GEARED TOWARD SAVINGS
Sure, Costco is best-known as the land of bulk groceries, but consumers who focus solely on food could be missing some sweet deals when it comes to their cars. That's right: Costco may be able to save you money on everything from auto maintenance and gas to car buying itself. Read on to discover how to get more mileage out of your membership.
Filling up at Costco is one easy way for members to save. Costco consistently undercuts other stations, including rival Sam’s Club, on price, according to the Oil Price Information Service. It averaged nearly 20 cents cheaper than its competitors in 2015, according to GasBuddy, an app that helps consumers find the cheapest gas, and even topped GasBuddy's Low Price Awards list four years in a row. But don't assume you'll be paying bottom dollar at Costco's pumps. Double-check price comparison apps such as GasBuddy, and don't forget to consider grocery stores' gas bonus programs. Kroger, for instance, gives customers roughly 10 cents off each gallon at Kroger and certain Shell gas stations for every $100 spent and doubles fuel points for gift-card purchases.
Costco has partnered with Ameriprise to offer member-only discounts on home and auto insurance. According to Ameriprise, roughly 400,000 Costco members have taken advantage, and members reported saving more than $555 on car insurance their first year after switching. Executive members receive more benefits, including roadside assistance and lifetime policy renewability. The savings depend on several factors, including the type of car, driving record, and demographics such as age, location, and marital status. Competing companies may offer other price breaks that make more sense for your situation, so check with other insurers, too.
Costco members who book rental cars through Costco Travel can benefit from member-exclusive discounts and coupons with four major car rental companies: Alamo, Avis, Budget, and Enterprise. Another fringe benefit: In most cases, renting through Costco means one additional driver fee will be waived. This can be a substantial savings if you need a second driver. Alamo, for instance, charges an average of $12 a day.
Of course, it still makes sense to compare rates with a search engine such as Kayak, especially since Costco's discount doesn't extend to all brands. Significant savings can be found with smaller, lesser-known companies. But for members looking to use a nationally known company, discounts are available.
COSTCO AUTO PROGRAM
Costco may even be able to save you some cash next time you're in the market for a new set of wheels. The Costco Auto Program offers fixed member pricing on both new and pre-owned vehicles at 3,000 dealerships nationwide. The warehouse club sold more than 520,000 vehicles through the program in 2017.
While Costco is able to leverage its sizeable customer base to arrange low prices with participating dealers, it's unlikely to deliver the very best price on any given vehicle. Buyers who are willing to shop around and negotiate, negotiate, negotiate will probably nab a better deal, especially if they have a trade-in or special financing concerns. Still, the program is worth a look for anyone who feels a little queasy when they step onto a car lot and might be willing to trade a great deal for a good one to smooth the car-buying experience.
Even if you bypass the Costco Auto Program when you're in the market for another car, you can still take advantage of another of the program's perks: Costco members get 15 percent off parts, labor, and accessories at the 3,000-plus dealerships that partner with Costco. The discount isn't good on oil changes, tires, and airbags, however, and savings are capped at $500.
While selection is hit and miss, Costco often has some enviable deals on car seats. For instance, we once spotted the Graco 4Ever, which converts from an infant seat all the way up to a booster, for $200 compared with $300 at Buy Buy Baby and Target, or $260 on Amazon. However, in this competitive product category, it’s essential to compare prices. Costco’s recent price of $60 for the Graco High-Back TurboBooster LX seems like a hard-to-beat deal, but Walmart, Amazon, and Target all undercut that price by $5.
Members typically get a full warranty on Costco-purchased batteries, and while the time period varies depending on the battery, anywhere from 36 to 42 months is typical. Costco sells only Interstate brand batteries, which generally score well in expert testing. Prices are solid, too: For instance, an Interstate 51R-500 battery that would fit a 2015 Honda Accord was $73 on a recent Costco visit; a similar Everstart Maxx battery sold by Walmart was about $107, and a similar AutoCraft battery from Advance Auto Parts was $160.
Of course, you can also find tires at Costco, and lots of them. The warehouse club sells brands including Michelin and Bridgestone's Ecopia and Dueler lines. Whether you'll save, of course, depends on the kind you'll need, but Costco typically offers competitive deals on installation: It was runner-up in Cheapism's analysis of the best chains for tire installation. Its $15-a-tire package includes mounting, new rubber valve stems, and nitrogen inflation. Costco also throws in free lifetime rotations, balancing, inflation checks, and flat repairs and a road-hazard warranty.
If you're tired of hearing your groceries or other cargo slide around in the trunk, Costco might be a good place to look for organizers that can be toted from the car to the house and back again. In store, we’ve seen convenient pop-up organizers, cargo bins, and collapsible crates for at least a few bucks less than they’ve sold elsewhere, including Amazon. Keep an eye out throughout the year, but spring is especially good time to shop when organization products tend to hit stores.
OIL AND OTHER AUTOMOTIVE FLUIDS
Do-it-yourselfers can skip the local auto-lube joint by stocking up on oil and other fluids at Costco. Recent deals include $28 for a six-pack of Mobil 1 Advanced 5W-30 Full Synthetic Motor Oil, or $4.67 a quart; Walmart’s price was $5.10 a quart and Advance Auto Part’s price was $5.80 a quart. We’ve also seen fuel system cleaners like Chevron Techron and lubricants like WD-40 selling for cheaper than they do at competitors including Amazon and Home Depot.
MISCELLANEOUS AUTO UPKEEP
Anyone who babies their car can save a little by buying products that will keep it looking and smelling good at Costco. For instance, we’ve seen a five-pack of Febreze Car Vent Clips for $9 in-club, $3 to $4 less than we spotted elsewhere. WeatherTech Floor Matsthat were going for $30 at Costco were $50 at Target. A two-pack of gel seat cushions was $30 at Costco, while similar cushions retailed for at least $20 each at other stores.