Is TrueCar a Scam?

TrueCar isn’t a scam, but not all the dealers in TrueCar’s network play by the rules, so you do have to be careful.

Just like these other popular car price websites, TrueCar connects you with car dealers who will send you prices.  They also offer pre-negotiated car deals which are often decent, but not the best possible deal….I’ll get to that further down.

But first, here are some of the shady car dealer tactics (some might call scams) to watch out for when using TrueCar.

Read: My review of TrueCar

The Vague Marketing Email

When you reach dealerships through TrueCar, some salesmen may not respond with details about the car you requested. They will often send you a marketing flyer or just a list of promos.  They may even skip the email and just try to call you. Many dealers view TrueCar as simply a lead generator that will help them bring interested car buyers to their dealership so they can upsell.

The Bait & Switch

When you use TrueCar to get prices from dealers, a salesman may respond by offering you an amazing price and entice you to come to the dealership. But when you get there they no longer have the car with your specifications in stock. Instead they have similar cars pre-configured with options and accessories that cost hundreds or thousands more.

The Guaranteed Certificate doesn’t include Extras

You can get a TrueCar guaranteed savings certificate, but it will not include all the extras they will try to sell you at the dealership. Expect both the car salesman and the finance department to offer you various add-ons like tech systems and extended warranties that could significantly increase your total.

Not Every Dealer is in the TrueCar Network

TrueCar does have a large network, but dealers have to pay fees to participate. As a result, not every dealership decides to sign up. This is not a scam, just something to keep in mind. It means when you get prices, you may not hear from all the dealerships in your area. To get around this, in addition to using TrueCar, you can also use one of several other free car price services to see if there are any other local dealers.

Bottom Line: Is TrueCar Worth Using?

When used appropriately, TrueCar is just another way to get in touch with multiple dealerships.  TrueCar only puts you in touch with dealers, it’s up to the dealers to follow through on any offers they give you. And it doesn’t mean they won’t try to upsell you into a more expensive vehicle. Knowing this, you can be a savvy buyer equipped with more information and ready to negotiate.  Contact as many dealers as you can and use any pre-negotiated offers through TrueCar as additional bids in your Bidding War.