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TrueCar Undergoing Major Changes

April 7, 2016

I've been a big advocate of TrueCar for a long time. Many years ago, when I was doing a stint as a car price negotiator, I came to realize how good TrueCar's pricing was. It was hard for me to beat their no-haggle prices. But they soon got huge backlash from dealers who were sick and tired of selling cars for below cost.

TrueCar almost went out of business, and had to make some changes in order to survive. Although they became more friendly toward dealers, there was so much hate leftover that dealers still wanted to see them go out of business. The pressure became so great, that the founder of TrueCar resigned towards the end of last year.

The new CEO, Chip Perry, has pledged to reshape the company with new core principles - mainly being that "Dealers are our true customers". Ugh, that just sounds so terrible and raises major concerns for me, so I wanted to delve into the changes and see if TrueCar is still worth recommending.

TrueCar states that they are now commited to a dealer pledge that focuses on a couple of things:

  1. Reduce the use of TrueCar as a purely price-driven shopping tool
  2. Enable dealers to compete on factors other than just price

TrueCar is also focusing on some other areas of complaints from dealers, which do not affect the service for car shoppers, mainly with billing and communication - so I won't delve into those. But here are the main things (Good and Bad) that are changing about TrueCar for consumers:

The Good Changes

1. Price Curve
The Price Curve shows what kind of prices others are paying for new vehicles. This is the most important consumer feature of TrueCar, and thankfully, TrueCar is not only keeping this, but has improved it to better reflect local supply/demand dynamics. TrueCar used to show only regional prices, now they will be showing more localized pricing. This gives car shoppers more accurate numbers for their particular location.

2. In-Stock Vehicles
This was one of the biggest complaints from consumers, and it looks like TrueCar is finally addressing it. With the old TrueCar, you would get pricing on a "virtual" model, meaning that's the price you pay IF the dealer happened to have that particular trim/option/color in stock. But what often happened is that the dealer didn't have that particular color/options combo in stock, and you were left choosing a similar vehicle that you may not have originally wanted.

TrueCar is now enabling dealers to present no-haggle prices on individual vehicles - on a VIN basis, so the price you're seeing is on the exact model they have in stock. This solves the problem, but it also makes it more time consuming to get pricing, especially if you just wanted to use TrueCar to get ball-park pricing.

The Bad Changes

1. No Longer Showing Dealer List Page

This used to be one of my favorite things about the old TrueCar, it showed you a list of no-haggle prices from anonymous local dealers on one page, giving you a quick ball-park for the kind of deals you could expect. TrueCar is getting rid of this page, and will now start showing you individual vehicles that fit your criteria (if available), and a list of dealers in your local area that provide pricing through TrueCar. It's now more of an introduction to dealers, rather than just a pricing tool. There's still good value here for car shoppers, but I will miss the price list page.

2. Commitment to Dealers
TrueCar's new core principle "Dealers are our true customers" brings up red flags. I feel like the service may lose some of its appeal for car shoppers. So far, that's not the case, and I don't think that's likely, but I will be keeping a close eye on any further changes.

Conclusion

Right now, dealers still seem to dislike TrueCar - even with these new changes. TrueCar needs to accomodate these dealers in order to survive, so I don't blame them for their renewed commitment to dealers. The good news is that TrueCar is still a great resource for car shoppers and I will continue to recommend them - although I will be keeping a close eye on any further changes.

It used to be that with TrueCar, you were pretty much guaranteed a deal that would beat 95% of car shoppers. Now it's more like the top 75%. It's still great, especially for the time and hassle it saves you, but now more than ever, it's important that you follow my full step-by-step car negotiation method to ensure you get the best price possible. TrueCar, and the other services I recommend are just one step in that process.

Finally, I want to mention that if you are currently shopping for a new car and would like me to personally negotiate prices for you (for free), send me an email and be sure to include the exact model you want (down to the trim level and options), your zip code, and how soon you would like to purchase. I will be selecting a handful of vehicles to negotiate, which helps me keep my car buying skills sharpened, and allows me to test the services I recommend as a "mystery shopper".

 

 

My Recommendation for Car Shoppers

TrueCar, Edmunds, and 1-800 Car Show are the quickest way to see the lowest car prices in your area. These sites show you no-haggle prices from dealers closest to you - and the deals are usually really good. This should be the first step you take when negotiating your car price. Follow this up with my checklist to make sure you squeeze out every last bit of savings.
- Gregg Fidan

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Gregg Fidan

About: Gregg Fidan


Gregg Fidan + is the founder of RealCarTips. After being ripped off on his first car purchase, he devoted several years to figuring out the best ways to avoid scams and negotiate the best car deals. He has written hundreds of articles on the subject of car buying and taught thousands of car shoppers how to get the best deals.

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