From The Frontlines: A TrueCar Experience

November 12, 2013

A colleague of mine sent the note below after purchasing a vehicle using TrueCar. I thought I would share because I think it highlights a key problem: A lack of pricing transparency drives consumers to dig deeper to get a better deal—often at the expense of dealer margins.

Hi Dale:

You’d asked me to send you a note if I decided to use TrueCar to purchase my wife’s new Subaru.

We bought the vehicle last weekend. Even with TrueCar, it took us three hours to test drive, negotiate on a price for the vehicle and schedule our delivery.

Here are a few highlights I thought you might find interesting:

The TrueCar decision: I opted to use TrueCar after cross-checking vehicle listings on dealer and shopping websites. This research, which took a couple hours, gave me a ballpark range for the price of the vehicle. But I wanted more than a range, I wanted “the number” I should take to the dealership. (By the way, I also couldn’t get “the number” after calling a couple of dealers.) Within three minutes of configuring the new car on TrueCar, I had three different quotes from dealers—all landing in the lower end of the price range that my research deemed reasonable.

The negotiation: As I mentioned, it took nearly three hours to get the dealer to agree to sell the vehicle at the price initially offered in the dealer’s TrueCar certificate. Honestly, it felt like we got a bit of run-around on price because the dealer didn’t have the exact model we wanted in stock. The initial offer was nearly $1,000 above the TrueCar price. I won’t share the salesperson’s colorful commentary about TrueCar here (hint: one descriptor starts with “w” and rhymes with store, which my wife didn’t appreciate). I stuck to my guns and eventually whittled the difference down to the original TrueCar price.

The “inefficiency:” My wife made a smart observation as we were leaving the dealership. “The salesperson could have sold two cars in the time it took to work with us,” she said. “All the back and forth with the manager, while making us wait, doesn’t seem very efficient to get the price they initially offered.”

If I had to sum it all up, I would say that this car-buying experience wasn’t much different than when I purchased a car in 1999. As a consumer, I still feel like I need to “get loaded for bear” if I’m going to buy a car. In that sense, TrueCar proved to be a useful resource to define the ground where I needed to stand.

Let me know if you’d like to discuss. I hope all’s well with you. Take care.