How To Tell if Using a Car Broker Is Right for You

How To Tell if Using a Car Broker Is Right for You

Did you know there are people qualified to help you try and find the perfect car for you? Just like a real estate broker, a car broker does the research for you. Car brokers are more than glorified agents who know how to use a search engine; they’re qualified automotive experts—that is, if you find the right one—who can help you find a vehicle.

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What is an auto broker?

An auto broker works like a real estate agent. They know the vehicle listings and the market, and they also negotiate the best price for the vehicle. Like a good real estate agent, they’re often so plugged into the market that they know of new opportunities before they’re listed.

“Essentially, you are doing the legwork for the buyer, especially when it comes to rare vehicles or something possibly not available in your area,” said Steve Spence, a former car broker with nearly 20 years of automotive industry experience.

How much do car brokers charge?

Car brokers ask for a fee for their services. Some operate with a flat fee rate, regardless of the work done or the type of car researched. Others will take a percentage of the sale price or a percentage based on the Kelly Blue Book value of the car. Generally, brokers who work with vintage, classic and rare vehicles will operate with a percentage charge.

Flat fee

Auto brokers who charge a flat fee are the best solution for those looking to stay within a certain budget. Flat fees for auto brokers can range anywhere from $200 to $1,000 per vehicle, and the brokers do all the legwork, finding the ideal new or used car.

At the end of the process, there’s no surprise when it comes to the broker’s fee. A flat fee also incentivizes the broker to get it right the first time, meaning you get your car quickly and the broker gets the most out of their fee.

Percentage fee

Brokers who use a percentage structure typically charge a fraction of the difference between the market value of the vehicle and the final sale price, so the fee depends on the price of the vehicle. This can get pricey if you’re searching for a high-end rarity. The higher the market value of the vehicle, the higher the auto broker’s commission fee.

Generally, using a broker who charges a flat fee is a safer bet for the consumer. But if you’re looking for a real rarity, a percentage-based commission may be your only option.

Can you negotiate with a car broker?

A car-buying broker may be open to negotiating their fee. If the auto broker works with a percentage commission, the fee may be negotiable. You can also tell your auto broker your price range and ask that they do their best to negotiate the right price for you. It’s in the auto broker’s best interest to get the price you desire to collect their fee, too.

Am I limited to auto brokers near me?

Thanks to the internet, there are no geographical limits for many things, including purchasing a car. This is useful if you’re in the market for a foreign vehicle or one that is not readily available in your immediate area. Getting in touch with an international auto broker is a great idea if you hope to import a vehicle.

However, if importing a car is not your final goal, sticking to a car-buying broker in your area is ideal because they should know the market well. This includes building relationships with local dealers and garages and knowing which new and used vehicles appear on the market the moment they are available.

What to look for in a car broker

Besides looking for someone you can trust to find you the very best match for the vehicle you want, try to ensure your auto broker is properly licensed and qualified to do the job. Becoming a car-buying broker is about more than having a love of cars.

Licensed auto brokers need to obtain a selling permit to buy and sell vehicles. (Permits and licenses vary by state). For those working with dealers and larger organizations, auto brokers also need to have a Doing Business As license to buy and sell for someone else on behalf of a dealer or garage.

Be wary of auto brokers who do not have proof of proper permits and licenses and those who have large finders fees or ask for the money up front. Ask for references and past purchases/sales to try and ensure you’ve found the right broker for your situation.

Do I need a car broker?

In most new-car purchase situations, you don’t need a car broker. Brokers are there to help research the market and find the very best price for a specific vehicle. When it comes to new vehicles, online vehicle quotes—and the ability to send those quotes to multiple dealers—make finding the best deal much easier. Beyond that, using a car broker depends on multiple factors.

An auto broker may be a great idea if…

  • You’re looking for a rare or exotic vehicle. Not only do auto brokers know the local market, but they know other buyers who should be able to help track down the vehicle you want.
  • You want to import a vehicle. Car brokers can line up the proper paperwork for the border crossing, and they can also help research and find the vehicle across international lines.
  • You wish to purchase fleet vehicles. An auto broker may help you get the best deal and track down the best vehicles for the job.
  • You need transportation vehicles for long periods of time. Auto brokers often commission vehicles for their clients and potentially find storage for those vehicles if the clients return.

You may not need a car broker if…

  • You’re buying a brand new, popular car. An auto broker isn’t needed if you are in the market for an all-new Honda Civic. You can probably handle your own negotiations to try and get the best deal online (you can start your search on Bumper’s Marketplace) or at one of your local dealerships.
  • You’re looking for a popular used car. If the vehicle you want is commonly found on used car websites and at dealer lots, an auto broker likely isn’t needed in that situation, either. You can probably do your own negotiating to try and get the best price.


Choosing an auto broker largely depends on the type of car purchase you want to make. Those in the market for a rare or exotic used car will quite likely benefit from the car-buying broker’s knowledge of the market.

“We know the cars out there in a way they won’t,” said Spence. “We hear about them before they even hit the marketplace.”

A car broker could possibly mean the difference between owning the car you’ve always wanted and spending countless hours searching with no results. Do your research and if you feel that you would benefit, connect with a reputable broker who has the correct licenses and a solid knowledge of the automotive market in your area.

About Bumper

At Bumper, we are on a mission to bring vehicle history reports and ownership up to speed with modern times. A vehicle is one of the most expensive purchases you'll likely make, and you deserve to have access to the same tools and information the pros use to make the right decisions.

About Miranda Lightstone

Miranda has worked as an in-house automotive editor and writer for publications such as (where she was head of the Car Channel), as well as She’s hosted video car reviews for Auto123.TV and and The Suburban On Air Driving. She has contributed to the Montreal Gazette, RDK Magazine, and The Suburban.

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.