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Car Gurus v. Car Pal

How does Car Pal differ from CarGurus?

When you search for car-buying services, you’ll see lots of options, including CarGurus, TrueCar, Cars.com, and Costco. These auto-buying companies are very aggressive in gaining your business, but they’re much less aggressive in protecting you from bad deals.

Sure, they’ve got automated, online systems which make it easy to search by year, make, and model—but what they don’t do is personally vet the cars before you put your hard-earned money down, and they won’t advocate for you personally with the dealer.

One compelling CarGurus advertisement on YouTube shows a young couple sitting at a restaurant table with an older couple (presumably their parents), who offer to “help” intimidate the dealer to get a better price. The young couple say, “No, we’ve got this—we have CarGurus!”

As a consumer-advocacy company, we at Car Pal rejoice whenever we see images and stories that promise a service that is easier, faster, and fairer—but the problem comes when they those services don’t deliver on that promise.

Life is not as simple as CarGurus would have you believe. If you search their site and land on a vehicle marked “Great Deal!” what are you really getting? The advertisement implies that you can simply call the dealership, and the car will be ready for you to pay for and drive away. But WAIT!…not so fast!

While these companies can help you narrow down your options to your ideal vehicle, there are still dozens of concerns that can’t be addressed by that kind of automation. It takes a personal touch. And a personal touch is what you get with Car Pal!

Personal Touch vs. The Autobots

Dealership Ratings: CarGurus gives each dealership a rating of 1–5 stars. So if you find a “great deal” vehicle at a “five-stars” dealership, then you’re all set, right? Wrong! Once again—not so fast. While a highly-rated dealership can make for a great experience, there are no guarantees, and the risk is substantially higher than when choosing a restaurant. With a five-star restaurant, if you make a mistake, you have made a relatively small investment in your dinner. With a five-star dealership, you could be living with a poor decision for far longer than that meal would linger in your tummy. Car Pal does not just use ratings and reviews, but we also use our decades of experience to personally inspect the dealership, the salesperson, and the entire sales experience. We ensure that you get what you want cheaper, faster, and with far less hassle than you could otherwise. Why? Because WE WORK FOR YOU.

Hidden issues: Start digging for more information on some of these “great deals” and you may find that there has been an unreported accident, or worse, frame damage. Or maybe the car has damage from cigarette smoke, which is nearly impossible to remove. Did you know that if you were to trade in a Porsche with this kind of smoke odor, that the dealership will lower the trade-in value by as much as $12-15K? That is because the smell of smoke is virtually impossible to remove. Often the very reason that a vehicle is labeled as a “good deal” or even “great deal” is the very same reason you should avoid purchasing the vehicle.

Hidden fees. Yes, that car you like was rated as a “great deal.” But when you look deeper, you learn that the dealership has added fees not included in the price report on CarGurus. You may find a documentation fee of $795, a destination fee of $99, or—the worst we’ve seen—you find a “certified” pre-owned Prius only to learn that the certification costs extra! Ugh.

The Good about CarGurus, et al

On a single well-organized site, you can sift through hundreds, if not thousands of cars, trucks, and SUVs and narrow down your search for the perfect vehicle. Definitely a useful tool and a great basic guide to what’s out there.

The Bad

Software can’t tell you if a vehicle has been smoked in, if wet dogs have been passengers (you can’t ever get that smell out either!), or if there are added costs you will be forced to pay for and/or fight to get off the “sales price.”

The Ugly

Car dealerships are still car dealerships. No matter how much they pay TrueCar, Cars.com, or CarGurus to list their cars, they are still the ones who FUND those services that seem so convenient for you.

Wait, what? YES—CarGurus is paid for by the car dealerships themselves. They don’t work for you. They don’t work to get you the best deal. They don’t represent you when you walk into the dealership, and you’re faced with new, previously undisclosed fees.

But we DO work for you. And we work really hard to get you the best deal with the least hassle. Why? Because we care about you and your car-buying experience. And caring is something an automaton can’t do, no matter who pays them. 😉