10 things to know before you buy a car through the Costco Auto Program

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9 things to know before you buy a car at Costco
Image Credit: Costco.com

Let’s be honest: Costco probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you’re thinking about buying a car. And yet more than 2.3 million members have purchased vehicles through the Costco Auto Program over the last five years.

In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about buying a car through Costco.

Buying a car at Costco: What you need to know

Money expert Clark Howard is a big fan of Costco because of the retailer’s cheap prices. Not only do they have great deals on furniture, gas and glasses, but vehicles, too!

Quick links: 

    1. What is the Costco Auto Program?
    2. What are Limited-Time Specials in the Costco Auto Program?
    3. What are Manufacturer Incentives?
    4. Can you buy a car at Costco online?
    5. Can you buy a car at Costco offline?
    6. Does Costco offer discounts on auto parts and service?
    7. Does the Costco Auto Program accept trade-ins?
    8. Can you buy pre-owned vehicles?
    9. Costco Auto Program reviews
    10. Other things to know

What is the Costco Auto Program?

The Costco Auto Program has been connecting store members with vehicles since 1989.

In fact, in recent years, Costco has become one of the top three largest auto sellers in the United States (after AutoNation and the Penkse Automotive Group).

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 pre-owned vehicles from a wide variety of automakers.

If you’re wondering what kinds of vehicles are for sale in the Costco Auto Program and what services it offers, here’s what’s available:

  • Cars
  • Trucks
  • RVs
  • Mobility Vehicles
  • Powersports products
  • Parts and services

What makes the program attractive to car shoppers is that it offers a number of savings opportunities, including Manufacturer Incentives and Limited-Time Specials.

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.

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This Volvo sale below is an example of a Limited-Time Special in Costco’s Auto Program:

What are Costco Manufacturer Incentives?

The Costco Auto Program also offers Manufacturer Incentives, savings specifically tied to the particular type of vehicle you select.

For example, if you want a BMW, the 3 Series has a $1,000 discount available (for a limited time) to people who have graduated in the past year or are about to graduate.

9 things to know before you buy a car at Costco

Other Manufacturer Incentives could include special lease terms and various other discounts.

Can you buy a car though Costco online?

Yes, car shoppers can choose a vehicle they see online from the inventory at https://www.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.

The process on the website looks like this:

You can browse by car type from categories like “green cars,” “coupes,” “sports cars” or “commercial” vehicles.

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9 things to know before you buy a car at Costco

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. We especially like the Research Tools, which allow you to:

Once you’ve done all the work online and located the dealer that has your vehicle comes the good part: There is no haggling over price.

However, you won’t be able to see the vehicle’s price online

Costco’s website will only let you go so far in the car-buying process.

After you’ve chosen a car, at the dealership you will be shown the Costco Member-Only Price Sheet. This clearly breaks down the vehicle’s prearranged price, savings and any rebates or costs incurred.

If you still have any questions about the price, a Costco Member Advocate can review the offer for you.

Once you get the vehicle’s pricing, are you obligated to buy?

No, you are not. You can go through all the car-buying steps of the Costco Auto Program and if you still don’t like the price, you can walk away.

Can you participate in the Costco Auto Program offline?

Yes, you can. 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. and Saturdays and Sundays, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT.

Once you call Costco about buying a car and they walk you through the process, they will give you the Authorized Dealer Contact so that you can set up an appointment.

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Does Costco offer discounts on parts and service?

Yes, it does. 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 savings to your wallet. Here’s are three easy steps to save 15% on car fixes at Costco:

  1. Get the 15% off coupon here and print it out
  2. Make an appointment with a participating service center
  3. 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:

9 things to know before you buy a car at Costco

You can also save money if you complete a Costco Auto Program member satisfaction survey. It’s good for a 50% off coupon that can be used toward auto parts, service and accessories at the dealership where the vehicle was purchased.

For Gold Star and Business members, the coupon lets you save up to $100. Executive members can save up to $200.

Can you trade in your vehicle?

Yes, you can. Costco ‘s website has a Trade-In Appraiser that uses Kelley Blue Book pricing to let you know what your vehicle is worth.

Does Costco sell pre-owned vehicles?

Yes, you can buy pre-owned vehicles in the Costco program. All the program’s savings will be applied to the following used cars:

  • Factory-certified vehicles
  • Select pre-owned vehicles

Both of these typically include extended manufacturer-backed warranties and other buyer benefits.

Costco Auto Program reviews: Clark’s fans weigh in

We asked Clark Howard’s Facebook fans to weigh in on the Costco Auto Program and the reviews poured in. Here are a few:

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“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.”

See more Costco Auto Program reviews on Clark’s Facebook page

Final thought

As you can see, the Costco Auto Program offers a number of ways to save on a new or pre-owned vehicle. In review, if we use the real-life examples cited above here are ways to save using the Costco Auto Program:

5 ways to save in the Costco Auto Program

Benefit Savings Example Item
Manufacturer Incentives $1,000 off 2019 BMW 3 Series
Limited-Time Specials $3,000 off Volvo S60 T6
Coupon 50% off (up to $200) Membership Survey
Discount 15% Auto accessories, service and repairs

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.

To see what else you need to do when purchasing a new vehicle, check out our 5 step guide to buying a new car.

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