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:

This article was published on November 19th, 2013 based on publicly available information at the time of the research. Information is subject to change, please visit www.truecar.com for the latest details.

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97 Consumer Reviews for TrueCar

Average Consumer Rating: 1.6
Rating Snapshot:
5 star: 9 4 star: 4 3 star: 3 2 star: 2 1 star:  79
Bottom Line: 16% would recommend it to a friend
Showing 1-11 of 97
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  • Avoid request for "price lock" results in permanent robo calls

    The price is meaningless and the dealer is not obligated to honor it. You are selling your phone number to countless call centers (in two days I received 5+ unrelated "service inquiries" that were loud, intrusive, and behaved like scammers under normal questioning), all just to view a phony price guarantee that no one honored. I wish I had looked this up.

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

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  • Bogus

    • Atlanta, GA,
    • Oct 30, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    The TrueCar certificate what they give is bogus. Even after talking customer support and writing an email to customersupport@truecar.com did not help. The dealership did not honor the certificate.

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

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  • False advertising

    I normally don't comment on sites, but I have to concerning TrueCar.

    Prior to coming in, we spoke to Missy Brooks about what we were looking for. Specifically, a 4Runner Limited. They had a 2016 4Runner Limited as advertised through TrueCar.com

    From Truecar:

    Liberty Chevrolet

    2755 Automall Drive, Selma, CA 93662

    > | 88 miles away Get Directions

    2016 Toyota 4Runner

    4WD Limited

    Mileage: 33,131

    VIN:

    $29,895

    $12,967 below market

    I told her we had a trade-in and wanted a certain price. It was in showroom condition.

    When we got there, after driving 1 and 1/2 hours, it was not the Limited model, but the base model, an SR5. Although we wanted the Limited, we felt pressure to purchase the SR5.

    At the time of signing the papers, Scottie, the accountant, showed us exactly how much they are giving us in the trade in, some $2K+ below KBB. They flat out lied to us, twice. That caused our payments to be, as I estimate over $100 a month more than what is necessary.

    Would I go back to them? Absolutely NOT!

    Can they be trusted? Absolutely NOT!

    Am I angry? Absolutely YES!

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

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  • 0 out 1 people found this review helpful

    Connected me to a dealer that got me exactly what I wanted

    I was at one Subaru dealer shopping for an outback and waiting for the salesman to return when I pulled my phone (mostly out of boredom) and searched TrueCar. Admittedly, I didn't get the result I was looking for at the time. However, when dealer #1 came back with an offer that was WAY far from my target, I walked.

    A few days later, I was contacted by a dealership that TrueCar had sent my info to. I was annoyed at first to be sure, but it turned out that they called me because they could offer exactly what I wanted at the price I wanted to pay. No lie. I had to drive 40 minutes to get there, but one trip later I had my car.

    To give you an idea of the difference, dealer #1 was offering me the base model at $350/mo. Dealer #2 (from TrueCar) got me the next trim level up for $310/mo. Like I said, miles apart. Gold star for TrueCar.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • 2 out 2 people found this review helpful

    Stupid

    Will not let you choose any options. I tried to search about five different times, and I can't find a way to search the correct vehicle. It wouldn't even let me choose the correct year. Worthless.

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

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  • 3 out 4 people found this review helpful

    Setting yourself up

    At first, you think this is great and you get an almost immediate response.

    Three dealers were quick to respond, one with a price that was great, so I bit. I received a phone call from some one saying they were from Russel Woodstock Chrysler in Van Nuys, CA to make an appointment to come in and view the car.

    Fortunately, I called to ask to have the window sticker sent over so I could make sure it had all the options I wanted. It took about five plus calls to get a hold of a sales person that could help or not. The car was not available, but they did say they would double check to call me back and say it sold last night. Questionable?

    West Valley Chrysler was very up front. I discussed what I was looking for and he went online and let me know that the vehicle was not available within about 200 miles (thank you sir).

    The MSRP was listed at about $38k minus the $5900, which brings it down to about $32,000. The price the dealers were asking for this car is about $31,500 (the right car not the color I wanted).

    Like every sales gimmick seems rigged.

    Unhappy user of TrueCar.com.

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

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  • 3 out 3 people found this review helpful

    Buyer beware (with proof)!

    • Massachusetts,
    • Jul 30, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    I just received a TrueCar offer on a vehicle that is over $1,000.00 more than what the dealer is advertising on his/her website. This is one vehicle of many the dealer is offering at this price, so this is a legitimate offer from the dealer.

    Same VIN. Same everything, but the price is over a thousand higher from TrueCar. Why? Is this their mark up for steering buyers to the dealership?

    Buyer beware!

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

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  • 5 out 5 people found this review helpful

    Too much!

    • Tampa, FL,
    • Jul 12, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    As soon as I signed up, my email blew up! Then, my text messages on my phone, and then my voicemails, and they never stop. I have to keep blocking, and then they call from different numbers. I unsubscribed from each email that came in, and that's finally slowing down, but wow.

    And the car "inventory" is not correct. I went to two dealerships that claimed to have a vehicle in stock (with the invoice/photo), and when I got there, they acted like that never happens.

    Very disappointing.

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

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  • 3 out 5 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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  • 12 out 12 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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  • 13 out 15 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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