CarGurus is an online platform that connects car buyers with dealers and private sellers. It is one of the most visited automotive shopping websites in the United States and offers a wide variety of new and used cars.
However, whether it’s a good place to buy a car can depend on several factors.
Another important article to read: Is Car Gurus Legit?
Search Experience and Inventory
- CarGurus provides robust inventory and search capabilities through its website and mobile app. I entered sample searches to evaluate the experience firsthand.
- The platform returned an extensive selection of listings in my area, including both dealer and private seller vehicles across a range of makes, models, prices, and criteria I filtered on.
- The search functionality allows applying filters to narrow down the results effectively based on factors like:
- Body style
However, sponsored dealer listings still populate at the top regardless of whether they match the filters.
Overall, I found the breadth of inventory impressive and the search experience straightforward. The main downside was the presence of sponsored listings that may not align with search criteria.
Pricing and Deal Analysis
- A core aspect of CarGurus is its pricing data and analysis. The Instant Market Value tool provides an estimate of what a fair price is for a vehicle based on its specs and market data.
- Listings are then rated from Great to Overpriced compared to this benchmark.
|Great||Significantly below average market price|
|Good||Moderately below average market price|
|Fair||Around average market price|
|High||Moderately above average market price|
|Overpriced||Significantly above average market price|
In my testing, the IMV seemed reasonably accurate. I compared values to KBB and other sources and found them to be in line.
One limitation is understanding what defines a “Good” deal versus a “Great” deal. More specificity on the criteria would be helpful.
The deal rating analysis appears useful for getting a sense of pricing, but verifying specifics with the seller is still important.
As with any marketplace, prices aren’t always going to be 100% up-to-date.
CarGurus provides ratings and reviews for individual dealerships. This can give buyers insight into aspects like customer service, pricing transparency, and overall reputation.
However, I did notice some concerns raised in forums and reviews about the reliability of dealership ratings. Some users feel dealers can manipulate ratings or hide negative reviews, making it hard to trust the accuracy. More visibility from CarGurus into ensuring rating integrity could help improve trust.
The CarGurus site allows buyers to get pre-qualified for financing through its lending partners. I tested out the pre-qualification process which was quick and straightforward. It provided estimated monthly payments and APRs across a few lenders without a credit check.
This can be useful preparation before visiting dealerships, but buyers should still compare options from banks, credit unions, and other providers as the rates are not guaranteed. The pre-qualification rates offered were competitive but not always the lowest available.
Negotiation and Buying Process
Once you find a car on CarGurus, the platform allows contacting the seller directly to ask questions and begin negotiations. However, the actual buying process takes place independently between buyer and seller.
CarGurus does not facilitate elements like paperwork, test drives, final price negotiation, and completing the sale. Its role is connecting buyers and sellers, not handling transactions end-to-end.
So while it offers helpful research and communication tools, buyers need to rely on dealerships or private sellers for aspects like permitting test drives, negotiating final pricing, and transacting the sale.
A few other notable aspects of the CarGurus buying experience:
- Privacy: Contact forms allow contacting sellers without exposing personal info like phone numbers.
- Protection: No guarantees against fraudulent listings or bait-and-switch tactics some users have reported.
- Customer Service: Reviews cite mixed experiences with responsiveness and support.
Pros of Buying Through CarGurus
- Wide selection and inventory of vehicles across locations
- Helpful tools like pricing analysis, deal ratings, and affordability calculators
- Ability to get pre-qualified for financing from lending partners
- User-friendly search interface and mobile app experience
Cons of Buying Through CarGurus
- Pricing not always fully up-to-date compared to actual seller asks
- Concerns noted about accuracy of dealer ratings and reviews
- Lack of support for elements like test drives, paperwork, and completing sales
- Mixed reviews of customer service responsiveness
In summary, CarGurus offers a robust platform for researching vehicles and prices, connecting with sellers, and getting started in the buying journey. However, buyers need to conduct additional research and due diligence outside of CarGurus to determine actual asking prices, verify dealer reputations, test drive cars, and complete transactions. The platform is a helpful early step but should not replace comprehensive research and diligence. CarGurus can provide a good starting point for car buyers, but its limitations highlight the importance of thorough research and vetting when making major purchases.
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