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Should you use a car buying service?

Woman discussing a car-buying service with an agent

A car purchase almost always involves visiting auto dealerships and bargaining with experienced salespeople. It can be a daunting process, especially when negotiating with seasoned sales pros on such a big-ticket item.

If you are a dealership-averse car shopper, you can avoid the process altogether. By hiring a car-buying service, you can have a professional third-party car buyer negotiate on your behalf, eliminating the shopping process while securing a better price than you could typically get on your own.

Here are some things to consider when deciding if a car buying service is worth using.

Does a car-buying service make financial sense for you?

Before committing to a car-buying service, you should first figure out if it fits your goals and makes financial sense. “They can save you a lot of time and hassle,” says Gregg Fidan, founder of RealCarTips.com and author of “Honest Guide to Buying a Car.” “If the auto broker is reputable, they can save lots of money, especially if they are experienced at purchasing cars.”

When a car-buying service might not be right for you

But there are times when a car-buying service is not the right option. If you want to test-drive multiple vehicles, or get a hands-on feel for the various options available, a trip to the dealership is the best strategy. By developing personal relationships, you’ll be able to learn which dealership will be most responsive later on when the car needs servicing. If it’s the negotiating you dislike about dealerships, you can choose to buy from one that advertises no-haggle pricing.

You should be aware, too, that car-buying services often work with participating dealerships, which means you may not be able to get the exact make and model with your preferred options.

Car-buying services can help find rare cars

If you want a rare car, there are services that specialize in locating rare and classic cars. They offer an inspection service for looking over and appraising cars before the purchase.

Brian Moody, executive editor at Autotrader.com, says that services specializing in classic and rare cars are especially beneficial “if a buyer needs a car that’s rare and they don’t mind paying for it but they don’t have time to do the research.”

Different kinds of car-buying services

Car-buying services can be found locally and through larger national companies. They’re often operated by individuals who know the ins and outs of car dealerships, the best person to contact and how much room they have to negotiate.

How to choose a car-buying service

You should narrow down the choice of car you want to two or three specific models while researching the price range they’re being sold for in your area. You can check this data against information from the car-buying service to know if it’s a good deal and if the service is worth the fee. Once you choose a service, the entire process will run that much smoother.

With that in mind, a buyer should look for a car-buying service that’s best aligned with his or her interests. Fidan recommends choosing one that doesn’t take commissions or kickbacks from the dealership. Ask questions and research the service’s background; a reputable service will advertise its status as an independent buyer. 

“Most [auto brokers] work with a network of dealers they already do business with, which is not necessarily a bad thing,” Fidan says. “But if they’re not shopping around for the best bids from all local dealerships, they may be leaving money on the table. If your main priority is saving money, then look for a broker that only takes fees from you. They should be able to show you bids received from a variety of local dealerships.”

Similarly, Moody suggests finding a car-buying service with a “low fee, good word of mouth or good online rating and a staff that’s friendly or that you don’t mind spending time with,” he says.

Hire a reputable car-buying service

Buyers can take comfort in knowing there are assurances built into the process. Reputable car-buying services will offer customer-satisfaction policies while doing their utmost to find the best deal possible. Thus, the customer is always protected: If there’s an issue or the buyer isn’t happy with the car, he or she can simply not complete the transaction.

For individuals who want to avoid the hassles of shopping for their next vehicle, professional car-buying services can not only save them time, but, potentially, thousands of dollars.

Nationwide’s Auto Shopping Service can help you save money and take control of the car shopping process. With powerful research tools and no hidden fees or obligation to buy, you can be confident that you’re getting the best deal out there.

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