For anyone who has ever felt cheated or anxious walking out of a car dealership, the local non-profit Automobile Buyer Services (ABS) is for you.

The goal of the company is to help clients find, negotiate and purchase a vehicle whether it’s a car, truck or even a very specific handicap-accessible van. ABS often keeps its client anonymous when negotiating with a dealer and saves them an average of eight to 12 hours of stressful car shopping.

It’s not a new business. Ahwatukee Foothills resident Robert Hilderbrand got the idea for the consumer advocacy agency 12 years ago while heading up a prison ministry for Mountain View Lutheran Church. Hilderbrand would go to the prison in Sacaton on the Gila River Indian Community reservation and said he heard many tales of natives being treated unfairly when they went to purchase a car. As a past car dealer himself Hilderbrand realized this may be a problem for many that he could help.

“Before I started this business I had a pretty good handle on some of the shenanigans that go on but I have to be careful saying that” he said. “There are a lot of reputable dealers out there that work very hard to build their business and they do it by providing the best service they can. To be able to do that consistently is a difficult task given the times we live in, the uniqueness of people and the products that are out there. It’s an industry that has been marred with shady dealings, there’s no question about that. We don’t expect that to disappear overnight. I relish jumping in there and discovering these situations where we can make a difference for our clients.”

ABS started in 2001 working with a network of 30 dealerships in Arizona and focusing mainly on helping private individuals who may have a language barrier or difficulty negotiating on their own behalf. Now the company has helped thousands of individuals across the country using their network of over 300 dealerships. Hilderbrand said many of their customers are women but they also see a high population of Hispanics, Native Americans and Asians.

Their services are not limited to minorities. They work with any private individual and also with clients from pooled trust businesses and wealth management firms.

ABS provides deal evaluations, appraisals, help finding the right car and even helps sell cars for private individuals. The heart of their business is in negotiating deals to get clients the best price.

“Our client never has to step into a dealership except to take liberty of their car and sign the papers for the car,” Hilderbrand said. “We try to make the services as smooth and turn-key as possible for our customer… Those concerns you can rest aside and be assured that you’re getting a fair, if not the lowest, price on that vehicle on that particular day.”

The local non-profit is not a car broker. They don’t accept any fees or commission from any dealers. The company does not own any cars and they also don’t offer any loans or insurance for customers, though they can certainly refer them to someone who can. Their goal is simply to be an advocate for the buyer to get a reliable car that fits their needs at the best possible price.

ABS does charge a one-time fee to be able to provide their services, which can range from $125 to $1,200 depending on the service. Still, even with the fee Hilderbrand says they wouldn’t have a company if they didn’t come out with the best price for the customer.

“We’d have no service to offer other than the peace of mind,” he said. “I’ve had a couple deals come in close where the net saving was less than $100 but we also saved them eight to 12 hours of car shopping and they get peace of mind knowing they aren’t taken advantage of. We go out with the idea of saving upwards of $2,000. That’s something.”

ABS also accepts donations of usable cars or trucks, which go to families in dire need of transportation. For more information on services or to make a donation, call (602) 710-7112.

Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.