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Car buying services

A car buying service can get you a better deal on new and used cars. Here's how they work and how much they cost.

What is a car buying service?

Car buying services connect vehicle buyers with car dealers, which can save you time searching for a new or used car. These services can also help you save money on a car by negotiating competitive prices through their relationships with dealers.

How does a car buying service work?

When you use a car buying service, you typically let them know the type of vehicle you want, your budget and any special preferences (e.g. colour, manual or automatic transmission).

Some services ask for these details, then contact dealers and provide you with a shortlist of vehicles. Other services offer an online search you can use to browse cars.

A big advantage to car buying services is that they may have relationships with dealers across Australia. This means you're not limited to cars in your local area, giving you more choice and opportunities to save on costs.

Features of car buying services

Each car buying service is different, but some features could include:

  • A guaranteed timeframe for the results (e.g. same-day, within 10 days)
  • Negotiating a competitive price
  • Support for vehicle trade-in
  • Organising inspections, valuations and test drives
  • Arranging paperwork and vehicle delivery
  • Options for finance, insurance and other essentials

Example: 2 car buying services in Australia

Let's look at Carma and OnlineAuto.com.au to see how the two companies operate.

OnlineAuto.com.au

OnlineAuto.com.au focuses on new cars and offers "bulk buying power", which appears to be based on fleet pricing. It also puts a big emphasis on helping you pick the right car. You can search for cars based on make and model, as well as features and specs, including seat numbers or fuel type.

The site offers a comparison tool you can use to compare vehicles side-by-side. It also has a simple quote form, which we tried out: once you've selected the model, you provide some contact details and will be contacted with information on the vehicle. This includes potential savings you can get by using this car buying service.

OnlineAuto.com.au also asks about your purchasing timeframe and whether you've yet test-driven or found the exact car you're after.

Is there a fee?

OnlineAuto doesn't charge you a fee for using the service. But it gets a referral fee from dealerships when a car is purchased, and factors this cost into the price of the car.

Customer feedback

OnlineAuto.com.au holds an "Excellent" score on Trustpilot, a 4.6 out of 5 star rating. Scrolling through the comments, reviewers said they saved $4,500 when buying a Mazda MX5. Someone else stated they were happy with the trade-in price given for their old car, while another said they only had to speak to the car dealer when organising the registration and delivery.

Carma

Carma is a car buying service for used vehicles. You can browse used cars on the Carma website by filtering for various specifications such as car make and model, price, transmission and fuel type.

You're then able to inspect the car in the virtual showroom, which offers a 360° view of both the interior and exterior of the vehicle. All the cars available have been road-tested, inspected and reconditioned.

When you've chosen a used car, you can either fill in the form online to purchase the car outright or you can apply for finance through one of Carma's lending partners. You can also call Carma to go through the forms with a representative. If you're in the Greater Sydney area, Carma will arrange to deliver the vehicle to your door once payment or the finance plan is finalised.

Carma also offers a 7-day money back guarantee, a 3 month warranty and 1 year roadside assistance, which you might not get if you were buying through an independent seller.

Is there a fee?

There are no additional costs for Carma, but you will need to put down a $500 deposit to reserve your car during the application and payment process.

Customer feedback

Carma's website boasts reviews from customers who were initially sceptical of buying a car online without test driving, but that the service was "impeccable". In fact, another reviewer said the 7 day money back guarantee meant that not being able to test drive the car wasn't a big problem because they could spend more time with the car to decide if it was really a good fit. Carma also has 5 stars on Google, with one person calling their experience "unreal".

How much does a car buying service cost?

The cost of a car buying service can range from $0 to $499 or more.

Many of the car buying services we researched for this article don't charge an upfront fee for buyers. But they may receive a fee or commission from dealerships and independent sellers that they work with. This fee could be factored into the price of the car, so make sure you consider that before finalising a purchase.

Is using a car buying service worth it?

Looking through reviews for car buying services, it's definitely worth a go when there's no obligation for a final sale. After all, it could save you time and money on buying a car.

You've also got the added bonus of being able to shop from home and not having to visit dealers or sellers. And if you don't find a vehicle you want to buy, you can either let the car buying service find one or look elsewhere without paying anything.

Tips to find a good car buying service

  • Compare services online. Search for different car buying services, visit their websites and read the terms of service. This will help you find a service that offers the features you want.
  • Get quotes. Most car buying services offer personalised quotes if you provide a few basic contact details. As long as you're OK with being contacted, getting a few quotes could help you find a service you want to use.
  • Read customer reviews. Make sure you read actual customer reviews, including on forums like Reddit or Whirlpool.
  • Ask people you know. Have any of your friends or colleagues used a car buying service? Do they know someone who has? Look for people who can share their unfiltered and independent experiences with a car buying service.

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