In the ever-growing pool of car shopping resources, TrueCar stands out as one of the most useful, and genuine, tools for consumers.
TrueCar is free service that gives you data on what thousands of people paid for the exact car you want to buy. It levels the playing field between buyer and dealer so you can feel confident you’re not overpaying. In addition, TrueCar is building a network of “certified dealers” who have committed to total price transparency.
I recently purchased my first new (yes, new — I know) car, a Ford Fiesta ST, and while I didn’t solely rely on TrueCar.com – nor should anybody – it did prove valuable getting a fair price.
First, I should explain that TrueCar isn’t for your research phase. You’ll need to have a good understanding of what car you want – down to the model type and features you desire. Figuring out what type of car you want and, more importantly, how much you can afford is a different animal. Sites like Edmunds.com and Kelly Blue Book are great for researching cars. We also have a guide to how much car you can afford and an easy auto loan calculator to see what your monthly payment might be for a certain car.
Getting the best price with TrueCar
When in comes to new cars, TrueCar is all about price shopping. In my case, I was searching for a model that isn’t widely available on dealer lots. Because of this, I ran into a couple of dealers who downright refused to talk about a price below MSRP. One of them calling the Fiesta ST a GF1, or “Go Find One.” Yeah, I have an acronym for salesmen like him, too.
Here’s where TrueCar helped me out.
After deciding on the trim and options, you get a price that their partner dealerships are willing to match, which will consistently fall below MSRP. No, you’re not going to find the deal of the century, but it gives you a starting point for price negotiations that’s leans in your favor.
Another feature that’s nice to have is their market valuation graph, which gives you a sense of how much others are paying for the same model car. Take this with a grain of salt, though, as prices can start fluctuating around holiday sales and end of year clearances. Plus, if you’re looking for a model that’s more widely available, like a Toyota Camry, you might have better luck getting a better price than, say, a Fiesta ST.
Things to keep in mind
For TrueCar to work, dealers must have your car in stock.
One caveat lies in the fine print of your “TrueCar Certificate.”
The price you get is only if the dealer has one available on the lot. Some dealerships may use this to wiggle out of the TrueCar pricing. Others, though, will use it as an opportunity to get you in the door. Believe me when I say the latter are more worth your time, as they’re more likely to work with you to find the car you want.
TrueCar can help you weigh the value of manufacturer incentives.
TrueCar does a good job of aggregating up-to-date “customer cash” and manufacturer financing promotions, allowing you to add them into your calculations as you see fit.
Many dealers will post pricing on their websites that include rebates for which many customers may not qualify. Using TrueCar can help you decide which incentives you want, and get an honest picture of your potential savings.
Again, TrueCar is model- and trim-specific.
With TrueCar you are getting the price for a very specific car and the features you choose, along with the manufacturer bonus offers and financing. If you’re looking for a Ford Focus ST with a sunroof and heated seats, but head to the dealer with the TrueCar price for the stock model, you aren’t going to get very far trying to negotiate a lower price.
TrueCar is free and obligation-free, but…
You can use TrueCar to browse pricing all you want, they don’t share your email with dealers or anybody else. But once you “lock in your savings”, TrueCar sends your name, number, and email address to the dealers you select. So get ready to chat with the local dealerships’ internet sales teams and wade through the deluge of follow-up emails that will ensue.