Do you dread shopping for a car?
You aren't alone.
A 2016 Beepi Consumer Automotive Index conducted by Harris Poll showed the following results:
- 87% of Americans dislike something about shopping at a car dealership
- 61% feel taken advantage of at the dealership
- 52% feel anxious or uncomfortable at the dealership
- 24% of people ages 35–44 would rather get a root canal than go to a dealership
Let's just say that shopping for a car is not some people's favorite.
If that sounds like you, let me introduce you to a concept:
You can hire an expert to do your car-shopping for you — a car concierge.
At the end of this article, readers will understand how a car concierge can help them during the car buying process and what it will cost them.
What is a car concierge or car buying service?
A car concierge is a professional car shopper, but so much more.
Andrew Guthmiller, the owner of Minnesota-based Car Concierge, puts it this way: "A car concierge is an advisor working for you and your best interests to get you the right car for the best deal that can be found."
Not only can they help to get the best deal, but they help simplify every step of the process, from picking a car to paperwork.
LeeAnn Shattuck, The Car Chick®, runs a car-buying service focused on women, although it turns out that about half of her customers are men. She says her clients call her service: "How to get a great deal on a car without all of the [email protected]%%S#^&."
While some services only deal within a specific geographic area, with the help of the internet, you don't have to live next door to a professional to find a pro to help you. Many of their services can be rendered remotely, though you are more likely able to get one-on-one service and delivery in big cities.
Some professionals specialize in new car purchases or leases only, while others will also help customers with a used car purchase, although this can be a more intensive process. Either way, consumers could benefit.
What services does a car concierge provide?
As we know, shopping for a car is not a one-step process. It takes time and effort to select a car, make sure its a good fit, negotiate pricing, and find financing, before you ever get your keys. Shattuck says that she helps consumers get a great deal while avoiding "the hassle and frustration of traditional car shopping."
While all car-buying or car-leasing concierge services are different and set different expectations, here are several things that they can help you with:
- Picking a car
Only one in three car buyers know the exact make and model they want when it comes time to start shopping. "A big part of my service," says Shattuck, "is helping the client pick the Perfect Car™ based on their unique lifestyle, budget, and personality, whether that's a new car or a used car."
Tom Paolella, owner of Car Concierge Plus adds, "Many of my clients have no idea what they're looking for so I'll listen to their needs and wants and then make unbiased recommendations on makes and models." For those of us needing help when picking a car, this is a HUGE benefit.
- Setting up test drives
"I set them up on no-hassle test drives of (typically) two to three different vehicles that I think would suit them," says Shattuck. These pre-scheduled test-drives are set up at locations convenient to the client's home, explains Paolella.
- Negotiations and paperwork
Shattuck says that she also handles "all of the legwork and negotiating, including their trade, financing (including leases), accessories and any "extras" like extended warranties, pre-paid maintenance, etc." This includes, says Paolella, overseeing "the contract details to ensure that no additional fees are being tacked on."
Once all of that is done, how do you actually get your car?
"Once a deal is reached," says Shattuck, "the client purchase/leases the vehicle directly from the dealership (not me)."
The trouble with advising on a used car
As we mentioned earlier, it can be hard for a car concierge not physically located in your city to help vet a used car. Guthmiller says that while some companies only help with new car purchases, Car Concierge helps customers with used car purchases, as well as new.
He outlines some of the challenges that come about when trying to shop for a used car:
"Working on used is a lot bigger challenge. We need to go through everything much more thoroughly as it could have damage or be a salvage vehicle. Is it mechanically sound? Do we trust the dealership is giving us true answers about the condition?
Since we are not able to look at a vehicle in person all over the country, we take a lot of pride in asking the right questions and getting a gut feel regarding the dealership in question. If something feels wrong, we do a few different things dependent on the situation.
Walk away from it altogether, have a third-party mechanic look at it and give us their feedback, or hire a company called Lemon Squad to do an in-depth inspection for us to make sure we know what we are getting into.
These are the reasons, however, that a lot of companies will avoid used. Lot more at stake to do a good job and not have a disappointed client."
What benefits do people get from using a car shopping concierge service?
Whether you end up buying a new or used car, with a concierge at your side, says Guthmiller, "You gain a non-biased advisor who is only interested in what most greatly benefits you, meaning we aren't attached to any brand or bank. We just want to find you your best options." With that said, the benefits to customers seem pretty awesome. You get to avoid the stress of buying a car on your own, save time, and get a good deal on your car.
- Less stress
"Buying a car can be stressful and anxiety-filled for some people," says Guthmiller. Using a service like ours allows you to be able to skip all of that." One part of that stress is often the research, especially for someone who worries that they don't know enough about cars. "We take care of all research required to get you the answers you need without any pressure from the dealership to buy a car," he says. What a dream.
- Save time
"Not having to do any research or run to dealerships means more time doing the things that you love," explains Guthmiller.
With a personal shopper handling all of the parts of the car shopping process that you don't want to, like research, talking with dealership staff, etc, you can save quite a bit of time, during each step of the shopping and purchase process. Paolella explains that his service "locates the exact car a client wants, saving up to 10 hours of online shopping time." On top of that, "Not having to do any research or run to dealerships means more time doing the things that you love," explains Guthmiller.
Typically, people are dissatisfied by the amount of time it takes in a car dealership to finalize a purchase. Autotrader found that while people generally were satisfied with test-driving and interacting with sales staff, only 46% were satisfied by how long the process took. At an average of three hours spent at the dealership, half of that time is generally spent on negotiations and paperwork.
"Don't spend days at the car dealer," advises Paul Maloney, Owner of Car Leasing Concierge, The Car Buyer's Advocate!. "A professional concierge can have your car and paperwork delivered to your door with simplified paperwork ready to sign, all within a 24-hr time period."
- Save money
Everyone wants to get a good deal on their car purchase. No one wants to feel taken advantage of. With a professional car buyer on your side, there is a "High likelihood of saving a good amount of money," says Guthmiller. Those savings can be seen in several different places, says, including "Price, trade value, sales tax, interest, warranties, accessories, and not overpaying for hidden fees as we look through everything."
Maloney adds, "A Licensed Professional Concierge will nearly always be able to get you a better deal since they've either worked in or directly with car dealers' fleet departments. Since most buy in volume, we usually have access to dealer incentives. These amounts can range from $500 to $20,000 in extra savings, depending on the vehicle the customer is looking to buy or lease. So before you sign at the car dealership, check to see if there's a concierge in your area."
What does it cost to hire a car buying pro?
In this industry, you will basically see two pricing models:
- Flat fee — A flat-rate fee that is often, but not always, paid upfront. This sometimes depends on the service package that you select, whether you are buying new or used, because there is often a more intense process. From the companies we reached, this flat rate can be between $199 to $650, but those services were not cookie-cutter options.
- Percentage of savings — Some companies offer to take their cut as a certain percentage of the savings on your car that they are able to negotiate for you.
On top of the full-service deal, some car buying services offer educational resources to help you learn about how to get the best deal or a price-check service, for customers who are not so sure that they need help negotiating, but just want to check that they got a good deal.
One example is Maloney's Car Price Check Service ($25): "It's just like buying a house — have a professional check it out before you buy. It should be no different when you buy a car. 95 percent of buyers don't have the correct information. They only have the information the dealers are smart enough to let them out with until it comes time to sign. With our service, customers let the experts check it out before you sign. Remember numbers don't lie, but salespeople will."
When should consumers reach out to a car buying service?
"We are open to helping people in any stage of the process," says Guthmiller. "We have helped people identify the right car for them to getting involved long after they have already ordered a car and everywhere in between."
"Of course, he adds, "it is always easiest if you come to us with the exact car, features, and colors that you want to have, but we are not worried about what is easiest. We are only concerned with helping our clients have an amazing car buying experience without having to worry about a thing."
Which type of consumers are best served?
"Basically," says Maloney, "anyone who's sick and tired of salespeople blowing smoke up their tailpipe every time they go to buy or lease a new vehicle."
"I can't say that I have an ideal client," says Guthmiller. "We have helped all kinds of people with prices between $7,000 to $225,000. It really just seems that most everyone hates the car buying process as it is and would prefer help."
"Anyone uncomfortable negotiating a deal on their own, anyone who doesn't know enough about cars or the behind-the-scenes buying/leasing process, anyone who doesn't have the time or energy to play the back and forth game with dealerships, or anyone who likes saving tons of money would be best-served," says Paolella
The bottom line
If you don't want to have a typical car buying experience in a dealership, a car buying concierge could be just the service you have been looking for: someone with automotive knowledge, negotiating skills, and the power to help guide you through the process with minimal effort.
As Paolella explains, "Car Concierge Plus was founded after hearing too many harrowing stories from friends and family about their negative car buying experiences. Getting a new vehicle should be a time filled with happiness and excitement.
Unfortunately, for most, this day is tarnished with nervousness, angst, and in many cases regret — the regret of not knowing if you got a good deal, or have just been taken for a ride (pun intended).
Car Concierge Plus brings the values of integrity and honesty to the car buying process. My mission is to be a true advocate on behalf of my clients, and to level the playing field between dealers and buyers. Most importantly, loyalty, trust and money-saving results are at the heart of every service I provide."
For many consumers, a car concierge service may just be the lifehack they have been hoping for. As Guthmiller says, "Regardless of if you are too busy, not sure what you are doing, or just don't want to do it on your own, we are here to help." No matter your motivation or the reason why you dread going car shopping, a concierge can help.
Special thanks to our panel of experts:
Andrew Guthmiller, owner of Car Concierge started selling cars in 2008. Since 2017, he has worked professionally to help clients find the perfect car from anywhere. Check out his Facebook and reviews.
LeeAnn Shattuck, The Car Chick® owns a car buying service focused on empowering shoppers, especially female shoppers, in this male-dominated industry. Check out her blog, podcast, and youtube channel.
Paul Maloney, owner of Car Leasing Concierge, acts as The Car Buyer's Advocate, helping people to get the best price on their car. Delivery is available nationwide. Check out his ebook, podcast, and Facebook page.
Tom Paolella, owner of Car Concierge Plus, shares his car buying knowledge with clients nationwide, helping them to get the best price possible on a new or used car. Check out his Facebook, Twitter, and testimonials.