About TrueCar

Founded in 2005 and based out of Santa Monica, CA, TrueCar’s primary goal is to “make the car buying process simple, fair, and fun,” by helping consumers establish fair prices, and locate trustworthy dealerships. The company aims to accomplish this by issuing localized price reports (or “certificates”) for specific vehicles, which can then be taken to a TrueCar Certified Dealership near you.

TrueCar claims that its certified dealers have currently sold more than 951,000 automobiles, and have helped consumers save more than $2.3 billion in total—with an average of over $4,000 in savings per transaction. TrueCar also partners with a wide variety of organizations, such as AAA, Consumer Reports, and USAA to help educate consumers on the best ways to achieve a “hassle-free” car buying experience.

TrueCar holds a B- rating with the Better Business Bureau, which is based on two closed complaints within the past three years. In addition, the company has more than 36,000 Facebook likes, and nearly 10,000 Twitter followers. Online reviews tend to lean toward a “fair” or “poor” experience, with the majority of complaints being that dealerships did not honor the TrueCar certificate price.

Locating a Vehicle Using TrueCar.com

The first time you use TrueCar.com, you might notice that it seems very similar to some of the more well known auto pricing sites like Kelley Blue Book and NADA. However, unlike either of these popular choices, less than 25% of nationwide auto dealerships have met the TrueCar’s “rigorous membership criteria,” and are certified by the company. As a result, only these Certified Dealerships will be displayed in your search results.

To begin using the website, you’ll first need to select a vehicle make and model, and enter your zip code. From here, TrueCar will then redirect you to an area that details specifics such as MSRP, average price paid in your area, your target price, and even a loan payment calculator.

In order to move on to the “Dealer Pricing” page, you’ll be prompted to enter your first and last names, physical address, as well as your email address. Here, your target price will remain visible, as well as the distance to TrueCar dealerships who have a vehicle that matches your criteria (although no details other than mileage are shown).

After clicking “Next,” you’ll land on a page that allows you to print your TrueCar certificate (see the following section for additional information), and to contact the Certified Dealer of your choice. Before doing this though, you can also further refine your vehicle’s specifics, such as must-have features and color, view trade-in estimates, and even outline your purchasing strategy. You’ll also be required to enter an account password at this time.

It’s important to note that, if you’re sensitive to excess emails cluttering up your inbox, during our research we received more than 10 dealer emails almost immediately after this step was complete—without being aware that we contacted them to begin with.

What is a TrueCar Certificate?

Once the above steps are complete, you’ll finally be able to view your complete TrueCar certificate. This will contain information such as your name and address, your Certified Dealer’s name and address, and your vehicle’s year, make, model, and specified features. Next to an official-looking barcode and certificate number at the top, you’ll read the following: “TrueCar estimates that [User Name] will save at least [Average Savings] on ANY in-stock [Vehicle Year, Make, and Model].”

At the bottom of the page, you’ll also find step-by-step instructions such as:

  1. Go to Myers Ford.
  2. Ask for Jim Smith or Jane Jones.
  3. Present your Certificate to Jim Smith or Jane Jones.
  4. Buy your car!

Based on these instructions, you could be excused for thinking that this certificate entitles you to pay no more than the “target price,” but this isn’t the case. After reading through TrueCar’s FAQ section, these price reports (aka “certificates”) are only intended to “estimate… what you can reasonably expect to pay for a vehicle configured with your preferred options.”

In layman’s terms, this means that you essentially received an estimate, just as you would through KBB or NADA, and the “Certified Dealers” are under no obligation to honor it. So this brings us to the question…

Bottom Line: Is TrueCar Worth It?

While TrueCar does appear to be a legitimate company with a passion for engendering easy, transparent purchases between auto dealerships and buyers, the real value provided by the website seems to be hazy. Based on a wide variety of customer feedback, here are the primary reasons why:

  1. TrueCar provides no guarantees that their Certified Dealerships will honor your “target price.” Without a guaranteed price, there seems to be little reason to go through the process in the first place.
  2. TrueCar provides no details on how dealerships become (or remain) certified, nor how these dealerships train their TrueCar sales assistants. How do consumers know that the training process is legitimate or beneficial?
  3. There is little to no oversight regarding your car buying experience. If you have a poor dealer experience, there seem to be no repercussions from TrueCar.

So, should you use TrueCar? The answer is: it depends.

When you’re searching for a new or used car, you know that the more information you have at your disposal, the better your overall buying experience can be. With this in mind, the most useful feature of TrueCar seems to be the ability to see what others in your general area have paid for similar vehicles. Other than this, there don’t seem to be any benefits in spending the extra time to sign up for the site, entering all your information, printing your certificate, and limiting yourself only to TrueCar Certified Dealers.

Pros:

  • Completely free of charge
  • Can help you save an average of $4K on your next auto purchase
  • Receive a printable certificate that can be taken to the nearest Certified Dealer

Cons:

  • You will be required to enter personal information in order to obtain a certificate
  • Overall value provided by TrueCar seems to be a little hazy
  • Excessive emails after signup

More on Buying a Car:

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89 Customer Reviews for TrueCar

Average Customer Rating: 1.6
Rating Snapshot:
5 star: 8 4 star: 4 3 star: 3 2 star: 2 1 star:  72
Bottom Line: 17% would recommend it to a friend
Showing 1-11 of 89
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  • 1 out 1 people found this review helpful

    TrueCar

    I had to laugh when I read the other reviews because the same things happened to me using TrueCar. Not honoring certificates, the constant emails and phone calls, finding cars on the dealer websites that are cheaper, etc. Big waste of time. It's just another way to market cars. That's it. Plus, they do charge $300 when you buy a car. Who pays that? The dealer is not going to eat it.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 10 out 10 people found this review helpful

    Guarantee discount is worthless

    • Birmingham, AL,
    • Apr 27, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    Serra Chevrolet of Birmingham, Alabama sent a TrueCar exclusive guaranteed discount offer to sell a 2017 Colorado, then refused to honor the discount. I guess Tony Serra's word matches the Serra history. Don't trust TrueCar (who wouldn't do anything) or Serra. I am speaking with an attorney on breach of written contract.

    TrueCar appears to be a come on/lead generator with no power to enforce bad dealer conduct and refuses to get involved in resolving.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 8 out 10 people found this review helpful

    Tell everyone, do not use TrueCar

    • United States,
    • Apr 25, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    If you want to use TrueCar, just let me know and I will negotiate a better deal for you.

    TrueCar RECEIVES money from dealers directly, which should throw up a red flag for anyone trying to buy a car. Remember when TrueCar first started they showed "dealer purchase price?" Now they only use MSRP, which is just more profit for the dealers.

    Check around; you can normally find a better deal than the limited dealers who TrueCar sends you by email (their preferred dealers).

    ALSO, I have been unable to delete my account! I've called their phone number (888-truecar) and been left on hold. I couldn't find anywhere on my account to delete it, and there is no link in their emails to unsubscribe.

    Also, read their "privacy" notice. They clearly state that they cannot guarantee the safety of your personal information!

    Buyers/users beware!

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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    • Jun 21, 2017

      JJtheJetPlane

      Huge waste of time. It's just a service to get your information, that's it.

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  • 8 out 9 people found this review helpful

    Waste of time

    • Philadelphia, PA,
    • Apr 7, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    If I could have given it zero stars, I would have.

    It gave my personal info out to multiple dealers who appear to have a vague idea of what I wanted, and in most cases totally wrong info. I must be getting 50 calls a day now from it. Meanwhile, the seven "matching" cars it shows me aren't even the right year or model (it sends me 2017's when I want 2016's, Cherokee when I want Grand Cherokee, etc).

    Don't give this site your time or info. You will regret it.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 14 out 14 people found this review helpful

    Spam calls

    • Mar 9, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    I signed up with TrueCar to get some prices on a car I am looking to purchase in the summer. Since signing up, my phone has been ringing off the hook with calls from all different kinds of car dealerships. I since then have just been sending all of my calls to voicemail and calling back my actually important calls from doctors, my school, and work.

    It's a nightmare. DON'T sign up for TrueCar. They will sell your phone number and life will never be the same.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 9 out 9 people found this review helpful

    2017 Subaru

    • Michigan,
    • Mar 3, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    I have been looking at buying a new car for many years. Each time I find one I like, I used TrueCar to get a good price. The day came to finally purchase my new car. There is only ONE TrueCar dealer in the state of Michigan. The price they quoted was supposed to save me over $1,200. I went to my closest dealer to compare te price as the TrueCar dealership was a hundred miles away. My local dealer beat the TrueCar price by over a thousand dollars. TrueCar is a true rip-off.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 10 out 10 people found this review helpful

    "Guaranteed savings" isn't guaranteed. Complete baloney.

    • Oregon,
    • Jan 29, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    I received a TrueCar "Guaranteed Savings Certificate" that had a guaranteed savings amount of $2,033 off the MSRP of a new 2017 Honda CR-V. Local dealers refused to honor it. I called and emailed Truecar to get help, but they would not. Even after five calls and four detailed emails.

    This "guarantee" isn't a guarantee at all. It's nothing but an "approximate savings."

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 13 out 13 people found this review helpful

    Generates a lot of unsolicited calls

    • North Carolina,
    • Jan 26, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    In order to see any useful information, TrueCar makes you enter your phone number and email address, which TrueCar immediately shares with hundreds of car dealers, who start calling you immediately. So expect a LOT of phone calls and emails as soon as you look anything up on TrueCar.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 7 out 9 people found this review helpful

    TrueCar.com, outsourcing car salesmen's jobs to the car buyer

    • Texas,
    • Jan 17, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    What a great idea! Condensing all the objectives behind all the lies car salesmen tell, all the smoke and mirrors chicanery car salesmen use, all the meaningless mumbo-jumbo car salesmen spew, and bait and switch into a database full of illogical and nonsensical doublespeak, thereby making the ill-advised car buyer the impression that the "fair price paid to dealers" for cars that is spit out by a database has some basis in reality.

    The "fair price" is based on input by the car seller, and we all know what bastions of truth, fairness, and honesty they are.

    To the the extent that a particular car's price varies from its outrageous sticker prices, those variations are influenced by such external forces as consumer confidence in the economy, the seasons of the year, production levels of the car, post-sale data on the car's safety, serviceability, maintenance costs, operating costs, and etc. Consider what would have happened after the Ford Edsel first came out if buyers had relied on a TrueCar report when deciding on how much to pay for one.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 15 out 19 people found this review helpful

    "So Now You're An Expert?"

    • Phoenix, AZ and Bakersfield, CA,
    • Dec 15, 2016
    • Verified Reviewer

    Well, if you've just read the accompanying, undated editorial, "About TrueCar", and assuming you have connected brain cells, you've just learned what everybody else already knows: True Car's biggest stock in trade is B.S. And that includes all the traditional sub-categories that come with it, including lies, hollow promises, double-talk, excuses, bait-and-switch, explanations, usurious financing, inflated insurance, trade-in allowance secretly padded back into the sales price, and a host of other tricks, schemes, scams, deception and board games that have characterized the auto industry - and the horse-trading industry before it - for the past one hundred years.

    So, let's analyze True Car's claims:

    1. "This is the way car buying was always meant to be!" Really? Then why wasn't it that way done a century ago? B.S.

    2. "Learn what others paid for the same car." How? Because some computer software crook engineered some made-up data into an app? Where's the proof? How many cars were surveyed? How many buyers were consulted? Over what recent period of time? B.S.

    3. "Take your Certificate to any TrueCar Certified Dealership and pick up your car." What makes a 'TrueCar Certified Dealership'? What criteria is used to make them "certified"? Does TrueCar's certification mean all other car dealers are lying, dishonest, crooked thieves? B.S.

    Congratulations! As True Car says, "Now you're an expert!"

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 14 out 14 people found this review helpful

    Prices not accurate nor are they really good prices.

    • Alabama,
    • Nov 30, 2016
    • Verified Reviewer

    After spending three months comparing prices on used automobiles from three different neighboring states, I have come to the well-educated opinion that TrueCar is just not a good vehicle to achieve a good pricing point when buying an automobile.

    The 600 pound gorilla in this deal here is the hidden fees. Now before you begin to wonder about hidden fees, the cost to use the service is paid by the dealer that you get your price from. However, that dealer has to pay a fee in order to sell you a car, so if you just walk up off the street without using a referral website, then you could conceivably come out ahead of where you might be should you be referred by another entity. We know there is no free lunch people, if a car dealer pays a fee to sell you a car, in the end, you're the guy or gal that pays the fee, so in essence you're paying to get a price tag that might not be as good as you could get should you do the research like I did.

    I included TrueCar in my research, along with thousands of other websites, direct to dealer sites, other sites and the prices were within a few thousand dollars, but all in all TrueCar was slightly higher. And remember just because everyone else is paying more for a car than what they should pay, does that mean you have to do the same thing, just because an average price is presented is that a good price? I really do not care what someone else pays for a vehicle, it's all about what I pay. So with all that in mind, when shopping for a car or a truck I found that the TrueCar service presents premium prices before presenting filtered search results, (thus pushing certain deals ahead of what you are looking for). All in all it's not compelling or even interesting.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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