Hate To Haggle? Take Heart

Haggling over new-car prices drive you nuts?

You're not alone.

Since 1989, about 1.3 million customers have signed on to the one-price, no-haggle policy at Saturn.

"It's the wave of the future," says General Motors spokesman Fred McKerodt.

The practice is spreading to other new-car dealerships and many used-car operations.

"With used cars, we feel we're offering a unique product. Buyers can't find that car, in that color, condition, and mileage anywhere else," says Herb Chambers, a Boston auto dealer with 12 franchises under his belt.

Mr. Chambers is one of 21 dealers nationwide opening Drivers' Mart used-car lots this summer.

A direct competitor to CarMax and AutoNation, this used-car superstore will not dicker on prices. The three chains are opening hundreds of stores across America.

But one-price selling may not be the panacea buyers assume it is, says W. James Bragg, who runs Fighting Chance, a car-pricing service in Long Beach, Calif.

Saturn dealers charge more for their cars than they would otherwise, says Mr. Bragg, a notion Saturn officials resolutely deny.

Other new-car dealers that tried the Saturn approach dropped it when customers defected to competitors who cut better deals.

But if you don't want to haggle - and don't want to buy a Saturn - one of these professional buying services will do the work for you:

* CarBargains. For $165, this service gets bids, in writing, from five dealers in your area for the exact model you want (800-475-7283).

* Car Search of America. For $350, this service finds the dealers in your area that have the car you want in stock, gets them to compete for the lowest price, then handles all the paperwork. For another $150, Car Search will help you decide which car you want and even arrange test drives (888-FINDMYCAR).

* Auto-by-Tel. ABT maintains relationships with dealers who offer rock bottom prices to ABT customers. The service is free to buyers. www.autobytel.com

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