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Sam’s Club Car-Buying Service: A Perk for Members

The Sam’s Club Auto Buying Program could save thousands off the sticker price of a new car and offer competitive pricing on used cars. If you’re not already a member, it may be worth joining to simplify the car-buying process and take advantage of additional benefits.

How does Sam’s Club Auto Buying Program work?

The Sam’s Club Auto Buying program is a benefit for Sam’s Club members, operated by TrueCar, an online auto marketplace. The Sam’s club car-buying service provides a fixed-price offer from a car dealer that is usually below MSRP for new cars or under the average selling price for used vehicles.

Here’s how it works:

If you’re not a member, join Sam’s Club online or at a warehouse location.

  • Sign in with your Sam’s Club credentials.
  • Search new and used cars by make and model. It’s possible to browse the inventory without signing in, but you’ll eventually need to provide your member info.
  • Choose interior and exterior colors and options packages.
  • Receive a pricing summary with the MSRP and TrueCar Market Average price.
  • To receive the discounted price from TrueCar, you must enter your first and last name, phone number and address.
  • You will receive personalized price offers from a TrueCar Certified Dealer in your area. TrueCar has about 16,500 dealer participants. Not all dealers in your area will take part in the program.
  • Contact the dealer to test-drive the car and finalize your negotiation, or a dealer representative may call you.
  • Finalize the purchase with the dealer.
  • Notify the program that you have purchased the car in order to be eligible for  additional benefits.

On top of discounted prices through TrueCar, you are still eligible for all manufacturers’ incentives. Some manufacturers offer exclusive Sam’s Club discounts as well, says Nathan Roark, a spokesperson for TrueCar.

Bring your own financing. The Sam’s Club Auto Buying program does not offer auto loans. You can use financing offered by the dealer or find your own through other sources, such as banks and credit unions. You can fill out a single online form at LendingTree and receive up to five loan offers from lenders, depending on your creditworthiness.

As part of the financing, you will have to decide if you will make a down payment. Also, the dealer will charge sales taxes and registration fees, as well as other costs, such as a document fee. The dealer may also offer additional products and services, such as extended warranties and paint protection plans.

Trade-ins are negotiated with the dealer and are not reflected in the price from the car-buying service, Roark said.

Sam’s Club membership

As we mentioned earlier, you must be a member of Sam’s Club in order to use its car-buying service. Sam’s Club is the membership warehouse division of Walmart with more than 600 stores in the U.S. and locations in Brazil, China and Mexico. There are two tiers of membership: $45 and $100 per year. In both cases, the membership card is also a Mastercard credit card. Memberships are good for 12 months. Here’s a closer look at each:

Club: $45 annually

Earn 5% back on gas, 3% on dining and travel and 1% on other purchases plus:

  • Member prices on fuel at locations with gas pumps
  • Free tire repair, battery testing and wiper blade installation
  • Free additional card for a household member

Plus: $100 annually

All of the above, plus:

  • Earn an additional 2% cash back on qualifying purchases.
  • Discounts on prescriptions, eyeglasses and contacts
  • Free shipping on online purchases

Is it worth using Sam’s Club car-buying service?

The main advantage of Sams’ Club car buying is that you receive an upfront pre-negotiated price on a vehicle. The site presents you with a new car’s Market Average price, TrueCar’s pricing tool that takes into account the market for your desired car in your area. Then you can request the Sam’s Club price from a dealer. Keep in mind the program will only refer you to dealers that participate in the program, which may not be the most convenient location for you.

On new cars, the average Sam’s Club price is $3,400 off MSRP, Roark said. Auto manufacturers may also offer exclusive Sam’s Club member discounts that range from a few hundred dollars up to $3,000 in addition to publicly available incentives. Also, the Sam’s Club price may be $100 to $300 better than you could get going directly through TrueCar, Roark said. TrueCar has service agreements with dealers to ensure they honor the Sam’s Club pricing.

Used cars. While there are more than 1.6 million used cars listed on the site, TrueCar’s inventory may not include all of the used cars available in your area. In other words, you won’t see all the cars that may fit your criteria found on other car-buying sites, just the ones offered by participating TrueCar dealers. Members will receive a used car vehicle condition report on cars they like. TrueCar labels used car listing as “at market,” “below market” or “well below market” based on the multiple used car listings on its site.

Buyer’s Bonus

Using the Sam’s Club car-buying service means more than a market-competitive price. If you report your purchase within 45 days, you also receive:

Auto repair expense reimbursement

Repays 20% of the cost of repairing a vehicle purchased through the car-buying program. It will cover up to a $500 reimbursement on repair (parts included) two times per year.

Auto deductible reimbursement

Reimburses payments for your auto insurance deductible when you file a claim. It’s good for up to $500 two times per year.

Auto expert opinion

You can talk directly to a certified mechanic to discuss problems with the vehicle, including recommended repairs and cost, and even any sounds your car may be making. There is no limit on this benefit.

Sam’s Club Auto Buying Program: Pros and cons

While a competitive price is an attractive benefit, many people also like the idea of buying a car that reduces the need for pricing negotiations with the dealer. You would still need to work out any add-ons or financing, if you choose to finance through the dealership.

“We have found that there’s a pretty direct correlation between customer satisfaction with the car-buying process and the time spent at the dealership,” Roark said.

Pros

Drivers would  also be eligible for the standard Sam’s Club benefits, such as club prices on tires and batteries. Members get free flat tire repair, battery testing and wiper blade installation on any vehicle, regardless of where it’s purchased.

Members can also get exclusive prices on fuel at Sam’s Club stores with a gas station.

Cons

Keep in mind, if you ask for the final Sam’s Club price and your information is sent to a dealer, you may receive phone calls, texts and emails about the vehicle you’re interested in as well as others.

And for that matter, you could use TrueCar’s services without the cost of a Sam’s Club membership. However, that would mean losing out on the additional benefits. Whether it’s worth joining Sam’s Club just for the car-buying service depends on how much you think you’ll take advantage of the membership.

Other car-buying services

Not only could you use TrueCar without the cost of a Sam’s Club membership, you could also consider a competitor car-buying service, some of which also use TrueCar, through:

You could also consider using a car broker or concierge service like Authority Auto or Car Bargains.

Who is Sam’s Club car buying best for?

If you’re already a member and in the market for a new or used car, it makes sense to use the Sam’s Club car buying service to see what kind of pricing you can get. While you may be able to negotiate a better price on your own, you can save much of the hassle of the back and forth with the dealer. For some people, that’s worth a lot. You also get the extra benefits of being a Sam’s Club member.

Should you join Sam’s Club just for the car-buying service? If you want to minimize the amount of time you spend at the dealership, it could be a good investment. Sam’s Club has incentives that make the initial membership essentially free, so watch out for those discounts.

If you live where Sam’s Club is not convenient to use, you could look at some of the other alternatives, such as a local credit union. Or, you can do it the old-fashioned way and negotiate with the dealer on your own.

 

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