Your next late-night trip to Walmart for chips, salsa, and an energy drink could include one more purchase — a new car. And that includes getting financing, insurance, and an appointment at a nearby dealer to pick up the actual vehicle.
According to an AutoNews report, Walmart announced that it is getting into selling cars via a system of CarSaver kiosks starting on April 1, at 25 Walmarts in Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, and Oklahoma City. The cars aren’t actually sitting in lots at Walmart, but the kiosks let you look at options, apply for financing, find insurance, and set up an appointment with a nearby dealer within 15 miles. Kiosk car buying, minus the stress and hassle of trying to negotiate a price, is likely to be part of the future of car purchasing.
The CarSaver kiosks are similar to the program that’s been running at Costcos since 2008, but without the annual membership fee. The initial test of these kiosks will be at 25 Walmarts in four cities in the southwest, and if it goes well they’ll be across the country in the next two years.
In the announcement, Walmart gave numbers from a pilot program in Stuart, Florida last year, and said customers saved about $3,000 off the car’s sticker price on average. That’s a bit confusing, because most of the advice you’ll get on purchasing a car tells you to negotiate up from the invoice price (what the dealer actually paid for the car). The kiosks have set car prices, so you don’t negotiate, so this is a convenient system to remove the hassle, and since Wal-Mart gets $350 for every purchase from one of these appointments the price is probably pretty competitive.
You still might want to google car prices in your area if it’s worth saving a few hundred dollars instead of a few hours. However, you probably won’t have to worry about negotiating prices for much longer. Many car manufacturers, like Hyundai, are moving towards the idea of having one-swipe transactions for car purchases. So instead of actually buying a car, it is likely to be more like you’re subscribing to a car company. Purchasing a car will probably look like walking into a Walmart, and trading in last year’s model for the newest electric car — just like upgrading your iPhone.