Car listing websites want your attention, namely clicks and screen time. Their goal is to become the driver of showroom traffic for as many car dealerships as possible. Dealers rely on these sites to drive customers to their inventory. Online car listing sites know that price and value are the most important criteria for used car shoppers. Let’s take a look at CarGurus, TrueCar, and Cars.com to try to understand how informative these price ratings really are.
Most online car listing sites apply benchmark pricing.
- Visitors like to feel like they are getting a good deal. Who doesn’t?
- Constant price changes and listing updates encourage repeat traffic. Car pricing is not static … the supply and demand within certain markets affect the benchmark pricing used for each vehicle as well as the number of vehicles available for purchase. Think about it. When shopping for a used vehicle, have you visited a site multiple times in a day or every day to check on pricing?
CarGurus – Great, Good, Fair, High, Overpriced
CarGurus uses the following to inputs to determine a “deal rating”:
- Price, Mileage, Trim and Options
- Accident History
- Certified Pre-Owned Status
- Location (e.g., pricing in the local market)
- Dealer reputation – per ratings through CarGurus website and review requests
Let’s look at a listing across all 3 sites starting with CarGurus:
For CarGurus, a “fair deal” means that the price is right around market value, in this case +$27 above what they call the market price.
TrueCar – Excellent, Great, Fair, High
TrueCar anchors its ratings in what they call an average list price, claiming to source recent transactions in specific locations from both the TrueCar platform as well as other providers. You can read how their price graphs works here.
For TrueCar, they want you to believe that they have more data and more accurate data than their competitors. This is how they capture visits and screen time! They used this as their differentiator when they launched but they have now shifted to a dealer subscription model, which means they may be less inclined to provide transparent, genuine pricing information to keep that dealer subscription revenue coming in!
Here is the TrueCar listing:
- Excellent: A vehicle that may sell for below average price due to unusual configuration, color, or use.
- Great Price: The dealer wants this vehicle sold quickly or has received a lot of interest in this vehicle.
- Fair Price: Average popularity, normal days on lot, and they say “vehicles that owners did an average” amount of research on.”
- High Price: May have recently arrived or be a popular color, make, model, etc.
As of March 23, 2022, TrueCar claims to have 799,303 used car listings but one can only view 9,990.
What’s the difference so far? TrueCar shows less, if any of a connection to vehicle history or dealer reputation. TrueCar is also a unique dealer model in that dealers pay for each car sold from TrueCar, rather than just listing all their cars. Of all the third-party listing websites, TrueCar really needs you to buy a car through them – they don’t get paid if you don’t use them as a lead generator.
Cars.com – Great Deal, Good Deal, Fair Price, Well Equipped
Cars.com claims to use more than 100 market signals to produce their vehicle price ratings. They claim to incorporate:
- Supply and Demand
- New MSRP and Asking/List Price
- Vehicle Color, Upgrades, and Options
- Vehicle history and Dealer reputation.
- Great: priced significantly below market average.
- Good: marked slightly below market average
- Fair: marked a bit above market average.
- Well Equipped: vehicle is marked above, and likely represents additional equipment or features.
Here is the Cars.com listing:
Cars.com is showing us that this vehicle is above the market price by a bit. According to the gap, it could be by several thousand dollars., since the high end of average might be around $52,000. To be honest, it’s not really clear with their scale of measurement.
TrueCar offers a rather specific price above or below market. Cars.com offers a vague scale – unless the vehicle is a “Good Deal” or better.
As we reviewed, TrueCar’s pricing system works a bit differently from CarGurus and Cars.com. Cars.com and CarGurus factor in vehicle history and dealer reputation while TrueCar does not.
So, while TrueCar does not include vehicle history and dealer reputation, both of which are fairly important, none of these storefronts offer much insight into what is ultimately the most important criteria, the condition of that used vehicle.
Are Any of These Ratings Meaningful?
No and here’s why …
- Well, no one reads what they mean and/or understands what they mean. It’s obscure because they know that the majority of people will simply trust them at face value or take that price and compare it to Kelly Blue Book, Edmunds, and NADA.
- Noise. While CarGurus and Cars.com apply vehicle history and dealer rating while cars.com focuses more on price, they are all designed to confuse visitors into believing that the benchmarks they are using are genuine, accurate, and meaningful. Price classifications for Great, Good, Fair, High, or Overpriced or Great/Good/Fair/Well Equipped or Excellent, Great, Fair, or High have different meanings for all of them.
- Dealer subscription model. As mentioned, TrueCar gets paid for every vehicle sold through its site while CarGurus and Cars.com use a monthly subscription model to collect dealer fees. Why does this matter? Every car listing company has to keep their customers (the dealers) happy .. in this case drive traffic to their sites and sell through vehicles in order to stay relevant and profitable. These retailers are definitely not inclined or motivated to serve as customer advocates.
- Altered Reality. The many price points are meant to confuse and keep you on site and returning as often as possible. Why? Traffic and time spent on the website matter to dealers, especially large ones, when they decide to spend their advertising dollars.
- Vehicle condition. That’s where we come in. At POMCAR, we believe there is no substitute for a proper pre purchase inspection conducted by a trained technician. Pre purchase inspections are all we do.
Bottom Line. You MUST get a POMCAR pre purchase inspection. We place customers first and want you to make an informed and timely buying decision. Pre-purchase used car inspections are all that we do.
When making a commitment to buy your next vehicle, you should always make your purchase contingent on its passing POMCAR’s pre-purchase inspection. POMCAR will send a qualified technician to thoroughly check out your prospective purchase. Our technician will perform a comprehensive 270-point inspection which will cover:
- The car’s identity, details and mileage
- Tires and brakes
- Exterior and undercarriage
- Electrical and lights
- Road Test
- Fluid checks
- Diagnostic scan for error codes
Following our inspection, POMCAR will provide you with a detailed report of the car’s condition and safety-related systems, including photos of any noted problems. Once you review your POMCAR report you can buy with confidence – or avoid a problem vehicle, depending on the results!
To set up your POMCAR inspection, check us out and get started at www.pomcar.com