Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Worst Thing About Costco (The Auto Buying Program)

Entrance in Henderson, Nevada
I have been a loyal Costco customer for I can't even remember how long now.  I evangelize about Costco. I wish I had a dollar for every time I've bragged about Costco.  So, it will come as a shock to some that I have found a service at Costco that has really let me down.  It's the Costco Auto Program.

I am in the market for a new car and thought that since I'm a Costco member I'd take advantage of one of the services I haven't used in the very long time I've been a member.  The Costco Auto Program you might think would be a program where you buy your car through Costco since you see the cars lined up in your local warehouse.  You'd be wrong.  You might think the Costco Auto Program gets you a pre-negotiated price that is the same for every Costco member in the country.  You would be wrong.  You might think the Costco Auto Program would give you a price you can take into the dealership. You would be wrong.  You might think the Costco Auto Program would cover any car as long as Costco has an agreement with a particular dealership.  You would be wrong. 

The Costco Auto Program simply puts you in touch with a dealer who is in the program and the dealer has worked out a price with Costco.  Great, but you don't know the price until you go visit the dealer.  My first stab at the program was to try to get a price for a 2015 Kia Optima.  I could not find the car on the website. I thought I must be missing something.  Other 2015 Kia's were on the site. 2014 Kia Optimas were on the site.  But, no 2015 Kia Optima. I called the program and was told it was probably too new.  They didn't know when it would be on the site/in the program, just keep checking back. It's normally 30-60 days.  Or so they guessed.  They really didn't seem to know.

I am also considering a 2015 Mazda 6.  I thought I'd try my luck with that car.  I live just outside of Cincinnati, OH and there are many Mazda dealerships fairly close.  I was surprised when the dealership it came back with is in Columbus, OH- about two hours away from me.  I called the program again. They said it was probably because the car is too new. We tried the 2014 Mazda 6. The same dealer came up- Columbus, OH.  I asked if they expected me to drive two hours to get a price on a car.  The agent told me the dealership might give me a price on the car over the phone, but some dealerships require you to come in to get a price.

I was really hoping this program would make buying a car easy.  It certainly hasn't so far.  And, from what I've read the Costco price is pretty good, but not great.  It varies depending on where you are in the country.   I don't like the fact that you go into the dealer not knowing what the price will be.  You'll still need to do your homework because the negotiated prices are reported to be around $500 more than the "best" price a good negotiator can get.  So, while it may be a good price if you don't know how to deal or don't want to deal, you can probably get that price or your own by doing a little research and playing one dealer against another.  I would not recommend just taking the Costco price without seeing if you can do better first.

So, back to the drawing board for me.  I'm using to get a price to start with instead of the Costco price, which I may never know. gives you a certificate with a price on it, so you know what you're dealing with before you go into the dealership.

Sorry Costco, you let me down this time.