Should I join the association ?

So you own a dealership and want to consider joining an association? Well association membership can be anywhere from $300 per year to over $ 2,500 a year depending on the size of the association, the size of your dealership and how active they are and what they really do for you.
Consider this when looking to join an association. What is my return on investment (ROI). In today’s digital age much of what the small, poorly funded state associations claimed as benefits are readily available via a simple web search. Maybe you are in a state that requires continuing education? Is your state’s association the only approved vendor for such continuing education? Probably not. And the state associations that do offer the courses usually do not discriminate against non-members taking the course.
“I get my Dealer Bond from them” great, there are a dozen dealership insurance brokers/agents that would give you a competitive quote for your bond. In fact, the brokers can usually quote multiple sureties for you to find the best deal. Your Association likely has some type of “kick back” agreement not only with the bonding entity but also with many of their “approved vendors” or “exclusive” vendors.
More and more we see clients around the country pulling back from the State associations and focusing their time on the National level associations (NADA, NIADA, ATD, etc.). These organizations seem to be in a position to update members about legislative changes and happenings on a federal and state level and also have robust lobbying arms working for their members.
“What about legislative changes, new dealer education, F & I education? “you ask. Again, vendors and your national associations, franchise / factory representatives and product vendors are great “free” resources for much of these needs. One east coast association for independent auto dealers actually handles two states yet the membership levels continue to drop, the website is archaic and the “benefits” for members are just not worth the price of admission in many pre-owned dealer’s minds. Ask around at your regional auctions, talk to your wholesalers and peers. Are they members?


A few advantages to look for when trying to justify joining a smaller association:

  1. Do they offer a service I cannot get elsewhere and if so, do I HAVE to be a member to order or buy it?
  2. Do they publish a regular magazine or newsletter with valuable regulatory or legislative info?
  3. Can they point to achievements made by their active lobbying of your state government?

In the end, look at your ROI when sizing up a state or local association. And ignore the pressure to join for benefits that may not truly be there.