About TrueCar

By HighYa Staff

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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Read 109 TrueCar Customer Reviews and Complaints

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Average Consumer Rating: 1.5
Rating Snapshot:
5 star: 9 4 star: 4 3 star: 3 2 star: 3 1 star:  90
Bottom Line: 15% would recommend it to a friend
Showing 1-11 of 109
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  • Useless and annoying

    • San Diego, CA,
    • Apr 7, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    Lousy prices and no way to stop the contacts from coming. You can get a better price by using Kelly Blue book for typical prices and using that to negotiate with the dealers. Since I'm sure TrueCar takes money from the dealers, you can get it for yourself by doing your own deal.

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

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  • Nonstop harassment, won't delete account

    • Wisconsin,
    • Jan 21, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    I was looking at Fiats while researching them. Got calls from dealers as expected. I then logged out and changed to minis. Learning from all the calls, I did not use TrueCar's website. To my surprise, after browsing other car sites, I got a ton of calls about minis. Never did I click to contact me or do and minis from their website. But the calls were "here is your best TrueCar price" or related, mentioning it was TrueCar. One mini dealer called, texted, and emailed me and has been every day for almost a week now. I unsubscribed to emails, but the calls continue. I've had to now block the calls. The TrueCar price was higher than the price posted on the website, so there was absolutely no value in using them...unless you are lonely looking to talk to people all day. I tried to cancel account and they won't. They claim they only send my info to dealers on cars I can interested in. Well, I guess it is true since they use cookies and monitor every car you simply browse.

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

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  • It's a lead generated scam

    • Buford, GA,
    • Jan 6, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    At the end of 2016, I used the app to look for a Honda Odyssey. I searched the site for three months. Back then I would put the car info in and they would show me the price. After three months of research, it gave me an $8,600 below MSRP price.

    I immediately went to a near by dealer and started to negotiate. First they gave a offer for for $3,500 below MSRP. I showed them the price on the app without even printing a certificate or not even the dealership on it and the salesman told me he will try. They came back to me with a printed paper with the exact info I had on my app and the only difference was they listed $4,000 below MSRP. I told him either give me the price that I showed them, if not, I will take it to another dealership. After a few hours of going back and forth they finally accepted the original offer and I bought it.

    Now in December 2018, I logged on to look for another car. Now I had to log in and put all my info, so I did. Once I started searching it was not as I knew it. It didn't work like before and showed me dealers and all this nonsense. Next thing I know I start getting calls and emails from a bunch of people. I definitely don't recommend this app.

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

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  • 2 out 2 people found this review helpful

    Not all that

    • Neosho, MO,
    • Dec 22, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    So I spend my time filling out I want to buy a new GMC Canyon with diesel and after all that, I get offers and they're all gas. So now I get my email full of trucks I’m not interested in.

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

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  • 6 out 6 people found this review helpful

    Pure scam

    • Michigan,
    • Sep 20, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    All I wanted to do was get information on a car. Now I'm being constantly harassed by random vultures constantly calling me, texting me, email, everything! They call about car loans, insurance, trade-in scams, even incomprehensible mumbling.

    And the worst part is that I never received any information regarding the car I was looking into.

    Truecar.com is a scam.

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

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  • 3 out 3 people found this review helpful

    Bait and switch

    TrueCar is probably just another good idea that doesn't work, they get good prices for buyers, everybody wins, but they get used by dealers like Hollywood Kia to lure potential customers through their doors. Once you get there, the car obviously no longer exists or was picked up by an out-of-state dealer, or some other lame excuse. Ah, the car still shows on the Hollywood Kia website, same stock number but the picture now shows a different car.

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

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  • 4 out 4 people found this review helpful

    Total joke

    • Port St Lucie, FL,
    • Aug 10, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    This is just a total lead generator for any all dealers of the car you are looking for in your area. I never got one single valid TrueCar offer, but I did get 1000 phone calls and emails from dealers. Good luck.

    You're just as well on your own.

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

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  • 4 out 4 people found this review helpful

    Bad business, a complete scam

    • Reno, NV,
    • Aug 8, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    I got my used car certificate for a BMW X1 with low miles in the color i was looking for. I scheduled an appointment the same day to look at the car. I drove 97 miles and this car does not exist, they tried to sell me a different car, black on black with 50K miles. Bait and switch scam. Run away! I won’t do business with them or your TrueCar service. TrueCar, what an oxymoron? These cars don’t even exist. Not true car, it's crap.

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

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  • 9 out 10 people found this review helpful

    Do not use TrueCar, ever!

    • Colorado,
    • May 26, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    Do NOT, under any circumstances give your phone number to these liars!

    They give your number to every dealership in your area. I was just trying to find out if TrueCar had any useful information. After I made an account with them, literally, every dealership in my town started calling me within five minutes, literally!

    Do not use TrueCar unless you want your phone number handed to every car salesman within 100 miles.

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

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  • 6 out 7 people found this review helpful

    TrueCar and Toyota of Hollywood are fraudsters

    I received my TrueCar certificate and telephoned the salesman named Mr. Crockett at Toyota of Hollywood, Florida. I asked the salesman to confirm that they will honor the price on the certificate since I did not want to drive one hour away to waste my time. I spoke to the salesman five times, and he assured me that he had checked multiple times and that the Toyota of Hollywood dealer would honor the price join the certificate.

    When I arrived at the dealership after driving for more than one hour on Mother's Day, the manager said that this was a mistake and that they would not honor the TrueCar certificate. The sales manager tried to call Mr. Crockett by telephone, but there was no answer. That manager told me that their salespeople mislead customers to get them to come to the Toyota of Hollywood dealer because they are paid bonuses for every person who visits the dealer. I told the sales manager that Toyota of Hollywood and TrueCar are jointly perpetrating a fraud on unsuspecting customers.

    Do NOT ever use or trust TrueCar or Toyota of Hollywood.

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

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  • 10 out 11 people found this review helpful

    Total scam - bait and switch

    • Los Angeles, CA,
    • Jan 7, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    TrueCar's average price is not selling price out the door; it is the offering price by dealers. These dealers low-ball by offering factory authorized incentives that may not be applicable to the buyer, such as offering college grad and military discounts the buyer will quickly learn is not allowed to them. Additionally, the vehicle requested is seldom available; instead, a similar vehicle loaded with options not requested will be found.

    The dealers must pay TrueCar, so by using this service, the buyer may well be losing negotiation leverage.

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

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