Jeffry Melnick didn’t want the hassle and anxiety of shopping for a car when he set out to buy one last year.
“When they say to me, ‘Do you want to look under the hood?’ No,” Mr. Melnick said. “No, I don’t.”
So he hired someone to do his haggling for him.
Mr. Melnick, a semiretired theatrical agent who lives in Palm Springs, Calif., called Authority Auto, a car-buying service based in Tarzana, and told it what he wanted — and what he wanted to pay..
But finding a negotiator can be tricky. There is no standard name for these services — some call themselves a buying service, others a negotiating service, some a broker, still others a concierge. Each seems to operate in its own way.
Paul Maloney is a New York-based former fleet director with an Australian accent and a snappy line of patter. He calls his business the Car Leasing Concierge, www.carleasingconcierge.com although he handles new-car sales as well. He sends clients to a dealership with a free worksheet, then, for a fee, he will assess the deal to see if he can beat it. His is a tiered service that tops out with his assessing your deal and handling your purchase for $297.
Oren Weintraub, a former car salesman, owns Authority Auto. The services say they can protect consumers and save them time and money.
Mr. Weintraub, a former car salesman, said he worked with buyers from start to finish. He will help them choose a car and negotiate the sales price, finance rate, and aftermarket products like service contracts and wheel and paint protection. He works nationwide and charges $600 to $1,500, depending on the cost of the car. For an additional $300 he will also sell the client’s old car.
Greg Macke, who calls himself “Your Car Angel,” helps clients pick a car, arranges a test drive, negotiates the purchase and accompanies the buyer to a dealership. He even inspects used cars. But he accepts only clients who live near Los Angeles for his $750 service.
You might think dealerships tremble at their approach, but the negotiators — who said they helped with between 125 and 1,000 purchases a year — say that is not the case.
“We buy so much merchandise from them that we are an asset to them,” said Greg Pence, manager of car-buying services for AAA Carolinas, whose in-house service buys about 1,200 cars a year. He said dealerships liked that the professional negotiators closed deals quickly, “usually within a good 30 minutes or so.”
The negotiators compete with services like TrueCar, which don’t charge the consumer but do charge the dealers — who may pass the cost on to the consumer.
Michael S. Freeman II, the executive manager of Sunset Chevrolet Buick GMC in Sarasota, Fla., said the average profit on a car was 2 percent. On a $30,000 car that would be $600. TrueCar, he said, charges a fee of $300 for each new car sold on a referral.
“When we get someone from TrueCar, we have to cut a check,” Mr. Freeman said. “That is factored into the price.”s
TrueCar is the technology behind 500 buying services, like those of publications like Car & Driver and U.S. News and World Report, and companies like USAA and Sam’s Club. The dealers get their referrals from TrueCar, which displays prices from its member dealerships and allows prospective buyers to compare the out-the-door cost for the vehicle they want. That eliminates haggling — for better or worse.
The details of how a dealer reaches the price that TrueCar displays are complex, said Veronica Cardenas, a spokeswoman for TrueCar, but “it’s not a race to the bottom.” She added, “The idea is you are getting a competitive price.”
There are competitors that charge dealerships a modest monthly fee, such as Costco and CarGurus, which dealers said gave them more room to discount. (Sometimes, getting the very best deal comes from buying at just the right time. Dealers receive bonuses based on sale quotas, meaning they might give bigger discounts if they’re trying to hit a benchmark.
http://www.carleasingconcierge.com to learn more.