2023 AAA Car Buying Review
Would you like to avoid the dealership two-step and buy a new or used car without haggling? The American Automobile Association (AAA) may have the solution for you.
Members of this national organization can take advantage of the AAA car buying program through certified dealers, some of which also offer additional discounts. Membership is required to use the car buying program, and depending on which regional club you belong to, there may be a fee to use the program. AAA members who bought a new car from a certified dealer in 2021 saved an average of $1,707.
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How AAA car buying works
The AAA car buying program can help you find a car and negotiate a price without going to the dealership. There’s no charge to search AAA’s catalog of new and used vehicles at participating certified dealers. However, if you want to use the service, you must become a member first. You’ll need to use the online service from the AAA club in your home area.
Some regional clubs charge a $250 fee to use the concierge service, primarily in Colorado, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arizona, Oregon and Idaho. Other clubs use a third-party service like TrueCar, and there’s typically no fee for those programs. For the most up-to-date information, check with your local AAA club.
In certain areas, AAA offers used cars for sale from its own dealership. For new cars, the concierge service will locate suitable cars based on your request. In some areas, the new car service pulls information on pricing and features from TrueCar.
AAA will negotiate member pricing for you, and with the tedious work of haggling out of the equation, you can contact the dealer to take the car for a test drive or have it delivered to your driveway to test or purchase. Keep in mind that certified dealers set their own pricing, even with the AAA auto buying program.
Here’s how you use the service:
- Decide which car you’d like. Do your research to figure out the right car for your needs. Think about which style would best fit your lifestyle, and which make and model has the features you need at a price you can afford.
- Contact AAA. Visit the AAA Auto Buying website or use your local club’s auto-buying site.
- Pick your car. Set up test drives with local dealers or have a car delivered for a test drive. Some dealers will offer an “express” purchase that’s faster than the normal process.
- Get the car and paperwork delivered. You can have the car delivered to your door and, in some areas, the purchase paperwork, too.
To use AAA’s car-buying program, you’ll have to become a member. However, membership does have its advantages: AAA members receive roadside assistance regardless of the car they’re in, along with a bunch of other perks. Membership isn’t transferable, but family members can be added for an additional fee.
Membership is available in three levels:
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In addition to roadside assistance, all AAA members are eligible for discounts on dining and entertainment, as well as travel planning. Depending on where you live, you may also be able to cover your RV or motorcycle. Membership fees may vary by AAA club region.
AAA auto loans
You can also finance your car loan through AAA, which offers loans on new and used cars, small trucks, SUVs and minivans.
- Starting APR: 4.24% (includes a .25% discount for automatic payments)
- Minimum loan amount: $5,000
- Terms: 12 to 84 months
- Vehicle age: Vehicles over 10 years old must be manually approved
AAA doesn’t provide a credit score requirement, but on its auto loan calculator, the credit score options are great, average and fair. The cutoff for a fair credit score is 580.
AAA auto loans are available from Auto Club Trust, FSB in the following states: Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
If you don’t live in one of these states, check with your local club for other financing options.
You can also fill out a single form with LendingTree and get up to five auto loan offers from lenders so you can compare offers and be sure you’re getting a good deal.
Pros and cons of AAA car buying service
Using AAA’s car buying program could save you time and hassle, but consider the potential benefits and downsides before you commit.
No-hassle concierge service
Buy a car without going to the dealership
Select from new, used and certified pre-owned vehicles
Concierge service fee in some areas
Exact vehicle not guaranteed
Some local dealers may not participate
Pros of AAA Auto Buying
Personal service: Tell AAA which vehicle you’re looking for, and they’ll find it for you. You don’t have to spend time scouring dealer sites or driving across town to locate the car you want — plus, you can even have the car delivered to your home.
No haggling: AAA works with dealers on your behalf to negotiate the best price for you. Keep in mind, however, that government charges, like taxes and registration and title fees, will still be due, as well as any additional dealer fees.
Financing choices: AAA will help you find a new or used vehicle whether you want to finance, lease or buy outright.
Cons of AAA Auto Buying
Specific vehicle not guaranteed: You may not find the exact vehicle you want if you’re looking for specific options or colors. AAA will contact local dealers, work with TrueCar or draw from participating dealers or its own inventory.
Not available everywhere: Depending on where you live, the service may be limited or not available through local dealers.
Alternatives to AAA auto buying program
In addition to AAA, there are many other car-buying service options. Many of them are customer- or membership-based, like your local credit union or Costco. You may have to become a member to take advantage of these services.
American Express Auto Purchasing Program: You can put $2,000 or more toward the car purchase on your American Express card.
Costco Auto Program: Costco members can take advantage of car research information and discounts from certified dealers, including exclusive member-only discounts and rewards like a Costco cash card. Sam’s Club has a similar auto-buying program.
PenFed Credit Union Car Buying Service: PenFed members can search for a car online using TrueCar and get membership pricing from certified dealers.
Do it yourself
You can buy a car online without using a car-buying service. Some sites, like Carvana and Vroom, offer many of the same benefits: shopping from home, home delivery and a no-haggle experience.
Hire a professional
A car broker negotiates car prices every day, so they are masters at haggling. By leaving it up to a professional, you may wind up with a good price for the car while spending less time on the deal. Brokers do charge a fee, which will vary depending on the broker; still, the savings on your car purchase may make the tradeoff worthwhile.
Who is AAA car buying best for?
In general, car buying programs are best for people who aren’t confident in negotiating prices with dealerships. If you’re already a AAA member, there’s no harm in trying the service. If AAA doesn’t find the car you want at a competitive price, you don’t have to buy the car and don’t have to pay for the service. It could save you a lot of stress, time and money.
If you’re comfortable negotiating or have your hopes set on a vehicle in a specific color or trim level, you may be better off handling the deal on your own.
Frequently asked questions
Car buying services can save you money by negotiating lower pricing with local dealers.
To buy a car without haggling, use a car-buying service like AAA, an online dealer like Carvana or a local dealership that promotes no-haggle deals.
Some local AAA clubs offer an inventory of used cars, so be sure to check with the club in your area.