It should have been so simple. We used True Car to get a good deal. We came in knowing what our trade in was worth. We knew what we wanted. They even gave us the name of the dealer we were going to meet. How could it go so wrong? Let me tell you about the hell I just went through at the local VW dealership.
First, a bit of backstory. This car would be for my grandma. Currently, she drives a 2009 Hyundai Genesis. She has gotten to the point where the lackluster gas mileage and various small issues and was looking to possibly upgrade. She knows that I am the car person in the family; and came to me.
Her criteria were rather strict but I was able to find many great choices. She wanted a nicely sized sedan that got good gas mileage, was fully loaded, and came in around $30,000. We had a list of great cars like the new Subaru Legacy, a Nissan Maxima, the VW Passat, Honda Accord, and even a demo Volvo S60.
Now all the talk is about True Car, how it is revolutionizing the dealer experience. And I began researching this because none of us had used it before. And the reviews were all very high. People love True Car, so I began building cars and comparing prices. We were able to find an amazing deal on a Passat. The gas mileage is great and the car is quite large for her. I was looking at getting a fully loaded 1.8T SEL for around $27,500; which was nearly $4500 off MSRP. I felt that it was a great deal; and a lot easier than spending hours haggling with a dealer. So I printed the certificate and went to the dealer which honored the price: Hamilton VW in Trenton, NJ.
I was looking forward to the experience. The reviews were very high. And they had the car we wanted. But before we went, I wanted to find the approximate trade in value on her Genesis. So I did all the research and used sites like Kelly Blue Book to get a value. The car itself was fully loaded. Even has the exclusive "Wings" package and every option imaginable. When new, this was a $45,000 luxury car that was rivaling the E Class and A6. Now, it still is only one owner, no accidents, and with 52,000 miles. When entered on Kelly Blue Book, I was looking at a trade in value of anywhere from $16,000-$18,000. Private party was just under $20,000. This worked for us, so off we went.
The VW had a lot going for it. They had 0% financing for 60 months and a $1,000 cash back offer because it's a turbo. And pulling into the dealer, we felt god and ready to buy. Walking in the door, we are not greeted by anyone; everyone seeming very busy. We walk to the receptionist and show the papers which say we will be meeting with Terry; who specializes in using TrueCar. The receptionist picks up the phone to call her, but before she can, this man named Pete jumps in and steals us. Even the receptionist tried to fight it, but Pete told us that he was her partner and it was fine. The look on the receptionist's face told us a different story, but we had no choice. The odds were against us at first, all the dealer sees is an older woman and her 16 year old grandson. He is seeing dollar signs and the easiest sale of his life.
It started off very poorly when the dealer failed to introduce himself to me and even shake my hand. I got no respect. When he asked my grandmother what she was in here for, I took over. I explained that she has a Genesis now and it interested in possibly trading it in for a new Passat 1.8T SEL and we would be using True Car in order to possibly purchase. He kind of had a blank stare, as he realized now that I was not some kid along for the ride; I was in charge. He asked why the SEL and I explained that we liked the real leather, the fog lights, dual zone climate, and the Fender sound system. Now he stood in disbelief because I just read him the fact sheet that he was going to use to sell the car. I had taken over the sale. Now I already knew that there was the one we wanted inside, a silver 1.8T SEL with black leather. It was just sitting there. He said he'd have to go try and find one and wasn't sure if there was one. So I pointed out the one right next to him, and he was like, "Oh. Yeah. I guess that will work." And he then tried to begin the sale. Listing all these dumb little features that we A) Not only pointed out a few seconds prior, but B) were quite familiar with considering grandma had a Mercedes S500 before the fully loaded Genesis and knows all of these options already. So even when we told him this, he was pushing us around. "No, come up front first. Look at the bumper. SEL exclusive fog lights!" "Now come around back! Look at all this trunk space. And we include a trunk liner and these Gorilla clips to keep stuff from flying." Now, come inside. Get in. Look at the room!" We were never given two seconds to inspect it ourselves. He then said to give him a minute while we goes to find one for us to drive. I said, "All 1.8T have the same engine. You can just bring up any one, because this is the only one you guys have right now and I know it'll be a pain to get outside." I got that look of anger from him, and he just walked away.
About 5 minutes later, he pulled up in a base model 1.8T in the blue that we would be ordering the car in if we wanted to and gave grandma the keys. I explained to her that they all have the same engine, but yours would have all the options. So we took it around the block. And the car was quite nice. Not as much power as I would've liked, but it was enough for her. The ride was very nice though. And the steering was quite sharp; much less dull than the competition. So we pulled back up to the dealer and went inside again. He explained that he had his staff appraising the Genesis and now we just had to wait.
So we began discussing the Passat more and he explained that we could have it in any color we wanted, that he would go "above and beyond" to find one for us. He went back to talk to the manager and we roamed the dealership. 15 minutes later he came back and we began discussing finances. He told us that he could give us……..
$12,000. A whopping $12,000 for a 09 Genesis with one owner and no accidents and 52,000 miles. The car that I had found on KBB saying it will bring $16,000-$18,000. So, I called him out and began asking. Which he did not like. At this point, this man hated me. He was expecting an easy sale but instead got someone like me. And he asked me where I looked. As I pulled out my phone, I said KBB and explained how it told us $16,000 in fair condition for trade in and up to $20,000 private party. And he said that the car needed $2,000 in work before he could sell it and that he wasn't even expecting to make $2,000 profit. I laughed. And he wondered why. I told him that there was no way the car was in that poor of shape and that you and I both knew you will make more profit. I asked him if I could show him my phone, and he said sure. So, I entered all of the information and showed him the $16,000. And he stood confused. "Give me a second to go talk with the manager." I now learn that this is just a total BS line to buy him time. About three minutes later he comes back with a printout of his computer. It was his KBB and it showed $12,700-$14,000. I asked him how this was possible. And he told me he didn't know. I knew he was either not clicking something or put in poor condition. Because the fact that he wouldn't do it in front of me proved something was suspicious. I told my grandma it wasn't worth it. And now the dealer's face turned into one of panic. "How can we get you in this car? What will you need?" And I told him $15,000. He was not expecting me to talk here and gave me a dirty look. "Listen. There is no chance we can do that." He was becoming rude and defensive here. "You are crazy if you think we can pay that much. You know we have never had someone come to a VW lot to buy a Genesis. We cannot do better. It won't happen." "Oh really?" I call him out. "You are going to tell me you will only make $2,000 profit? I know how dealers work. You and I both know you will list this car at $22,000. The reason no one comes here looking for a Genesis is because you have not had one before. Besides, you are partnered with a Hyundai dealer. You will just sell it to them! Be real here." He stood up. "Let me see what I can do."
Another 10 minutes passed. I was telling my grandma how sorry I was for this going so wrong. He came back. "$12,700. That is all we can do. Not a penny more. Now, let's start talking financing. We can get you a pretty low rate here." "I was on the VW site and they offer 0% financing for 60 months." "But, umm…. We can't offer that with the True Car pricing. But if you have good credit I can work with you." "Since when?" I respond. "Well since we are giving such a good deal, we need money somehow." I just shook my head. "I'll be back." And off he was again. I look on the little whiteboard and I see rates right on it. 1.9%. I guarantee it, I tell grandma. It was written there.
5 minutes later he returned and said that he could do 1.9%. Which I knew from reading his board. And now he was mentioning additional fees. That normally, they will not honor True Car for cars not on the lot. But we are getting a special exception. And I take the paper and say, "Look right here. It explains that it is valid on new cars on the lot and anything ordered." He just sort of mumbled and tried to move on. And now, those things we found in the trunk; the liner and Gorilla Clips, now were $500 more. Grandma says now, "I thought they were included." "Of course not. We get them from a third party and are dealer options." He said. He was not helping his situation.
I turn to grandma and tell her we need to pass. It isn't worth it. And she agrees and stands up. The dealer was now worried. We tell him we need the keys and will not be buying today. "Oh, okay. Have a nice day." He said in the most depressed voice I have ever heard. A minute later the manager comes over. He tries one more time to sell us. "It was a pleasure and honor to help you. I know we aren't far off. It can't be that hard to get you into a new VW. What can we do? We are one of the most aggressive dealers in the area (no shit). " "Nothing. We need to think it over more. Sorry." Grandma says as she grabs the keys off the desk. The manager thanked us and we walked out. Pete never saw us again.
This was embarrassing. I did not want to ever go back. It was so poor. All the games, all the BS. It was ridiculous. I have never felt so disrespected and ripped off in all my life. So, what have I learned? That True Car is not as painless as it seems. And dealers will always try and be sharks.
As always, thanks for reading.
JQJ213 is a high schol student who resides in sunny (but still awful) Southwest Florida. When not in school or at work bagging groceries, he surrounds himself with cars any way possible. Although now his daily driver is a 2013 Honda Civic, he has plans for much cooler and better cars.