How to Buy Car Audio at Wholesale Prices

Wholesale and Buyer's Clubs

Have you seen those offers to sell you car stereo equipment at wholesale? All you have to do is send $XX dollars to get their catalog and you'll be buying wholesale just like the dealers. Plus they'll throw in some free goodies to sweeten the deal. Sounds great doesn't it? Didn't you listen to your mother when she told you that "if it sounds too good to be true..."?

The newsgroups are filled with posts from people who have bought into the idea. Look around the rec.audio.car forum and you'll see. Here's typically how the deal works. You send off your $20+ for their wholesale catalog. Then you'll receive a catalog filled with second rate car audio companies and a few good pieces of equipment. Your coupon will usually be for a free pair of subwoofers. They'll ask for your first, second and third choice (guess which one you will get). Then the fun begins. It's fee time. Order fees, shipping fees, handling fees, processing fees and on and on. By the time you complete your order you might as well have bought at retail. And don't expect them to have a toll free number with friendly operators waiting to serve you. If you even get someone on the phone you'll most likely be treated rudely. Don't expect speedy shipping times either. Long delays are the norm and they're often "out of stock", especially on the good brands.

Before even considering sending money to these "clubs" you need to do your homework. Search the newsgroups and forums and ask questions. They're not afraid to dish the dirt on companies that don't deliver. Listen to what they have to say. You should also consider calling the Better Business Bureau in the company's home state. They can tell you how many complaints they have received on that company. Make sure you have the name as well as the address. They may be known under a different name. You should also familiarize yourself with the mail order rules of the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) and the United States Postal Service.

FTC Mail Order Laws

FTC Guidelines

USPS laws

If you've joined one of these "clubs" and can't get satisfaction with them then your only resort may be to get the Feds on their case. Make sure you know exactly what the problem is before involving the authorities. If their people are rude, that's not a Federal crime. If they promised delivery in two weeks (or 30 days if no time is specified) and they don't deliver (and don't give you the option of canceling your order) that may be a Federal crime. See the above web pages.

Wholesale Information For Sale

Have you seen those ads and eBay auctions promising to show you how to buy wholesale? How they're going to "blow the lid off the industry" and reveal the insider secrets "the stores don't want you to know". How about they "just want to help the little guy" and "order now before the corporate giants shut them down". Sounds good doesn't it? Too bad it's a bunch of garbage. The only thing they're selling is a list of wholesalers and a few tips on how to deal with them. Some of the tips involve being dishonest and outright lying in order to buy wholesale. It makes you wonder about their character doesn't it? These ads are meant to prey on the naivety of good people by selling a bunch of hype. And they've been doing it for years. The truth is that you're never going to be able to buy 95% of those items unless you have a retail store. That's who the major manufacturers deal with, not with the average consumer. Save your money and follow some of the real money saving tips I'm providing you in this chapter.

Wholesale You Can Really Buy

Other sources of wholesale product are available and you don't need to join anything to get them. One source that may surprise you is eBay. Competition has driven down many of the prices on new equipment to near wholesale levels. Dealers will often put excess inventory on eBay and sell it for a few dollars over wholesale. Many do this to lower the price on the equipment they buy for their stores. They may only need three of something but if they buy ten the price will drop dramatically. The other seven go on eBay to sell at a break-even or small profit. Then they can make a higher profit on the items they sell in their retail stores. Some brands allow this and others don't. You'll find both types available on eBay because there's always someone willing to bend the rules.

Others will buy at wholesale and sell on eBay in volume. They may only make $10 on each but if they sell 20 in a day it may be worth it to them. It's supply and demand driving the price to wholesale levels without the hassle of dealing with wholesale suppliers. When dealing with eBay (or any other online auction) you'll want to be just as wary about who you buy from as you would off eBay. Follow the eBay tips for buying before placing your bids. The most telling sign of a seller's credibility is their feedback rating. Check it and don't buy from seller's who consistently get negative feedback. You can help protect yourself by using an escrow service or PayPal (which has certain criteria you must follow to be protected). You'll also want to be familiar with the FTC guidelines for Internet auctions. You can find them here:

FTC auction guidelines

The Inside Connection

If you work for a shop or know someone who does there's a good chance your/their employer will sell you equipment at cost (or very near it). Often the owners would rather make a couple of dollars from you then have someone else do it. Ask around and see if you know anyone that can get you one of these deals. Don't expect to walk in the front door and make this proposal. You'll be kindly shown out. But if you know someone on the inside they may be able to help you out. This is another easy way to avoid the hassles of dealing with wholesale suppliers and to keep your business in the community.

Start the American Dream

Own your own business and you'll be on your way to buying wholesale. You don't have to open up a shop with a nice store front and lots of overhead (though some brands may require that or other criteria before they sell to you). You can do this from your home (check your local laws, especially the zoning laws) without employees if you want. You'll likely need a tax identification number for your state and, if you don't use your own name for your business, then you may need to file a DBA (doing business as) with your local government. Check your local laws and be prepared for some extra hassle.

Being in business is not just about big discounts. You'll also have to collect the appropriate taxes, files forms, pay fees and all sorts of other fun stuff. It's definitely not for everyone and you need to decide if it's worth it for your purposes. If you just want to get a pair of subwoofers and an amp at cost then it may not be. However if you plan on making this a real profit producing venture then it may. I recommend consulting with an accountant and an attorney before you jump in. I am not an attorney nor am I engaged in giving professional or legal advice. Find someone who is. If it sounds like too much trouble then you'll want to see my other recommendations for buying equipment at wholesale prices.

Co-op

Another option is to get together with others and create an informal co-op. Use the power of numbers to gain buying leverage with suppliers. You'll want to have similar needs to get the most out of a co-op. If you all want different amps, subwoofers and head units then you will have less leverage then if you want five of the same head unit, amp, and subwoofer. Contact shops in your area and see if they will give you a discount for buying in bulk. Let them know what equipment you want to purchase and see how much they will discount on a package deal. You'll have better luck with independent shops than the larger chains. It all depends on the owner/manager. You might need to be flexible on your equipment choices and also may need to contact multiple shops to get all of the brands you want. It takes some leg/phone work but the results will be worth it.

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