Another Membership Perk
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Is Buying an RV Through Costco Worth It?

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Another Membership Perk
BlueDogRVSpokaneValley/Facebook

Another Membership Perk

Costco has long been known for offering its members deep discounts on giant tubs of peanut butter, super-sized boxes of cereal, and plenty of other products. In 1989, however, it formed the Costco Auto Program, which gave cardholders a new way to buy cars, trucks, and other vehicles — not exactly the type of purchases people normally associate with a trip to Costco. Not available to the general public, the program can offer real value and a much better buying experience to Costco members — including those in the market for an RV. Here's everything you need to know. (Not a Costco member? You can apply here.)

Related: 22 Important Things to Consider Before Buying an RV

It's Not Actually Costco
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It's Not Actually Costco

The first thing to understand is that when you log onto the Costco Auto Program website, which is the first step in the RV-buying process, you're not actually dealing with Costco. The site is run by a third party licensed to use the Costco name. It has its own policies — including its privacy policy — and its own terms and conditions. You do, however, have to be a Costco member to participate.

Ask About Transportation as a Service
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Costco Doesn't Sell RVs

The second thing to understand before you start considering whether the experience is right for you is that Costco doesn't sell RVs, nor does it or any of its affiliates negotiate transactions. RV dealers pay a participation fee to get plugged into Costco's vast network of customers. Costco doesn't guarantee any prices or warranties or stand behind any dealer offers or price quotes. That, however, doesn't mean it's run by some shady shadow organization. The program is reputable and successful enough that 2.3 million people have purchased cars, RVs, and other vehicles through the program in the last five years alone.

The Process Is Simple
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The Process Is Simple

To get started, you just go to CostcoAuto.com/rv and type in your zip code. Then, choose the type of RV you're interested in (class A, B, or C, travel trailer, fifth wheel, etc.) and use the site's tool to locate a local dealer that participates in the program. Once you submit a request, an authorized dealer in your area will contact you to set up a visit to see some RVs for yourself.

The Dealers Are Hand-Chosen and Pre-Screened
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The Dealers Are Hand-Chosen and Pre-Screened

Aside from potential savings, a major benefit is that all participating dealers must meet certain qualifications to get in on the action. They're strictly vetted to ensure that members have a pleasant experience, which isn't always the case when shopping for an RV. You're never under any obligation to buy.

Join a Warehouse Club
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You're Part of an Enormous Leverage Mechanism

The business model for regular Costco stores is that you save money by buying in bulk. The exact same concept allows Costco to leverage significant discounts for its members in the auto program. Costco has nearly 100 million members, so RV dealers have every incentive to offer the lowest prices possible if it buys them access to that customer base.

Members Get Special Pricing
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Members Get Special Pricing

Another thing that might make the experience worth it is that members have access to the Costco Member-Only Price Sheet, which is blocked to the general public. There, you'll see pre-arranged prices that are exclusive to Costco members. Someone who walks into the same dealership and talks to the same salesperson will be negotiating off of a completely different — and higher — pricing structure than you will as a member.

All Deals Still Apply
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All Deals Still Apply

Another factor that could lead to real savings is that it's not an either/or type of situation. Even though you're starting negotiations on a lower pricing structure, you're still eligible for all applicable incentives, rebates, and special financing offers that are open to the general public. Unlike buying groceries where you can't use a coupon on sale items, here you can double dip.

You Can Save Real Money
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You Can Save Real Money

According to RVBlogger, a widely followed RV lifestyle blog with the amazingly awesome motto "shift, control, and escape," there are real savings to be had. According to this post's author, people who buy RVs through the Costco Auto Program report average savings of 22% to 25%. That's not a high-ball outlier — saving one-quarter the price on a big-ticket purchase is the average experience.

You Can Save Yourself a Lot of Headaches
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You Can Save Yourself a Lot of Headaches

Making a purchase that's as big, expensive, and complicated as an RV can be confusing, time-consuming, and stressful. According to RVBlogger, the people who landed those major savings did so without the pressure or drawn-out negotiations that are so common to the regular RV-buying experience. The Member-Only Price Sheet lays everything out clearly in a format that's easy to understand for the average buyer.

Related: 25 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying an RV

Live Chat Customer Service
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You Are Not Alone

Perhaps the biggest benefit of all is the Costco Auto Program Member Advocacy Group. Open seven days a week, the organization exists only to walk its members through every step of the process, answer questions, and address member concerns from "the moment they begin researching a vehicle, while at the dealership, and after they've taken their vehicle home," according to the website of the advocacy group. It also claims to offer "a superior level of support that sets it apart from any other membership-based buying services in the automotive industry."