TrueCar.com is a car buying site based on the premise that technology and big data can help address one of shoppers’ biggest complaints when buying a car: price transparency. 

The internet company was founded in 2005 by Delaware automotive-tech entrepreneur Scott Painter and several business partners. The idea of TrueCar.com was born out of Painter’s initial company Zag.com, which was looking to expand its back-end automotive buying services to compiling updated vehicle pricing data for consumers.

Today, TrueCar offers more than one million used car listings and over 450,000 pre-owned vehicles in stock. It offers a more reliable customer service experience for car buyers. (In other words, data and analytics could now be presented in an easy-to-digest form).

Keep reading our TrueCar review for pros and cons of working with this auto buying program, plus TrueCar reviews from real consumers. 

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The Good

  • Pricing Service
  • Easy to Purchase
  • Zipcode-Based Report

Pricing Service

Getting a good price is what matters to most shoppers. For new car buyers, TrueCar members got an average savings of about $3,000 off MSRP. However, this is harder to quantify when it comes to used car purchases which often depend on many more factors, however the statistics that TrueCar offers can help understand the buying process much better. 

The TrueCar pricing options include a way to help consumers understand trade-in values for their current vehicle, so that they have a more informed buying experience. 

Easy to Purchase

Those looking for their next new or used car appreciate a way to make their purchase with less hassle. Truecar.com strives to give consumers exactly that experience. 

Before buyers walk into a dealership for a test drive, they are prepared ahead of time on more than the sticker price or suggested retail price. They can see the true car price data from recent car sales. They can see what consumers in their area actually paid for the same model. Knowledge is power, especially when it comes time to actually talk to a salesman and buy a car.

Zipcode-Based Report

Put in your zip code and the make of the car you want in order to generate a TrueCar price report. You will be led to select a number of other options in order to fine-tune what type of vehicle and accessories you are looking for. 

Once your price report is generated, you get more than average price vs invoice price. It shows a proprietary TrueCar price curve with an easy-to-read pricing curve of under-value, fair-priced, and over-market value prices as well as multiple factors affecting that pricing. 

Truecar.com will also connect you with affiliated automotive dealers in your area that sell the vehicle you have selected. 

The Bad

  • Phone Calls
  • Limited Model Availability
  • Site Navigation Trouble
  • Savings Certificate Issues
  • Serving Two Masters

Phone Calls

A lot of auto buying sites require that you put in personal details before you are shown a deal, retail price incentives or, in this case, before you are emailed a price report and certificate. When we were solely just researching, entering data to get an example price report, a phone number is required to complete the form, and within an hour, we had gotten multiple phone calls. 

Just be aware that this is a possibility when you are shopping online for a car. Dealers’ digital sales teams want to get your contact info, and you will get several phone calls, with most car finder sites. TrueCar isn’t alone on this. 

Limited Model Availability

TrueCar.com claims that you can search for a vehicle and get upfront pricing so you never have to overpay. However, there are a few makes and models that are not available on the website, so if you are looking for those cars you are out of luck. To avoid frustrating consumers, the website should have more options to choose from.

Also, be aware that your credit score may change the monthly pricing data once you get to the dealership, whether it is a certified TrueCar dealership or not. 

For the vehicles the site does feature, users should know that prices are subject to change; however the price report data is still a good resource. It shows cost trends over time and detailed information on the car or truck model selected, as well as info about monthly payments if users are looking for an auto loan or dealer financing. 

The report helps to see how much negotiating room you have on the vehicle's overall purchase price.

Site Navigation Trouble

The TrueCar website is a bit tricky for car shoppers to navigate through. There are no clear navigation tabs and you have to scroll down the page to find features to click on. Many of the features you will want to access are hidden from plain sight until you start exploring.

Savings Certificate Issues

The TrueCar fair market vehicle pricing reports are extremely clear and easy to understand.

Be aware that the guaranteed savings certificate may not be applicable in all states. Some customers have complained that car dealers have not honored price quotes listed on these guaranteed savings certificates because they are vehicle-specific, down to the model options. This can sometimes be seen as false advertising. 

We recommend that a TrueCar price estimate be used for educational purposes as a starting point when looking for your next vehicle. 

Serving Two Masters

One issue with TrueCar is that it is operating a sales and marketing website, so in a sense, the site is a middleman, connecting shoppers to auto dealers. However, the site is getting an incentive to connect them, or trying to serve two masters, as seen in Forbes

This is common in the car finder industry and you will notice that when you look into a buying service like Authority Auto, the company is sure to mention how it doesn’t take financial kickbacks from car dealers when new car sales go through, to make sure that they stay objective by avoiding dealer partners.

It makes one wonder if TrueCar is really finding consumers the best sales, or whether they are finding consumers the best price, at affiliated TrueCar certified dealers, minus their finder's fees, per a pre-arranged agreement with those marketing partners. 

The Bottom Line

Customers appreciate a company that can help improve the car shopping experience while helping to get a good price.

The TrueCar website is an industry standard to which most buying programs compare their average consumer savings. This includes CarBargains, the car buying service from nonprofit Consumers’ Checkbook, which reaches out to local dealers for bids to get the lowest price within your local market. 

We love that TrueCar data is able to offer pricing resources to help improve the car buying experience. TrueCar.com’s assets will give you all the data you need to buy your next new or used car at a fair price.

In terms of aggregating car listings and showing dealer inventory, TrueCar serves this very basic function; however, it fails to translate that data into “easily digestible" content. Aside from well-rated apps, its features don't seem to be anything special. The same features can be found at competing sites with more features.

The real question: Is TrueCar reliable? 

Well, getting a TrueCar price does help people save money during the car buying process, but it may not be the most savings possible. 

We recommend using Truecar.com's tools to help research what a vehicle is worth. The site’s true value lies in its automobile pricing data and local stats. However, do your research and do not depend on a TrueCar certificate to be guaranteed savings for your car purchase because it is possibly subject to change. 

What do you think about TrueCar’s products and services? Has it helped you get a good deal on a new or pre-owned vehicle? Let us know about your experience with a quick review below. 

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Don Boren
October 9th, 2019 American Fork, UT DETAILS
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I like this service because it's easy to enter your search criteria. Most posts have plenty of photos so you can see what you are buying. I like that it gives you an idea of where the price of the listing compares with other similar cars in the area.

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