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CarGurus - Reliable Website For Pricing Or Not?

Is Car Gurus Legit

CarGurus has become a very popular and reliable source for millions of Car Buyers in recent years, but one of the biggest questions I get about their website is really no different than any question I would get for any automotive business, and that is: (Continue below).

CarGurus Review Video

Is CarGurus Reliable – Cargurus Car Value Explained

CarGurus has a big claim to fame-  Instant Market Value.

Using “Instant Market Value,” CarGurus says that they can provide you with an idea of what a fair price is on a certain type of vehicle, and from that, they can generate a  sort of visual “grade” as to just how good of a “deal” a given price may be. 

Examples of these grades are:

  • Great Deal
  • Good Deal
  • Fair Deal
  • High Price
  • Overpriced

The last two categories have actually been changed recently to “High Price” and “Overpriced” so as to appease some car dealers who complained that labeling a car listing something a “Bad Deal” wasn’t good for business.  

You should read our in-depth article focused only on the buying experience with Car Gurus: Is Cargurus a Good Place to Buy a Car?

CarGurus Instant Market Value (Explained)

CarGurus Car Value Tool

The CarGurus Instant Market Value (IMV) is how the website determines the value of each car.

When you are looking at a listing and see “Great Deal” or “Fair Deal,” that is the IMV in action (Example Below).

cargurus instant market value review example
cargurus instant market value review example

The purpose of the Instant Market Value Tool was to provide users with a visual interpretation of an estimated fair retail price so that it would be easier to understand if the price of a car was too high, fair, or below average.

Important Fact: The IMV is not actually an official appraisal or guarantee of value.

How The IMV Works

According to the company, the IMV is computed daily using a complex algorithm that analyzes millions of data points, including factors like make, model, trim, year, mileage, options, and vehicle history.

  • Compares similar vehicles listed for sale in your area
  • Analyzes ads, pricing, condition, mileage, and other factors
  • Provides an average price guideline

Criticisms And Negative Review of the IMV

  • Some users say the IMV is flawed, especially for private sellers
  • IMV can be lower than dealer prices for the same vehicle
  • Unfairly penalizes private sellers compared to dealers

CarGurus Prices- A Must-Read Review

So, is CarGurus really giving you the truth about used car prices and good deals?  No!  

Used Car Price Example:

A Car Gurus Review On Used Car Prices

Apologies for the loss of quality in the image above, but you should still be able to read the tiny disclaimer that tells you certain fees, taxes, and charges are not included. 

What that essentially means, ladies and gentlemen,

is that you have just been advertised to, or better put:  The figures you are shown do not have to be honored by Cargurus or the Dealership.

But There Is More…

Is Cargurus Legit

As you begin clicking into dealers’ listings on Cargurus, you’ll start seeing disclaimers like the one pictured above. 

In this particular case, the fees (Not counting any that might still be waiting at the dealership) total about $1,300.

CarGurus IMV Pricing Reviewed

Let’s take a used car that is listed for $15,500 with a Cargurus Instant Market Value grade of “Great Deal”.  

If we add those $1,300 in Fees and Service charges from the disclaimer (That are not factored into the IMV grade), what do you think happens to that “Great Deal” rating?

Bingo!

Bottom line – Does It Work?

It would be more accurate to say that the IMV tool is helpful, which goes back to a theme I often discuss in my articles: “Every Used Car Is Unique.”

Simply taking an average of prices from only one website is too limited of a sample size for a proper analysis,

And

The tool will be factoring in vehicles that might be in poor condition, along with dealers who often manipulate prices higher or lower for their own purposes.

There are only two methods that truly work for determining the value of your car:

  • Take an average of multiple internet tools and REAL dealership offers so that you are factoring in an assessment by professionals who have seen your car in person and compared it against the market.
  • Use the Autohitch Pricing Service that looks what what dealers have paid for your car at auction in the past couple months.

Cargurus Reviews (User Experience)

Cargurus Consumer Reviews

I spent a little time researching several different trustworthy sources for real-life reviews of Cargurus by individuals who actually used the services and website. Below is a summary of the reviews I discovered:

Positive reviews of CarGurus:

  • CarGurus provides a great platform for finding and comparing cars. The website is easy to use and provides a lot of useful information.
  • CarGurus has a large selection of cars and a great search engine that allows you to filter by make, model, year, and other criteria. The website also provides a lot of helpful information about each car, including its price history and user reviews.
  • CarGurus offers a lot of helpful tools for car buyers, such as price analysis, dealer reviews, and vehicle history reports. These tools can help you make an informed decision when buying a car.

Negative reviews of CarGurus:

  • CarGurus has been criticized for allowing dealers to post misleading or inaccurate information about their cars. Some users have reported finding undisclosed damage or other issues with cars they purchased through the website.
  • CarGurus has also been criticized for its dealer review system, which allows dealers to rate themselves and respond to negative reviews. Some users have reported that dealers have used this system to manipulate their ratings and hide negative reviews.
  • CarGurus has been accused of being biased toward dealers and not doing enough to protect consumers. Some users have reported that the website does not adequately vet dealers or remove fraudulent listings.

Comparison: CarGurus vs. Other Platforms

When comparing CarGurus to other popular platforms that offer similar services, several key differences and similarities emerge. Here’s a detailed comparison of CarGurus with Cars.com, Autotrader, TrueCar, and Autolist.

PlatformInventoryPrice AnalysisUser Experience
CarGurusNew and used car listings from dealers and private sellersProvides pricing history, dealership reviews, and financing optionsOffers a research hub with access to a forum and expert reviews
Cars.comWide range of new and used cars from dealerships with specific search filtersDoes not provide a filter for cars without accidents or damage, or for cars with only one ownerProvides an impressive volume of search filters
AutotraderLargest selection of car listings from private sellersProvides price analysis and dealership reviews with market value comparisons based on Kelley Blue BookMobile app includes a loan calculator
TrueCarNew and used car listings from dealers with “best of” lists that rank vehicles based on various factorsProvides detailed pricing information, including whether the price is “excellent,” “great,” “fair” or “high”Offers a dedicated research section with reviews of various makes and models of cars
AutolistNew and used car listings from dealers with a “My Garage” feature for tracking vehicle’s market value and trade-in valueProvides price analysis with listings that it expects to sell soon highlighted with a “hot car” labelAllows users to input their desired loan terms on the app, which will generate estimated monthly payments for each vehicle

CarGurus vs. Cars.com

  • Inventory: Both platforms offer a wide range of new and used cars from dealerships. However, Cars.com provides a higher degree of specificity in its search filters, allowing users to filter for everything from cars that include tow hooks to cars with a backseat entertainment system.
  • Price Analysis: CarGurus provides a pricing history, dealership reviews, and a widget that generates financing options. Cars.com, on the other hand, does not provide a filter for cars without accidents or damage, or for cars with only one owner.
  • User Experience: CarGurus offers a useful research hub, where users can access a CarGurus forum and read expert reviews on dozens of makes and models. Cars.com provides an impressive volume of search filters, allowing users to tailor their search to a higher degree of specificity.

CarGurus vs. Autotrader

  • Private Sellers: Autotrader offers the largest selection of car listings from private sellers among the apps reviewed. CarGurus, on the other hand, provides listings from dealers and private sellers.
  • Price Analysis: Both platforms provide price analysis and dealership reviews. Autotrader includes market value comparisons based on Kelley Blue Book fair market value.
  • User Experience: Autotrader’s mobile app includes a loan calculator, allowing users to estimate an interest rate by credit score and the sales taxes that may apply in their area. CarGurus’ app includes a research hub, where users can access a forum and read expert reviews.

CarGurus vs. TrueCar

  • Inventory: Both platforms offer new and used car listings from dealers. TrueCar also includes “best of” lists that rank vehicles based on a variety of factors, such as the best cars that have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and the roomiest cars for tall people.
  • Price Analysis: Both platforms provide detailed pricing information, including whether the price is “excellent,” “great,” “fair” or “high.” Each listing tells you where the price stands in comparison with the average list price.
  • User Experience: TrueCar offers a dedicated research section with reviews of various makes and models of cars. CarGurus provides a useful research hub, where users can access a forum and read expert reviews.

CarGurus vs. Autolist

  • Inventory: Both platforms offer new and used car listings from dealers. Autolist has a “My Garage” feature that allows users to track their vehicle’s market value and trade-in value.
  • Price Analysis: Both platforms provide price analysis. Autolist highlights listings that it expects to sell soon with a “hot car” label, giving users an idea of how quickly they need to act.
  • User Experience: Autolist allows users to input their desired loan terms on the app, which will generate estimated monthly payments for each vehicle. CarGurus offers a useful research hub, where users can access a forum and read expert reviews.

What Most Dealers Don’t Even Know About CarGurus

A while back, I ran an experiment:

I hid my I.P. Address, created an account on Cargurus, searched for and found only one car, and submitted a lead (To A Dealer I knew).  

What followed were weeks of emails that barely featured the dealership to which I had sent an inquiry, which also was the only dealership I had even clicked on. 

So, why did this happen?

The Truth- How CarGurus Makes Money

The more you search, the more Cargurus makes money from dealer subscriptions. 

The business model relies (In Part) on the ability of Cargurus to tell its dealers that they are driving them traffic. 

Yes, the number of sales matters as well, but that’s harder to prove because most of you will visit multiple websites while searching for a car, right?

  • You Searched on Gurus
  • You Searched on Autotrader
  • You Searched on the dealer’s website. 

Which website takes credit for your purchase?

This is where you come in because by pushing you to click on more listings from various dealers (Like they did with me in the experiment), Cargurus reps can then present the assumption for dealers that by sending more traffic, Cargurus must be responsible for more sales.

The Final Conclusion About CarGurus

I wouldn’t be being 100% honest with you if I didn’t admit that Cargurus, at it’s very least, is a good tool to use in what should be a complete set of tools that you have with you while shopping for a quality used car.  

One feature I like in particular about Cargurus is that they give you a summary of an Autocheck Vehicle History report.  Sure, it’s not a full report, but it’s a great way to screen used cars quickly, and it is well shy of spending $40 on a Carfax Report.

Which by the way, if you are looking for a free vehicle history report, check out our article on Carfax reports when you are done here.

Cargurus Is Marketing And Advertising

But aside from the kudos, the truth is that Cargurus is just another form of marketing and advertising for car dealers.  

It’s a clever and new way of putting out a good-looking price that is designed to get you in the door, where hopefully, you have already become emotionally invested enough in a particular car that the true price doesn’t stop you from becoming a buyer.

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Steve Momot - Author

Steve Momot - Author

Steve, a seasoned expert in the automotive industry, formerly held a car dealer license in Florida. With extensive experience spanning across car trading and mechanical work, he founded Autohitch. His mission? To guide both buyers and sellers through the intricate maze of car purchasing, ensuring a seamless and informed experience. Outside of the automotive world, Steve has a passion for fishing and capturing the beauty of nature through photography.

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