TrueCar: Don’t get f’d by the dealer

TrueCar registers domains about getting f@%&ed by the car dealer.

If there’s one site that has made waves in the retail auto business over the past few years it has to be TrueCar.

Before TrueCar if you wanted to get negotiating leverage at the car dealer you had to just try to figure out how much the dealer paid for the car. But with TrueCar you find out what other people actually paid based on tax and loan records. It’s a slam dunk for negotiating a car purchase.

Of course, when you disrupt a car dealer’s normal negotiating tactics you can really piss them off. The company has been getting a lot of exposure lately since it started providing leads to dealers where the dealers quote a firm price and TrueCar takes $300 for the sale. There was an article in the most recent Economist about how car manufacturers are warning dealers away from offering cut rate pricing on the service.

What does this have to do with domain names? Well, take a look at these domain names TrueCar just registered:



[Update 1/15/123: The whois record for the domains has been changed to DNStinations, Mark Monitor’s equivalent of whois privacy.]


  1. Mark says

    As a internet sales person, I’ve found that is valuable tool for the consumer, it is just that, a tool. The fine print that Truecar discloses is that the pricing is on in stock purchases only! At least 95% of the vehicles researched do not exist on any dealers website. This leads to customer dissatisfaction and the dealer is perceived as bait and switch artists. By the way, why is prfit a bad word? Dealers need to be profitable to keep doors open and provide service to new car buyers. TrueCar is not in it for the customer, they are it for themselves. They could care less if the consumer actually gets a good deal, as long as the dealer pays them $300 for every customer that purchases a car from the help of their website!

  2. Stan Esposito says

    Would you trust a companpany who uses this type of langauge? Truecar has been banned in several Staes already. They are nothing more then a glorified middleman who wants to broker a deal and charge the dealer $300 for it. Most customers are smart enogh to know who will end up paying the $300. Would a stand up company need to have domain names like this?

  3. says

    I must say I was floored when I read your blog. As President of TrueCar, there has never even been a discussion within TC (that Im aware of) that contemplates buying those URL’s or any anti-dealer URL’s. It’s worth noting that anyone can buy a URL and say they bought it on behalf of TrueCar or anyone else for that matter.

    To your earlier point love us or hate us, we’re not stupid. Independent of all that is going on right now, embarking on some anti-dealer campaign has never been contemplated by TrueCar.

  4. says

    @ Steve – I think you need to ask around your company a bit more. Anyone can register a URL and say it was on behalf of TrueCar, but these were registered by YOUR brand protection agency and registrar that manages your domain registrations, including They also pointed it to your nameservers. MarkMonitor doesn’t let anyone register a domain through them.

    Again, I personally love your business and feel car dealers need to adapt to the full transparency that the internet and companies like yours can provide.

  5. says

    Gotta love WHOIS information.
    And indeed Markmonitor is not for everyone.
    This was not a simple Godaddy registration by some “anyone”.

  6. Stan Esposito says

    truecar would be better off to not comment. They cannot help themselves! To be fair I guess anyone can sign up and claim they are the President of truecar.

  7. Steve M says

    Looks like they should’ve reg’d and before others beat them to the punch; just in the last couple months.


  8. Brian Rogers says

    @Andrew-I am a car dealer in NC that is a True Car dealer. I am miffed at your comment ‘I feel car dealers need to adapt to the full transparency that the internet and companies like yours can provide’. What transparency are you talking about?? The transparency of our cost of the vehicles? The transparency of how much profit a dealer can make on a car deal? I’m here to provide a service for Eastern NC and make a living for myself and my family. The only reason I’m a True Car dealer is because of competition with other dealers in the area, that’s all. The bottom line is True Car only guarantees their price on in stock units only. Guess how many vehicles that people submit to True Car are actually in stock….only 5%. Normally I wind up selling people something else in stock. Let’s say you owned a lemonade stand. If your operating overhead cost you .15 per glass of lemonade, what would be your price for a glass of lemonade? Please be honest and answer this question and I’ll comment on your response!!

    • says

      @ Brian Rogers – I’m not commenting on the True Car price guarantee. I’m reflecting on the tax and financing data that TrueCar is able to aggregate to show people how much cars are actually selling for.

  9. Brian Rogers says

    Ok if you’re not commenting on price, then I’m really confused. That’s what True Car’s main function is…showing the prices of their dealers and showing the consumer what other dealers selling PRICES are. Your financing is up to you. If you have good credit, you get low rates. If you have bad credit, you pay high rates. True Car does not have anything to do with financing a vehicle, nor can guarantee you a specific rate. They don’t have anything at all to do with how much tax you pay, period! That’s set by your state or county. You still haven’t answered my question.

  10. says

    @ Brian – I am commenting on pricing data, not the program where TrueCar gets paid $300 from dealers.

    It’s my understanding that a lot of the data in TrueCar is “public” data from taxing authorities (sales tax, financing liens, etc) that is aggregating by TrueCar. Is this not the case?

  11. Brian Rogers says

    No that is not the case. You are not correct. True Car gets their information from the dealers themselves. Let me explain….a True Car rep signs up a dealership; the dealer then agrees to allow ZAG, which is the lead generator for True Car, access to it’s inventory and sales data; the dealer sets up his own “True Car price” through their service. That’s how their information is gathered. No information is given via “public” data.

  12. Stan Esposito says

    @Andrew You quote what the FAQ says on truecar’s site. It is your choice whom to believe. Not every dealer signs up for truecar but the customers still bring in printouts from dealers hundreds of miles away and ask the local dealer to match.
    I sell Chevy I will give an example of how truecar gives bad info. They talk about the thousands people save from msrp. If one of my customers wants to buy an Equinox and he happens to have a GM vehicle and a GM card he gets a $2250 rebate that others are not entitled to. Trying to explain this to the people who do not is not always easy. They almost always blame the dealer. They may go somewhere else where the other dealer confirms what the first dealer said. So they buy there. The last time I looked truecar has no inventory or even a sales license but they inject themselves into the equation.

  13. Brian Rogers says

    @Andrew I’m probably going to drop True Car to be honest. As I stated eariler, with the other Chrysler dealers in my area being True Car dealers, I’m just trying to be competitive. I have a “funny feeling” that myself along with other Chrysler dealers in my area are going to drop them soon. I can’t say anything more about that. I have no problem with sharing my data with a 3rd party, I do it everyday with Carfax, Autotrader and the State of NC as required by law. I don’t have a problem selling something I have in stock at invoice or maybe a little bit under. What I do have a problem with is True Car’s business model and perception to the consumer. The consumer goes on their site, picks out the vehicle they want and an “unbelievable” price to boot. The consumer then receives calls from 4-6 different dealers and dozens of email blasts telling them to come in with their “guaranteed price certificate”. (This is True Car’s business model now, not the dealers..ok) Now I have the consumer here at my lot, only to find out the car they wanted isn’t in my inventory. (Hmmmmm) Well I happen to have one in stock that does navigation and sunroof. Now the ball is back in the consumers court, proceed with higher price or leave unhappy and blaming us. (Who they should be blaming is True Car, not us) Now Andrew, will you now answer my question from yesterday? It cost you .15 per glass of lemonade, what is your selling price?

  14. says

    @ Brian – the price of lemonade? I’d charge more than 15 cents. But if I also got a kickback from the lemonade manufacturer and got to charge the buyer for going to the bathroom after he drinks it, I’d be willing to sell for less than 15 cents.

  15. Brian Rogers says

    @Andrew I’m glad you would charge more than 15 cents. That’s a smart business move. Let me give you a bt of advice; if the lemonade manufacturer gives you a kickback, reinvest that in your company to grow and advertise with that money. Don’t forget to tell your customers you have the cleanest bathrooms in town with the best technology and the toilet repairmen in the business.

  16. Tim Faith says

    As someone who has spent his adult life in the auto bus.(sales-f&i-sm-gsm-gm and owner-2 stores) I can tell you that there is a model coming that will be what a GOOD auto dealer will like for the internet, it has been in the works for 2 years and is VERY different from TrueCar. If you get an invitation to meet with Motorglobe/Autoglobe at nada next month please call for a meeting, if not than stop by booth 3701 a GOOD dealer will love what they here and see.

  17. says

    I just terminated our TC agreement. I was never a fan, but some customers feel they will get a better deal this way. Reality is, a TC dealer has to pay TC for every deal. Who actually won that one – the customer? I could have sold it to them for less without TC. The bottom line is that manufacturer’s all have volume pressures on the dealers and sometimes we (dealers) do silly things to try to get to those volumes. TC, in my humble opinion, is an example of a bad decision for both the dealer and the consumer.

    We just won an award for a manufacturer program called “Customer First” that we are very proud of. We are going to up the ante one more time by putting the customer first again……No more True Car for us.

  18. says

    @ Kevin Eckhart – I’m not sure that a customer actually pays $300 more just b/c they used TrueCar. I mean, car dealers by leads all the time. In this case the dealer only pays when the lead converts. I don’t know how much auto leads from other sites cost, but let’s say they’re $50 each. In that case you have to convert 1 of 6 to get the same deal as TrueCar.

    And what about all the advertising you buy to promote your dealership? Does that other advertising, such as in the newspaper or on TV, convert at a rate that you only pay $300 per sale? (Granted, you might make more profit on sales that aren’t through TrueCar b/c the customer might not be as educated about price.)

  19. Andy Budd says

    True Cars real problems are yet to come. When states attorney generals get a hold of how true car is manipulating and misreporting the data (and violating nearly every consumer protection law on the books regarding advertising and privacy) all hell is gonna break loose and True Car, Yahoo, USAA, AAA and anybody else who does business with them is gonna get sued into extinction. The American Trial Lawyers Association is gonna have a field day with this one!

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