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How the AARP Car Buying Service Works

If you’re looking for your next vehicle, the AARP car buying service lets you research new and used cars in your area and lock in a deal all before you hit the dealership. Even better, you can use this program even if you aren’t an AARP member, though members have access to extra discounts and benefits.

How AARP car buying works

Step 1: Research cars

To start the AARP car buying program, you simply search for the type of car you want online. While you have the option to log into your AARP account if you have one — and potentially receive a greater price discount — you can also complete the car search without a membership.

TIP:This step will work best if you know the exact make and model you prefer as well as color, style and technology preferences. (Need help deciding? Check out our picks of the best cars for seniors.)

Step 2: See prices and offers

You may compare the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the vehicle you picked, along with the average price people in your area paid for that same make and model, as well as alternatives.

To receive offers from local dealerships, you must submit your name, email, phone number and address.

Step 3: Pick an offer

If you like one of the offers, you can pick it and lock in the rate. From there, you go to the dealership for a test drive. If all looks good, you can complete the purchase.

Step 4: Report the purchase to AARP

In order to receive additional benefits available to AARP members, you’ll need to register your vehicle purchase on the AARP website within 45 days of your purchase.

You’ll need to enter in the email you used to receive offers, along with your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), dealership details and personal information. This entitles you to:

  • 20% of the cost of repairs, if any, for the car you purchased
  • Up to $500 reimbursement twice a year for any car repairs
  • Up to $500 reimbursement twice a year for any insurance claims
  • Unlimited use of an auto repair hotline with certified mechanics

Is it worth using the AARP car buying service?

The AARP car buying program is powered by online auto marketplace TrueCar. So is it worth making the extra effort to join AARP when you could search TrueCar for free? We’ve laid out the benefits as well as the drawbacks for buying through AARP.

Pros and cons of the AARP car buying service

Benefits Drawbacks
Extra price discount. AARP estimates its members save at least an extra $100 on top of the TrueCar deal. Must enroll in AARP to get all benefits. Membership has a cost, see details below.
Free driver’s safety course. Your insurance company could reduce your premiums once you finish the online course. Dealer calls, emails. Once you submit your name to a car-buying program, expect to receive calls and emails. This can get a little annoying if you value your privacy.
Auto expert opinions. After you complete and certify your purchase, you’ll gain access to a hotline with certified mechanics. You can make unlimited calls to ask about potential repairs and car problems. No AARP auto loans. The AARP program does not help with setting up vehicle financing, so you’ll need to handle this yourself.
Deductible and auto repair reimbursement. When your vehicle needs repairs or if it’s involved in an insurance claim, the program will reimburse certain costs. Deductible and auto repair reimbursement not available everywhere. If you live in New Hampshire or New York, you miss out on this key benefit.

 

key point:AARP estimates that the extra benefits add up to a $2,000 value while memberships start as low as $12.60 annually. The car-buying program is available in all states and the District of Columbia but not in U.S. territories.

AARP membership

Join AARP online by filling in your contact information and paying the membership fee. Membership is $16 per year, though you have several choices that reduce that annual fee:

  • $12 for the first year when you select auto-renew for the future.
  • $12.60 a year for 5 years ($63 total)
  • $14.34 a year for 3 years ($43 total)

To become a full member of AARP, you need to be at least 50, but younger readers can join as an associate member. This restricts you from using age-based offers at AARP, but the car-buying program is available for all levels of membership.

Financing an AARP car

As we’ve already mentioned, AARP does not offer auto loans. If you use its car-buying service, you’ll need to set up your financing another way. You have a few different options.

  1. Finance through the dealership: This is probably the most convenient way. You can set up your loan at the same time you’re completing the purchase of your vehicle. The downside is that the dealer is the middleman between you and your lender. If you haven’t put in your own research, you won’t know whether you’re getting the best rate.
  2. Get your own financing: Another option is to apply with a bank or credit union for a preapproved auto loan. Since you know how much your vehicle will cost ahead of time, thanks to the AARP program, you can apply for this amount and hit the dealership with financing in hand.

To take the second strategy to another level, apply for a preapproved loan with more than one lender. You could fill out a single online form at LendingTree and receive up to five loan offers from lenders, depending on your creditworthiness.

AARP car buying vs. competitors

If you’re already a member of AARP, it may be a good idea to see if its car-buying service can help you find a good price on your next car. If you’re not, a similar car-buying service may be available through your bank, credit union or another organization to which you already belong. Or, you can do the research yourself or find another source of help.

  • Online car-buying sites –There are many car-buying websites and apps where you can research cars and connect with sellers.
  • Membership programs – Here’s a sampling of bank or credit union, credit card company, insurer and retailer car-buying programs that might be better alternatives to AARP’s service:
    • PenFed Credit Union: Some banks and credit unions, including PenFed, provide a discount on your loan when you use their car-buying service.
    • American Express: Earn rewards points in addition to other discounts when you use your credit card company’s car-buying service.
    • Geico Car Buying Service: Like AARP, if you’re already a Geico policyholder and searching for a new car, this service might be a good fit.
    • Sam’s Club: If you’re considering a new membership, the discount warehouse has a car-buying service plus other driver benefits, such as club prices on tires and batteries and free flat tire repair, battery tests and wiper blade installation.
  • Car brokers/concierge services – If you want more hands-on assistance, you could work with a car broker or a concierge service. For a fee, these services will search for the type of car you want, handle the negotiations and help complete the purchase.
  • DIY – If you feel comfortable researching and negotiating on your own, you could use the information from the AARP car-buying service to check average prices, and then you can see if you can find something better on your own, either by visiting dealerships or by checking out local ads on Craigslist.

Who is AARP car-buying best for?

The AARP car-buying program is best for someone who wants a balance of getting help to find their next vehicle while keeping costs low. The search service is free to use. And for a small annual membership fee, you can potentially receive even more benefits.

It might not be a good fit for people on the extremes though. If you want to put in as little legwork as possible and don’t mind paying more, a concierge service or broker could make your life even easier. On the other end, someone willing to put in their own research may be able to find an even better deal.

It’s quick and free to get quotes through the AARP car-buying service. You can then compare its prices with other options. If AARP turns out to be the best offer, you could then sign up for membership to receive its other perks and discounts.

 

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