Costco Auto Program: A Review of My Car Buying Experience


I don’t know why I haven’t written about this sooner. About a year ago now, we bought our car through the Costco Auto Program. It is a 2008 Toyota Highlander if you want to know. Here is the basic process and my review of it…

In the Costco Auto Program, Costco has relationships with dealers around the country, I think it’s for new cars only (this was my first brand-new car BTW). The basic agreement seems to be that Costco will send new car buyers to these authorized sites in exchange for those dealers giving the lowest possible price. The dealer gets a profit, but it is worked out between Costco and the dealer what that profit will be beforehand — the customer has a take it or leave it price. If you want a new car you will take it because you probably won’t get a better price elsewhere. I didn’t do a MASSIVE amount of comparison shopping, but did talk to a couple of dealers and I believe we got the lowest price out there.

We talked to the dealer representative about the Costco program and he gave us some details. He says Costco is VERY picky in their requirements, both on price and service. In fact, after we bought the car he kind of pressured us to give him excellent ratings when Costco followed up to see how it went. Must be worried that Costco could pull the plug.

He did an OK job, although we were looking for a certain color that was difficult to locate and he didn’t communicate all that well with us. It was probably 3 months between when we ordered the car and when we finally got it, and that was only after we changed our color preference in order to get our hands on an available vehicle. I think that was a Toyota thing, not our salesman, but he could’ve kept in touch better. We always had to call him to see what was happening.

Anyway, not just anyone at the dealership could sell to us. As Costco customers, it had to be that particular guy who was trained or whatever in the ways of Costco.

Overall it wasn’t much different than any other car buying experience other than price. The dealership still put the screws to us in trying to sell us an extended warranty, practicaly calling us fools for passing it up. I’m a fool I guess!

So that’s it. If it seems weird to buy your car from Costco, it’s not really. It’s not like you pick up a bulk pack of TP and a Volvo on a Saturday afternoon. You’re just getting a price break and maybe (maybe) better service than you might normally get at a car dealer.


20 responses to “Costco Auto Program: A Review of My Car Buying Experience

  1. Thanks for this post. I’ve always wondered about buying a car through Costco but never knew anyone that had done it.

  2. Pingback: Costco Sued Over “Deceptive” Auto Buying Program « Costco Blog

  3. I am trying to upgrade to a pair of HID bulbs for my 1991 Volvo and was curious if someone had any guidance?

    I have located these blogs for information but any personal experienced guidance would be really helpful.

    hid headlights

  4. I recently bought a GMC Terrain through the Costco program. I incorrectly thought the negotiated Costco price was = Invoice + $400. It is actually = Invoice + (ordinary business expenses of their choosing) + $400. In my case the dealer charged $523.90 for ‘advertizing’ and $150 for ‘documentary service’.
    I’m supprised they didn’t charge me for cleaning the bathroom and mowing the lawn. Costco Auto Program customer service has no problem with the extra charge.

  5. I live in Houston and purchased a Volvo XC90 in Dallas through a Costco certified dealer. Saved me from haggling. Volvo of Dallas had 10 x the selection and shipped the car here for an extra $250 dollars. Realistically, I saved about $1500-2000 over what I was initially able to negotiate from a Houston dealership (not affiliated with the Costco program) on the same car with same features. While it was a little strange to buy a car sight unseen, I knew what car I wanted and I knew the price up front. No games. No hassles. The car was dropped off at my front door. I inspected it, drove around the block, signed the papers and thanked the delivery driver.

  6. Hoku Gilbert

    I just had a very unpleasant experience with the Costco buying program involving Honda Windward in Hawaii, but I believe it was largely due to the bombastic style of the salesman. As to that, he refused to let us see the car until he had gone through his entire “presentation”–which takes TWO hours. This presentation involved being locked in his office, with him spending the majority of the time talking very fast about Consumer Reports ratings, paint quality (why?), bad mouthing the competition (in this case, Toyota) and basically telling me how great he was at sales and how little I knew about cars (and therefore should trust his expertise). He got in to a shouting match with my husband at one point and told us he didn’t need our business because people buy cars from him and Costco all day long. He was 15 minutes late for our appointment with no apologies. He didn’t even have a clean car ready to show us. Despite my repeated requests that I just wanted the price and I wanted to see the car, he refused to accommodate me in any way. If such is the Costco mandate–grind through this presentation no matter what the objection from the customer–then Costco didn’t make the process any easier for me. I will happily return to the old-fashioned way of buying cars–finding a salesman who listens to me, takes an interest in my questions and concerns, doesn’t trash the competition, and finds me the car I want, not the car he wants to sell me. And I will gladly pay more for the privilege. It’s not always about the money.

  7. Hoku Gilbert

    Update to June 19, 2011 posting from Hoku Gilbert: I would like to add that the Director of Member Advocacy from Costco’s Auto Program contacted me after my initial posting. She couldn’t have been more gracious, understanding and professional in how she handled my concerns. As disappointed as I might have been with my personal experience at the dealership, I was absolutely amazed at the time and energy Costco took to make amends for my “unpleasant experience.” This level of personal attention and genuine concern is remarkable for any company nowadays, and I applaud Costco for their immediate action on behalf of my dissatisfaction. Costco’s commitment to excellent customer service is what keeps me a loyal customer, and what assures me that my experience with their auto program was an anomaly.

  8. The Costco Auto Program is no more than a joke. I was able on my own to get $1200 less than what the Costco car affiliate was offering. Yes I used the old technique of knowing what I want first, and then researched what it is worth, and then used the best dealer offer to negotiate with other dealers. The Costco Auto Program is just another way to scam trusting Costco members.

  9. We are giving this a try tomorrow, I will let you know how it goes. We are interested in a Subaru Forrester and driving way out of our way to the Costco “dealership”..better be worth it….

  10. Philip Reilly

    I was referred to Mossy Toyota Prius Dealership in San Diego through ended up purchasing new Prius 2 from a Toyota dealership in San Diego.
    The problem is that I had to spend hours negotiating with the dealership and I didn’t get the actual price until I was in front of the finance guy.
    I got ripped off on my trade in also.
    The salesperson flicked through a binder showed a blank page that said $250 and told me that was $250 over invoice. The problem was that she started a negotiating position at $250 over retail NOT invoice and ended up having to negotiate; Not the way the program is supposed to happen.
    I have complained to Costco Auto buying program and they are investigating.

  11. Linda Knowlton

    I bought a new 2011 Toyota Tacoma through the Costco Auto Program from Bob Bridge Toyota in Renton, WA (Now Toyota of Renton) in June 2011. It was my first new car. After purchase, I registered on the website as a new owner and found documentation that the truck had been repaired before I bought it, and the only info about the nature of damage and repair was a message to “see technician’s notes”. I contacted the salesman who sold me the car, John Stone, on July 16, 2011. I requested to see the notes about the damage and repair to my truck before I purchased it as “new”. He said he would look for the notes and he would get back to me. On August 16th, 2011 I contacted John again and asked about the notes. No response. On April 19, 2012 I emailed again since I was having issues with the truck, and requested the info on the repair. I was verbally advised that the windshield had been replaced and that the technician’s notes had been lost. I requested an extended warranty, paid by the dealership, since they could not prove the extent of pre-sale damage. That request was denied. I contacted Toyota Corporation to request their intervention. They declined to assist. I’m completely disgusted with the whole process and would like to see Costco drop this dealership from their list of vendors of the program. It’s my feeling that the dealership should have to take some responsibility for losing paperwork related to the condition of the truck that they sold to me as a new vehicle.

  12. I just like everyone to know the BMW of encinita is one of the best places to buy a BMW. I got prices from BMW riverside mossy, Brecht , crevier, and irvine,Shelly
    Just take the lowest price and Justin Beck will give you a deal you won’t believe.
    This is my 12th year with BMW and 8th car leased with BMW. They run a no haggling sales there. I loved my experience with them.

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  20. I just went through the Costco auto program and was very disappointed. They advertise a no pressure, stress free buying experience where you get a discount but that wasn’t the case at all for me. The dealer still subjected me to endless sleazy sales tactics and negotiations and I could have gotten a MUCH better deal by NOT going through Costco and just haggling on my own and going to someplace else.

    I really don’t think I’ll use Costco again and would NOT recommend their auto program to anyone. By the way, I also got this $200 50% off coupon but just found out you MUST use it at the dealership where you bought the car.

    I’m so reluctant to ever go back to that dealership again that I don’t even think I’ll use the coupon. I feel totally misled by Costco.

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