CarBargains is a service offered by the non-profit Consumers Checkbook. (Checkbook itself is a less political variant of Consumer’s Union, publisher of Consumer Reports.) For $160 (plus $30 for a subscription to Checkbook if you don’t have one) CarBargains will do the thorough comparison shopping that every new car buyer should be doing himself.
Unless you are an aggressively objective shopper, you should absolutely spend this money before completing a new car purchase. It could easily pay for itself just in the savings you will realize on dealer-installed options.
I recently tried the service for a relative. On my recommendation he test-drove an Acura TL and afterwards allowed a cursory discussion of price with the dealer, who said that his best price would be $700 above invoice (and that even employees pay $500 above invoice). Then we sent away for the CarBargains report. One week later a report arrived with detailed, binding quotes from ten separate dealers in the New York Metro area. The report also noted two dealerships that had declined to bid. The dealer he had talked to earlier offered it at invoice, as did several other dealers.
The report eliminated all of the gaming involved in buying a car — including obscure document and advertising fees that tend to pop-up at the last minute. CarBargains ensures that you pay a “fair” price for a new car, and that the dealer who most wants to sell it to you can get your business.