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A lot of people have no idea that American Express actually has its own TrueCar portal to help you purchase automobiles and potentially cash in on savings. It’s a cool feature for Amex cardmembers but is it worth it? Or can you actually find better deals elsewhere?
In this article, I will explain what the American Express car buying (Auto Purchasing Program) process looks like and also give you some real-world examples of the discounts and prices I found.
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What is the Amex Auto Purchasing Program?
The Amex Auto Purchasing Program is an online portal powered by TrueCar where you can find TrueCar certified dealerships that allow you to purchase vehicles with American Express cards (at least partially) and get special discounts and other perks with your purchase.
TrueCar is an “automotive pricing and information website for new and used car buyers and dealers.” The way TrueCar works is that TrueCar gets compensated by dealerships so they can obtain potential buyers’ contact information and potential car buyers get access to online reports showing what others have paid for cars.
The Amex Auto purchasing program is basically a special version of TrueCar.
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How much can you save with the Amex Auto Purchasing Program?
American Express states that: “Between 7/1/16 and 9/30/16, the average savings off the MSRP presented by TrueCar Certified Dealers participating in the American Express Auto Purchasing Program, was $3,272.”
The thing about this number is that it only talks about the savings off the MSRP — it doesn’t mean that the average savings were $3,272 compared to dealerships. So I would not go into this assuming that you will be saving money with the Amex Auto Purchasing Program compared to normal dealership prices.
What American Express cards can you use with the Auto Purchasing Program?
You should be able to use any American Express card with the program. So it doesn’t matter if you have one of the premier cards like the American Express Platinum Card (full review here) or the American Express Gold Card or if you have a card like the Amex EveryDay card, you should qualify for the benefits.
How much can you put on your Amex card?
The total amount that you can put on your American Express card will just depend on the dealership. All of the dealerships that you find accept at least $2,000 towards a down payment, but you might even be able to find a dealership that accepts more.
In the past, the portal would indicate if you could put an entire purchase on your card. I did not see any of these buttons when I searched for vehicles so I’m not sure if the feature is no longer available or if I just was not able to find a dealership that accepted the entire purchase.
For this reason, you may need to contact the dealership individually and inquire about purchasing an entire car with your American Express card.
How the American Express Auto Purchasing Program works
The first thing that you want to do is go to this link right here and begin the search process.
On that homepage, you should see an option to begin searching for either new or used vehicles. To initiate the search simply select your make and then enter in your ZIP Code. In my case, I went ahead and searched for new vehicles.
You should then be directed to a page where you can choose the model. In my case, I selected Jeep so I went ahead and selected Jeep Grand Cherokee (which happens to be what I actually drive).
I then had the opportunity to customize my preferences for the vehicle. For example, I chose four-wheel-drive and also chose the Jeep Trailhawk in white. I could also customize other features like the color of the exterior, interior, and popular configurations such as choosing a type of sunroof. Note: the search results will not only include your preferences.
After you choose your vehicle and preferences you will then need to verify your information.
Verifying your information
In order to take advantage of all of the features you will first need to verify your information. This is a four step process that will only take you a minute or two to finish, but you will want to make sure that you know what you are agreeing to.
The first step is to provide your email. I would advise you to create a throwaway email that you will use exclusively for this search feature. The reason is due to the terms and conditions which state:
I agree that TrueCar and its Certified Dealers may communicate with me via email, text, or phone. Some dealers may use automated technology.
After you provide them with your email address, you will receive many emails and your inbox will be flooded. I think it is just much easier to create a throwaway Gmail account and handle all of these transactions through that.
On the plus side you will have instant contacts at various dealerships that you can work with. I have heard of some people “ccing” sales reps from different dealerships in a single email and allowing them to essentially out-bid and out-hustle each other for your business.
I haven’t personally tried this method but this could be a way to potentially save yourself both time and money.
After providing your email you will need to provide your full name and your phone number. You’ll then be able to choose your contact preferences which can be either by email or by phone and email. Again, I would suggest that you only select email to minimize getting overwhelmed by people reaching out to you. And finally, you will need to provide your address.
Viewing the search results
After you finish verifying the information that’s when you can really get in and see some of the details. You should see a search results page with a few dealerships and the vehicles you are interested in along with prices.
If you click on a vehicle and scroll down on the page you can see a graph showing you the average market price that people actually paid as well as the MSRP. Keep in mind that this average price is for your local area that you input the ZIP Code for. So in my case you can see the price below for Houston.
On this page, you can find details about things like the transmission, sound system, miles per gallon, and all of those other basic details you would be interested in. You can also view photos of the vehicle.
You might also be able to select some incentives that could reduce the cost of your purchase (these didn’t show up for every search). Here are some of the incentives that did show up for the Jeep Grand Cherokee:
- 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Retail Customer Cash Allowance: $1,750
- 2019 CCAP Chrysler Capital Financing Retail Bonus Cash: $1,000
- 2019 Chrysler Capital Standalone APR Special Financing
- 2019 Chrysler, Dodge, FIAT and Jeep National Association of Realtors Bonus Cash: $500
- 2019 Chrysler, Dodge, FIAT, Jeep and RAM Military Cash Allowance: $500
- 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Lease Bonus Cash: $2,000
- 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Lease Cash Allowance: $250
- 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Lease Loyalty Bonus Cash: $1,500
- 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4WD IDL Lease Bonus Cash: $3,750
- 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee Special Financing
- 2019 Returning Lessee Loyalty Bonus Cash: $500
Many of these incentives cannot be combined with other incentives and some have expiration dates so make sure that you read up on the terms and conditions. You can find those terms and conditions and the drop-down arrow next to the incentives whenever you are selecting them.
And finally, if you are not sure about which incentives to qualify for it might be a good idea to make a list of them and then to inquire with the dealership to see which ones apply.
This is where things got a little bit interesting.
The results showed me a full price breakdown with all of the different applicable discounts. But I wanted to cross check this with the prices listed on the website of the actual dealership. This is very easy to do because they give you identifying information like the VIN and the stock ID number so that you can easily locate the exact vehicle at a dealership’s website.
Well, whenever I located a couple of the Jeep Grand Cherokees on the dealership website, I found that the prices were cheaper on the dealership website. For example, here is one that is about $500 cheaper.
And here is another one where the price is over $1,000 cheaper. Again these are the same exact vehicles.
Now, if you notice, the “conditional final price” for these vehicles is even cheaper. In fact, it is cheaper by a few thousand dollars. However, I did not trust what they meant by conditional final price and so I just assumed that those discounts did not apply and went with the final price.
I am not saying that you can’t get these lower final prices with the Amex Auto Purchasing Program. However, I do think that it is very valuable to know that the prices listed on there are not as cheap as the final prices listed on the dealership websites.
So when it comes to using the Amex Auto Purchasing Program, I highly suggest that you do additional research and cross check the prices with the actual dealership’s website.
The Amex Auto Purchasing Program offers benefits that you can take advantage of after your purchase. Basically you can get up to $2,000 worth of coverage for auto repair in for auto deductible payments when you purchase through a Certified Dealer.
Auto Repair Expense & Reimbursement
You can get reimbursed for 20% of your payment made to repair your vehicle. This covers up to a $500 reimbursement on repairs and includes parts and you can use this up to two times per year. Just note that this service not available in New Hampshire or New York.
Auto Deductible Reimbursement
When you file a claim with your insurance company, you can get reimbursed for your insurance deductible up to $500, two times per year. Again this not available in New Hampshire or New York.
Auto Expert Opinion
You will be able to talk directly to a certified mechanic to discuss questions you might have on recommended repairs and cost, sounds your car is making, etc. You can take advantage of this perk on an unlimited basis.
Report Your Purchase
In order to get these perks you first need to buy your new or used vehicle from a Certified Dealer. Purchases at non-certified dealers will not be eligible for TrueCar Buyer’s Bonus benefits.
You will then need to register online. After you buy your vehicle from a Certified Dealer, return to the Auto Purchasing Program webpage within 45 days and enter your email to get started.
You will need to have your VIN, dealership details, and personal information handy. Once you report your purchase you will be registered for the TrueCar Buyer’s Bonus. You can choose to use one benefit or use them all.
Buying a car with a credit card
I put together an article breaking down how to use a credit card to pay for a car and I highly recommend that you read that article. Basically, if you want to use a credit card to purchase a vehicle you are probably going to have to contact multiple dealerships and try to negotiate something.
Many dealerships will not be happy if you want to use your credit card and will likely limit you to a certain amount such as $5,000 or even lower than that.
However by being a tactful negotiator sometimes you can get them to accept more by splitting up your payment into smaller payments or even making an agreement to split the transaction fee. So check out that article if you want more tips about this.
The Amex Auto Purchasing Program Seems like a pretty cool program. You can easily locate dealerships that will be okay with you putting at least a partial amount of your down payment on a credit card and you can find the data on the prices that others have paid for the same type of vehicles and you can also get some cool savings after you purchase your vehicle on deductibles and repairs.
The key thing to look out for here is that the prices on the Amex Auto Purchasing Program might not be the lowest available to you. So it is a good idea to check the dealerships websites to see how much cheaper you might be able to find your vehicle price.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.