Car Buying

Buying a Car: Should You Use a Car-Buying Service?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro May 2015

If you're interested in buying a new or used car, you may have heard about car-buying services. Although the scope of these services varies, nearly all claim to make buying a car easier, faster and simpler than going to a traditional dealership. But do they deliver what they promise?

How Does It Work?

Before we cover whether car-buying services are beneficial, it's important to understand how these services work. Generally, they offer packages ranging from finding a car and letting you do the rest to finding a car, negotiating a deal and delivering it right to your doorstep.

The way it works is simple: If you don't want to go through the hassle of finding or buying a new car, you contact a car-buying service and explain what kind of car you want. The service will find the car for you, set up appointments, and in some cases, even deliver the car to you so that you can take a test drive before making up your mind. If you decide that you want the car, the service might even negotiate the price on your behalf so that you don't need to haggle.

Since car-buying services are typically run by professionals, they often have a strong knowledge of what's on the market at any given time. They know what to look for and where to search for it. Sometimes they even have a relationship with local dealers that gives them an edge on pricing that a normal customer would have to stretch to get. Of course, one of the main tools they use is Autotrader, since our listings include tens of thousands of vehicles at any given time.

When Is It Beneficial?

Since car-buying services charge money for their expertise and vehicle-searching skills, you might be wondering exactly what they offer that you can't do yourself.

If you're a car enthusiast or you enjoy the car-shopping process, the answer is not much. In that case, the service probably isn't for you, since you likely know the market very well and you probably enjoy test-driving, shopping and negotiating deals.

But if you're the kind of shopper who dreads the car-buying process, employing a car-buying service might be a good idea. For a fee of usually no more than a few hundred dollars, the service can spare you from many different parts of the process of buying a car, including searching for a car, haggling over the price and even visiting many dealers in search of the right vehicle.

Our advice is this: If you dread the car-buying process, you may want to check with a car-buying service to see what they charge and how easy they make it. For some shoppers, the car-buying service will pay for itself in ease and simplicity alone.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Buying a Car: Should You Use a Car-Buying Service? - Autotrader