What Should I Pay for a New Car? Review of TrueCar

What should I pay for a new car?Looking for a review of TrueCar?  Read on to find out my honest opinion on TrueCar and how to use it correctly to find out what to pay for a new car.  Most people never really know if they got the best deal.  But now that TrueCar is around, you don't have to guess.  TrueCar shows statistics from car sales across the country so you know exactly what to expect.

Before you read about how TrueCar works, let me start out by telling you it’s possible to beat TrueCar prices.  They offer a fantastic tool to find low priced cars, but you should not stop price hunting after getting their “Best Local Price”.  More on that later, but first…

What is TrueCar?

TrueCar provides guaranteed car price quotes with a twist.  They enable consumers to see exactly what other people paid for new cars in their local area.  This gives you an answer to the most commonly asked car buying question, “What price should I really pay for a new car?

TrueCar Review

Unlike other car price websites, TrueCar has access to real-time market data and they use it to help you understand what to pay.  When you enter a make and model, they’ll show you a clever chart like the one above that reveals dealer cost and what’s considered a good deal.  In negotiations, this information is extremely valuable whether you buy a car through one of TrueCar’s network of dealers or not.

TrueCar Review

Here’s what I like about TrueCar

  • You get haggle-free, guaranteed prices on new cars and trucks from local dealers in your area.  Other services will put you in contact with local dealers, but you won’t find the same layer of cost transparency and upfront pricing.
  • Their Price Report shows you the actual car cost, average price paid, and what constitutes a good deal in a clever graph. This is similar to Edmunds True Market Value® which I explain in this Edmunds Review.
  • They've got a cool mobile app that shows you pricing, reviews, and images.  Both the app and the mobile version of the TrueCar website are both very similar.  However, the TrueCar app also allows you to scan a window sticker while on a TrueCar Certified Dealer's lot.  But there are some negatives to this (see next section).
  • TrueCar's Price Report also includes a “flexibility score” of how much negotiating room a dealer has on that model.

Here's what I don’t like about TrueCar

  • TrueCar's advice is to take your “Best Local Price” to the dealer (which is usually quite good), but to not bother negotiating the price any further.  A TrueCar Price Report will certainly help you get a fair price, but by itself may not get you the absolute best price.
  • They only put you in contact with three local dealers.
  • Dealers quote a price through TrueCar on a model, color, and options, but may pull the bait and switch scam and not actually have that configuration in stock.
  • TrueCar's mobile app allows you to scan a window sticker while on a TrueCar Certified Dealer's lot.  However, you are required to create an account and sign in to use this feature  so you must provide your contact details.  Plus if you are not at a TrueCar Certified Dealer you can't use this.   And because other dealers may take a day or so to respond to you with competitive prices, I suggest not using this feature.  Instead, get all your pricing lined up BEFORE you actually visit a dealership.
  • TrueCash incentives theoretically give you exclusive manufacturer savings on top of price discounts offered from dealers.  However, currently TrueCash is only offered for Fiat.  Hopefully, I'll be able to move this comment to the positive review section soon as more manufacturers sign up for TrueCash.
  • TrueCar doesn't help you find the best car financing or get the most trade in value for a car which are huge aspects of a car purchase and can cost you a lot of money if not handled properly.  But then again, you’re on your own for these items when using any car price service, so I can’t fault TrueCar too much for leaving them out.

How to Really Use a TrueCar Price Report

For most people, simply getting a TrueCar price report and using it at a local dealership is enough to get you a fair price on a new car.  However, I like to take it a step further and see if I can find any dealers willing to give me a better deal.  I use the price report as a guideline of what I should pay for a car, but I still try to beat that price.

After you have a target of what you should pay for a new car, use their service to locate dealers and get price quotes.  Then email each dealer and ask them if they’re willing to beat the best price you’ve received so far.  Don’t be surprised if you are able to get even more savings than the low price you were quoted online.  You can use the emails and car buying tips I’ve included in my free car buying guide: How to buy a new car at the best possible price.

Other Tips for Using TrueCar:

  • There’s a small, almost hidden button underneath the price that says “Edit Options”.  Use this to configure the car the way you want it.  Make sure you input all your desired options BEFORE requesting a quote.  You want to be certain dealers all quote you based on the same set of options.
  • TrueCar only puts you in touch with three local dealers and I suggest contacting 6-8 to get truly competitive pricing.  However, it’s easy to find other local dealers by combining TrueCar quotes with quotes from another service like Edmunds or other car price websites as well.
  • If you get to the dealership and they do not have the exact configuration you were quoted, don’t get sucked into paying a higher price.  The Price Report you receive will be for a specific trim and options package, but dealers don’t always carry cars in stock for every possible configuration.  So before you go to the dealership, make sure the dealer provides you with a specific VIN number, price, and list of options.  If they try to add options and increase the price, consider checking with other dealers for what you want.
  • Don’t forget that a good car price is only half the battle.  Once you get to the dealership be prepare to negotiate car financing and the price of your trade-in as well.

Want to buy a car near (or below) dealer cost?

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