10 Things About Buying a Car from Costco's Auto Program That You Need to Know

The Costco Auto Program might save you money on your next car purchase, but the member benefits may not be for everyone.
Last updated Oct. 4, 2022 | By Jenny Cohen | Edited By Chris Kissell
Costco Wholesale store

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The Costco Auto Program may be one of the retailer’s membership benefits that you didn’t know existed, even if you are a longtime member. But this membership perk promises the potential to get you a good deal on a car, truck, or SUV without the hassle of negotiating a price on your own.

Is the program right for you? Following are a few pros and cons of the Costco Auto Program that can help you decide whether to use this benefit.

Pro: The program has a long history and a wide reach

Sundry Photography/Adobe branded Costco Wholesale trucks driving on the freeway

The Costco Auto Program is not a fly-by-night newcomer to the world of car sales. It has been around for more than three decades. Today, a coast-to-coast network of 3,000 dealers is part of the program.

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Pro: Vehicles are factory certified

Syda Productions/Adobe mechanic men with wrench repairing car at workshop

You can buy both new cars and pre-owned vehicles through the Costco Auto Program. For pre-owned vehicles, Costco makes sure that a car, truck, or SUV has been thoroughly inspected by a dealer to certify that the vehicle is in excellent working order and has a factory warranty to cover certain issues that may arise with the car or truck you purchase.

There also may be additional owner perks, such as a loaner vehicle if you need work done on your car or roadside assistance.

Pro: The program offers access to RVs

primestockphotograpy/Adobe recreational vehicles on display for sale at exhibition

Want a car, truck, or SUV? It may not be difficult to find what you’re looking for from Costco. In addition, you can also use the Costco Auto Program to find other types of vehicles.

If you like taking road trips, check Costco’s selection of RVs. Are you a camping enthusiast who needs a pop-up camper or trailer for your next trip to the woods? Costco might be able to help.

Pro: Dealers in the program must meet high standards

bnenin/Adobe cheerful car dealer showing files and giving keys to client

The dealers participating in the Costco Auto Program are under the constant scrutiny of Costco members, who offer reviews of their interactions with these car sellers. Costco then shares the feedback with the dealers themselves. 

If you're unhappy with your experience, you can inform Costco's Member Advocacy Group, which will step in on your behalf to hopefully resolve the issue.

Pro: You can get manufacturer incentives

Rainer/Adobe car production line

Manufacturers will have any number of incentives on different makes and models for various reasons throughout the year. With Costco’s auto program, they can help you navigate the different incentives to see which ones are available for the different vehicles you’re considering.

You also may want to check with Costco on any limited-time deals they may have with specific automakers. There may be additional incentives exclusively for Costco members that you can take advantage of, depending on the type of car, truck, or SUV you’re looking for.

Pro or Con: You can’t negotiate the price

Antonioguillem/Adobe customers rejecting contract at office

For some car buyers, negotiating the price is one of the things they dread about the car-buying process. These shoppers probably will love the fact that the Costco Auto Program removes the buyer’s need to haggle over costs. Instead, Costco offers its members a set price with no need to negotiate.

If you're someone who enjoys using your negotiating skills, however, this might not seem like much of a perk.

Pro tip: If the cost of a new car is higher than you anticipated, you can shop around for the best auto insurance policy to reduce the overall cost of owning the car.

Con: Your choice of dealerships is limited

littlewolf1989/Adobe car dealership showroom interior with brand new vehicles for sale

Yes, there are more than 3,000 dealerships that participate in the Costco Auto Program. But that still means that many other dealerships don’t participate in the program.

As a result, the Costco Auto Program might not be best for you if there’s a particular dealer or salesperson you prefer working with when purchasing a car.

Con: You won’t know the prices ahead of time

LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS/Adobe Happy couple holding catalog and choosing car in dealership salon

Costco offers a discount for its members, but you will not know exactly what that discount is until you actually visit the dealership and ask about the Costco discount. That means you may have to contact several different dealers in order to compare their discounts through the auto program before you know what kind of advantage your Costco card can get you.

Con: You can’t finance through Costco

88studio/Adobe dealer salesman giving car key to owner

Costco can help you find the car you want, but Costco doesn’t offer financing. The price you lock in with a dealer through Costco’s program is an amount that you will have to find a way to finance.

There are several options for auto loans, including going through the dealer’s lender or looking for a better deal from your bank or local credit union. But you cannot get financing through Costco.

Con: You have to be a member

MelissaMN/Adobe Costco Wholesale Executive Membership card

There are some Costco programs you can take advantage of without a Costco membership. For example, you can have optical screenings done at the pharmacy without a membership. And in some states, you may be allowed to buy alcohol from your local Costco without a member card.

But you will need a membership to use the Costco Auto Program. Of course, this might be a small price to pay for the bigger savings you can tap into when buying a car. Plus, remember that a Costco membership gets you access to discounted gas at the retailer. So, your car savings can extend beyond the initial purchase-price discount.

Bottom line

Cris C./Adobe view of Costco wholesale store

The Costco Auto Program may be a great way to save money on your next car, truck, or SUV. But be aware that there are some drawbacks to the program, which means it may not be the best plan for every Costco member’s car shopping needs.

Doing a little research about the program can help you discover whether using this aspect of your Costco membership is the best way to save some money and reduce the hassle factor the next time you buy a car. Remember to shop around for the best auto insurance policy to save money where you can.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.