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Car Buyer's Agent

Updated for 2024: A Complete Guide to Using a Car Buyer’s Agent

If you’re like the majority of car buyers and, increasingly, those who are great negotiators, you may dread the thought of buying or leasing your next car. Online offers are confounding and often misleading.

And then there is the supply issue. “We’ll sell you a barrel of apples for five cents!” “OK, I’ll take three barrels,” “I’m sorry, but we ain’t got no apples.” and what about all those “surprises” in the form of hidden fees? Not fun.

This quote from Steve Adams, amazing negotiator says it all:

“I’m looking for a particular vehicle that suits my needs. There are a number of them available online. Still, I don’t have time to call around a bunch of places, negotiate over the phone, try and keep up with interest rates, make sure I’ve picked the right vehicle without seeing it in person, and then coordinate shipping and paperwork for title and registration.

I almost bought one this past week that was a lemon buyback and luckily figured it out before finalizing the purchase. I then realized far too many games are being played online with car buying.

With so many of these vehicles for sale and how detailed my list of options is, a professional will have the best chance of shepherding the transaction from start to finish.”

How can you protect your time and your wallet? As counterintuitive as it might seem, paying a car buyer’s agent to represent you might be the best way to save your resources and sanity.

What is a car buyer’s agent?

A car buyer’s agent—also known as a car concierge, car buying service, or car “broker”—works with car dealers and individual sellers to help you get the best price and deals on vehicles. This can include leases as well as purchases, and new and used vehicles.

The agent will work with you to determine your needs, vehicle specifications, and budget. They will then locate the vehicle you want and manage the negotiation and logistics process on your behalf.

Related post: What Does a Car Buyer’s Agent Do?

How does the buying process work with a car buyer’s agent?

Many clients already know what kind of vehicle they want when they contact a car buyer’s agent for help.

However, even if you haven’t fully decided—or even if you’re starting your search and have no idea what kind of car you want—some car buyer’s agents will also help you through the decision process before they begin searching for your new vehicle and negotiating on your behalf.

The agent or service will communicate closely with you throughout the search and purchase stages.

Once your agent has negotiated a fair price, they’ll make arrangements for you to close the deal—often at a dealership, but sometimes at your home or office. If necessary, your agent may also arrange to have your new vehicle shipped to you from a distant location.

See also: Shipping a Vehicle Long Distance: Steps for Receiving an Out of State Car Purchase

How do car buyer’s agents get paid?

A car buyer’s agent works only on your behalf and never accepts dealer commissions. The agent’s only payment comes from you, the client.

How is hiring a car buyer’s agent different from using a car buying service or a car broker?

The terms car buying service, car broker, and car buyer’s agent are often used loosely, but there can be differences in the ways they operate.

Many car-buying services, such as TrueCar, Cars.com, CarFax, CarGurus, Costco, and Sam’s Club (to name just a few), promise an easy buying experience with discounted pricing.

But here’s the catch: they aren’t car buyer’s agents. Such car-buying services receive commissions from car dealers—which you, as the client, usually end up paying indirectly.

These services cannot honestly represent your needs and best interests. They don’t negotiate on your behalf or offer the individualized, personal experience you’ll get when you work with a car buyer’s agent.

A car broker may offer this personal service but not receive dealer commissions. Some car brokers are former dealer sales associates who now work independently.

However, their allegiances can vary, so it is wise to do your homework before hiring a car broker.

Incidentally, some car buyer’s agents are listed under “car brokers” on Google because Google doesn’t have a business listing option for “car buyer’s agent” Car Pal is one such example of several.

A car buyer’s agent like Car Pal is the only car-buying service that works solely for you. Because a car buyer’s agent doesn’t receive payments from car dealers or manufacturers, they can provide personalized service according to your needs without any influence from a third party.

Related post: CarGurus v. Car Pal

Why should I use a car buyer’s agent?

Once you’ve decided on the vehicle you want, the negotiation process for a favorable deal begins, and it’s rarely easy, no matter how reputable the dealership may be.

Remember that dealerships are always focused on profit. Even if you’re knowledgeable and highly informed (and even if you organize everything scrupulously on spreadsheets!), it can be daunting to sort through the available apples to oranges.

This is where a car buyer’s agent can make a difference. A reputable car buyer’s agent will know (and likely have much experience with) car dealership and manufacturer practices.

They’ll know the right questions to ask and whom to ask. They’ll have outstanding negotiation skills. Most importantly, they can use these talents on your behalf.

Related post: Why We Never Hard-Sell You on Car Pal’s Services

How can I be sure I’m getting the best deal?

Working with a car buyer’s agent can go a long way to giving you peace of mind about your vehicle negotiations.

But for even more peace of mind, here are some of the most important questions to ask yourself and things to do.

  • Is a dealer insisting this is a great deal? (If they are, check it against other sources, or ask your agent to do so).
  • Are you paying for features you don’t want? (Make sure you’re not–within reason.)
  • Do you agree to extras because you want to appease a salesperson? (Don’t.)
  • Is your intuition telling you something? (Trust it.)
  • Sleep on it.
  • Keep a spreadsheet for your reference.

Related post: Vehicle Deal Secrets That Car Dealers Don’t Want You to Know

What if the car I want is hundreds of miles away?

Suppose your new or pre-owned vehicle is only available from a distant location. In that case, a dealer may tell you that they cannot arrange to ship it (often because it’s an opportunity for them to sell to a local consumer, which can be more profitable for the dealer).

However, your agent can arrange to have the car you want to be shipped to you. Many car buyer agents have built trusting relationships with shippers who will transport your car safely and promptly for an appropriate fee while you still save on your overall deal.

An experienced agent will also discern which fees are excessive and which may be too low. If a shipping fee seems too good to be true, it may be because the shipper does not provide prompt delivery.

I need a new car but need more time or patience to shop. Can I trust a car buyer’s agent, especially if I feel rushed?

Because a car buyer’s agent is not affiliated with any manufacturer or dealership, they can be one of the best sources of unbiased advice. They will work with your evolving needs and specifications.

A reputable car buyer’s agent has the knowledge and experience to spot pricing that is too high or too low; negotiate for the features you want while eliminating those you don’t; avoid common dealer sales tactics; and ensure that your overall process goes smoothly.

You’ll drive off into the sunset feeling confident and satisfied about the time and money you saved and the respect and consideration you received throughout the process.

This article was originally published in April 2020 and was last updated February 2023.

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