Is TrueCar a Scam?

Truecar scamsTrueCar is not a scam and they provide a valuable service when used appropriately. TrueCar shows historical sales prices in your area and will help you request competitive prices from several local car dealers.

This is powerful ammunition when negotiating a deal on a car. However, that doesn’t mean that dealers will always play by TrueCar’s rules. There are some shady car dealer tactics (some might call scams) to watch out for when using TrueCar.

The Vague Marketing Email

When you reach dealerships through TrueCar, some salesman 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. Don’t fret, you just need to view TrueCar as a dealership locator and realize in advance that you will still need to negotiate.

The first step will be to get a clear price quote on the car you want. So just get the dealer's contact information and email him asking for the price of exactly which car you want. If he’s still not forthcoming, move on to the next dealer. The beauty of TrueCar is it puts you in touch with multiple dealers so you have options.

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. So make sure you ask for the VIN # and price for a specific car before leaving your house. And keep in mind that if you can wait a month or two, many dealers will order a car for you if they do not have one in stock.

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. Decide what you want before you go to the dealership and stick to your guns. Be prepared to say “no” over and over again.

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 TrueCar 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 car price websites to see if there are any other local dealers.

Bottom Line: Is TrueCar Worth Using?

Absolutely. It’s a great way to get prices from several dealerships. On top of that, you can see what other people have paid in your local area in a very handy graph that sets expectations of how much to pay. For each model, TrueCar also has a rating that shows how negotiable a car is.

Just keep in mind that TrueCar only puts you in touch with dealers. That doesn’t mean that dealers 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.

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