’s Facebook fans to weigh in on the Costco Auto Program and the reviews poured in. Here are a few:
“Yes, about 6 years ago on a Honda Fit. I’m not comfortable haggling and was pleased with the no haggle pricing. Pleased with the Fit as well.”
“Yes. Dealer participation was marginal at best. They reluctantly agreed to a Costco price, but it took some haggling.”
“Yes – twice. I saved about $500 on a new Toyota Prius and about the same on a new Subaru Impreza. I like the no-haggling and the short time to buy, easy decisions, no pressure. I would prefer a better price and prefer working with closer dealerships. We had to drive 1 hour for the Subaru dealer, as Costco only works with specific dealers, not always the closest one to you or the store.”
As you can see, the Costco Auto Program offers a number of ways to save on a new or used vehicle.
Unlike other car dealers, you don’t have to haggle over the price of a car you find through Costco. The wholesale club offers vehicles with preset reduced pricing for its members. Once you find out what you’ll pay for the vehicle, you are under no obligation to purchase it.
While we wouldn’t recommend only using the Costco Auto Program, it would certainly make sense to get a quote from them as part of your car-buying process.