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AAA Car Buying Review

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If you’re a member of the American Automobile Association, better known as AAA, you might be wondering if its car-buying service can save you money on a new vehicle. Short answer: Maybe. AAA Auto Buying offers a no-haggle experience and discounts through its certified dealers. But there may be a processing fee and membership is required to buy. We’ll describe how the service works as well as its pros and cons so you can make the best decision.

How AAA Auto Buying works

There is no charge for members and nonmembers to search AAA’s listings of new and used vehicles. But if you want to use the AAA car-buying service beyond window shopping, you must be a member. We’ll talk more about AAA membership levels in a second.

Besides membership, there is no fee to use the AAA service, but there may be a $225 processing fee at the end if you do buy a car through the association.

For members in certain areas, the AAA car-buying concierge service hunts down cars of your liking, negotiates a price and presents the choices to you. You could then set up dealership test drives or even have cars delivered to your doorstep to test-drive and/or purchase.

Here are the steps to use the service:

  1. Figure out what car you’d like. You could use LendingTree research to find top cars based on size, type and many more factors. 
  2. Contact AAA. You could go to the AAA Auto Buying website or call your local AAA office.
  3. Pick your car. You could set up test drives at nearby dealerships or, in certain areas, have a car delivered to you for a test drive. Some dealers offer an “express” purchase process of an hour or less.
  4. Get the car and the paperwork delivered. You could have the car delivered to you and, in some areas, the purchase paperwork, too.

AAA membership

If you’re not already a AAA member and are considering it, there are three levels of membership. The higher the level, the more services you are eligible to receive including roadside service, travel accident insurance, car rental reimbursement and more:

  • Basic: $59 annually
  • Plus: $89 annually
  • Premier: $119 annually

AAA auto loans

You could obtain your own car loan or finance through AAA, which offers auto loans on vehicles, motorcycles, RVs and boats 10 model years old or newer through Auto Club Trust. AAA also offers auto loans through partner lenders. Here’s a closer look at Auto Club Trust loan details:

  • Rates as low as 3.39% APR
  • 48  to 72 month terms available
  • Minimum loan amount $5,000; maximum loan amount $100,000
  • Only available in certain states: Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin, plus Washington, D.C.

The “as low as” APR includes a 0.25% APR discount for enrolling in automatic payments. AAA doesn’t provide a credit score requirement, but on its auto loan calculator, there are three credit score options: great, average and fair. The cutoff score for “fair” is 580.

Is it worth using AAA’s car buying service?

AAA’s concierge service could save car buyers time, but there are benefits and drawbacks to consider:

AAA Auto Buying
Pros Cons
  • Concierge service
  • You could have everything delivered to you
  • Service is available for new, used and certified pre-owned vehicles
  • Transparency
  • $225 processing fee
  • Exact vehicle not guaranteed
  • Concierge service may not be available everywhere.

Pros of AAA Auto Buying

  • Concierge service. You tell AAA what you want and they find it for you. You don’t have to scour the internet or drive around town to visit several dealerships, but this service may not be available in all areas.
  • No haggling. AAA negotiates the price, which it guarantees will be below MSRP for new cars and below Kelley Blue Book value for a used vehicle.
  • New, used and lease vehicles. AAA could help you find almost any type of car you’d like, new or used, whether you want to buy outright, finance or lease.
  • Home delivery. You could ask for the car to be brought to you at home or at work.

Cons of AAA Auto Buying

  • $225 processing fee. The concierge service isn’t cheap. This fee would be on top of any tax, title, destination charge and dealership fees that may be charged to you as well.
  • Exact vehicle not guaranteed. The exact vehicle you want might not be available, depending on inventory. Inventory varies by area — in some regions, it may be powered by TrueCar, or AAA may draw from participating dealers or even its own inventory.

Alternatives to AAA Auto Buying

AAA isn’t the only company offering car-buying services: Costco, Consumer Reports, your credit card company, credit union or bank might offer them, too. Like AAA, you might have to be a member or existing customer in order to take advantage of these services:

  • American Express Auto Purchasing Service. This service provides discounts off MSRP for its cardholders.
  • Costco Auto Buying Service. For its members, Costco can provide a great car research platform and a car price discount from one of its certified dealers.
  • Navy Federal Auto Buying Service. Navy Federal offers its members established pricing from its nationwide-network of certified dealers.

Do it yourself

It’s also possible to buy a car online without a car-buying service but with many of the same conveniences: shopping without leaving home and perhaps even home delivery, too, in the case of used-car sites like Carvana.

Hire a professional

Car brokers are professional negotiators who will find the car you want and haggle the price for the car and any add-ons you want. They do charge a fee, the amount of which depends on the broker.

General car-buying tips

No matter how you shop, here are a few tips:

Use industry guides. You shouldn’t pay more for a car than its value and you can find its value the same way dealers and lenders do — through the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) and Kelley Blue Book. Both offer a free, online guides of car values. You can show the salesperson the NADA or KBB value off the webpage and tell them you’re not paying more.

You can use the same guide to know how much money you should get for your trade-in, if you have one.

Shop for your own loan. While AAA offers to help you find auto financing, you should get a preapproved auto loan from a lender you trust. Potential lenders include your credit union, bank or online lender. You could also fill out an online form at LendingTree and get up to five potential auto loan offers from lenders, depending on your creditworthiness.

Who is AAA Auto Buying best for?

AAA’s service could offer convenience, save you a lot of stress in the car-buying process and save you time and money, especially if the price it negotiates for you more than compensates for its $225 fee.

It might be best for people who are not confident in negotiating and are already AAA members. There isn’t much of a risk for you to try it because if AAA can’t find the car you want for a great price, you don’t pay anything.

 

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