Buying a new car using

truecar pic 1 I recently spent a weekend car shopping with my mother. She has been wanting a new car for some time. When my little brother developed a need for a newer car she gave him a great deal on her ’04 Acura TL, and in process she justified a new car for herself. She didn’t know what she specifically wanted, but she knew that she wanted reliability and fuel efficiency in a small two-door AWD convertible sport utility vehicle. She wanted all of that for under $25,000. Since such vehicle does not exist, she compromised on a new Jeep Wrangler. Not caring about heated leather seats or navigational system, she decided on the Sport S model. Power Convenience Group (power windows, door locks, and remote entry) was a must, as was an automatic transmission (sorry, she drove stick all her life), and a hard top. The thing she was most adamant about, however, was the rusty Copperhead Pearl color. She test drove two cars at two different dealerships and got two quotes, but all were for cars in different colors. I went onto for the same reason that a lot of people do, to check out what TrueCar says we should be paying for a car. The TrueCar price was in between the two dealership quotes. At that time I decided to further test out what this whole TrueCar website is all about. For those who do not know, works with dealerships all across the country. In an attempt to take the frustration out of car shopping, the website shows a potential buyer the bottom line, final sale price. It also shows what others have paid for the same car, and someone can buy a car using TrueCar via participating dealerships, all with no haggling. Sounds like a great idea, but how does it work in the real world? truecar pic 2 This is mine, and my mother’s, TrueCar experience:

  • My mother knew exactly what model, options, and color she wanted and she would not budge much from it.
  • After two dealerships visits we learned that the TrueCar price was not only very accurate but also very good.
  • I configured the exact car she wanted on TrueCar and the website started its search.
  • TrueCar’s search showed several cars but only one car that was in the Copperhead Pearl color.
  • My phone rang literally three minute after I clicked “next”. It was a lady from the dealership that had the Copperhead Pearl Jeep in stock.
  • Unfortunately the sales person wasn’t aware of the car I so thoroughly specified on the site and proceded to tell me about her inventory. She insisted that I came down and look at their cars and that they would make me a great deal. No mention of TrueCar in her opening speech.
  • In this conversation I learned that the Copperhead Pearl vehicle that was lacking the crucial Power Convenience Package. No deal.
  • I received three other phone calls from dealers but none had the right combination of colors and options.
  • I then searched the inventory of every Jeep dealer from Maine to Delaware. There was only one dealer that had the perfect car, and, shockingly, at the time it was the only other Copperhead Pearl Wrangler in the whole east coast.
  • Unfortunately that dealership was not associated with TrueCar. Bummer.

The final negotiated price was pretty much exact to the TrueCar price. In this case TrueCar provided us with the feeling that we were getting a great deal. This alone saved us a great deal of dealership hassle. In all, the website makes car buying a lot more transparent, which it should have always been. Some issues with TrueCar:

  • The biggest issue was obviously the lack of the very specific vehicle my mother wanted. I see this being a problem for very particular buyers. Those buyers more flexible on colors and options will find a lot more useful.
  • Along the same lines, TrueCar’s results under “view dealer pricing” page, do not tell me the configuration of the cars it has found for me. That is not very reassuring and chances are that it would not be the exact car a buyer expects.
  • The surprising issue, from TrueCar’s standpoint, was that each dealer treated me as if I made a cold call to them. They knew I came from TrueCar, but it did not sound like they were aware of the car I built on the TrueCar website nor its quoted price.
  • Having been to the TrueCar website in the past, I noticed that there is now an option to estimate the lease payment. Based on my experiences, the monthly payment number is very accurate but down payment, which is probably tricky to compute due to so many variables (credit score, mileage), needs some work.
  • The addition of used cars to TrueCar also seems new and is very welcome. In order to gain consumer confidence, perhaps it could show what warranty the vehicle comes with right up front. Upon seeing the term “CPO” people may be more likely to pull the trigger. Perhaps TrueCar should offer warranty for some of those used cars which would make them a lot more appealing (hello used Land Rover), which in turn would increase the sales volume.

IMG_1129 This is my mom’s new car. It even came with the accessory side steps she wanted right from the factory. I should upgrade the headlights for her, maybe for Christmas? What mom wouldn’t want a headlight upgrade for Christmas? I’ll order a soft-top for next spring. I wonder how pricey Rubicon take-off wheels and tires are. Winch! She definitely need a winch! And a snorkel!  

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