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Which Car Buying Service Is Best for You?

From Concierges to New Online Services

If you decide to get an expert's help when you're buying your next car, you still might need help choosing the right service for your needs. You might consider using a car-buying concierge, AutoNation Direct's car-buying service or the car-buying services offered by AAA and discount clubs such as Costco. And finally, if you decide on a more traditional approach, you could use a car broker.

Here are quick descriptions of what the services offer:

If you choose to use a car buying service, you won't need to go to the dealership for anything except the test-drive.

If you choose to use a car buying service, you won't need to go to the dealership for anything except the test-drive.

Car concierges

Work for either a flat fee or a percent of what they save you on the purchase price of the car. A car concierge will advise you on your choice of vehicles, negotiate the best price, review the contract and arrange to have the vehicle delivered to your home or office, where contracts are signed. While car concierges charge an upfront fee, they promise to negotiate a low price that yields net savings for the buyer.

AutoNation Direct

Is a free service that taps into a network of 200 AutoNation outlets across the country. Buyers work with a car-buying consultant who advises what new or used car to buy, locates the car from AutoNation's inventory, arranges test-drives at the dealership, gives a price for a trade-in and concludes the entire transaction at the buyer's home or office. While the service is free, the prices might not be the very lowest. However, the buyer gets expert consultation and a choice of cars from a large inventory.

Club car buying services

Such as those offered by Costco and AAA, are free to members and promise improved pricing. The services usually point buyers to a representative at a designated dealership who provides upfront pricing. Club car buying services seem to work well for commonly available cars. Beyond that, personalized service will be limited.

Car brokers

Are paid by the dealer, so it is a free service for the car buyer. The broker will find the vehicle, negotiate a price and have the car delivered. Sometimes, however, the broker will also get a fee from the dealer, which raises the question of whether he negotiated the very best price for the buyer. Furthermore, the broker might only buy from dealerships with whom he has relationships, so the choice of vehicles is limited.

All of these services are beneficial for car shoppers whose time is tight. They all locate the cars and do the negotiating, which is the step most consumers hate. All the services offer a certain level of protection, keeping an unprepared car buyer from being thrown into the wheeling-and-dealing car buying arena, where buyers can lose money on the trade-in, financing and the purchase of unneeded aftermarket products — or a combination of all three.

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