Consumer Reports is pleased to offer access to the Build & Buy Car Buying Service at no additional charge. The service is intended to complement Consumer Reports’ suite of auto ratings, reviews, and buying advice. The program, provided by TrueCar, is designed to help consumers buy vehicles at competitive prices from dealers who have agreed to abide by certain guidelines.

The Consumer Reports Build & Buy Car Buying Service is intended to help make car buying easier, with more transparency and less stress and anxiety. The program also helps Consumer Reports further its ongoing work and mission, because TrueCar pays us a flat fee for each vehicle sold to a program participant by a participating dealer. Consumer Reports has no direct contact or any financial relationship with any dealerships.

What Are the Advantages of Using the Build & Buy Car Buying Service?

  • See what others paid for the car you want: You can search for the make and model you’re interested in purchasing and see what others have recently paid for that vehicle in your area. This gives you a benchmark as to what is currently a fair market price for that vehicle.
  • Get the price for the vehicle you want: You get an up-front, personalized price from a dealer online, including manufacturer incentives and discounts. You know what you’ll pay for your new car before you head to the dealership. (As with every car purchase, you will be responsible for fees, taxes, and destination charges. The upfront price offer excludes dealer fees and accessories, applicable tax, title, licensing, and other state and governmental charges and/or fees.)
  • Consumer Reports’ member savings: Participating dealers offer discounts of $100 or more on new cars to eligible CR members.
  • Member-exclusive savings: Consumer Reports members are eligible for additional incentives from select manufacturers.
  • Prescreened dealers: The program has thousands of participating dealers nationwide who have been certified by TrueCar for their commitment to providing high customer satisfaction, have been trained on the program, and have agreed to follow strict guidelines of conduct.
  • Your information is safeguarded: You can use the service as much as you want to see the market average on vehicles with sufficient market data without revealing your information to any dealers. Your information will be concealed from dealers, and theirs from you, when the market average is initially displayed. You may then choose to send your information to local dealers, and in return they will share their information and up-front price offers on vehicles in their inventory with you.
  • No obligation: There is never an obligation to buy when using the service. You can always change your mind about the vehicle, price, or dealership, or whether you want to buy a car at all.

How Does the Program Work?

Step 1
Select the make, model, and trim level of the vehicle that you want to buy. Then specify the exterior and interior colors, and choose the options that interest you. After you have done this, the service will display the market average, which is based on actual recent transactions of similarly configured vehicles.

Step 2
Verify your contact information. You will then have the option to send your contact and vehicle information to local participating dealers in order to get actual price offers on their inventory.

Step 3
If you decide to share your information with local participating dealers, you will then see their name, location, and pricing on vehicles in their inventory that match your vehicle preferences.

Remember, you are under no obligation to buy. In addition, no dealer gets your name or contact information unless and until you choose to release your information to dealers.

Step 4
Connect with any of the participating dealers you want and set up a test drive. You can print or show your personalized price offer on your phone to the dealer.

If you decide to select a different vehicle on the lot, the dealer can generate a new personalized price offer for you that will show your new pricing information with your savings and available incentives. 

How Does My Personalized Offer Work?

It’s simple. You will receive an inventory-specific (based the vehicle identification number, or VIN) offer, which includes the vehicle’s manufacturer’s suggested retail price minus incentives and dealer discounts, but excluding dealer fees and accessories, applicable tax, title, licensing, other state and governmental changes and/or fees. If you choose a different vehicle on the lot from the vehicle you configured online, the dealer can generate a new personalized price offer for you.

What Is TrueCar and What Is Its Relationship to Consumer Reports?

The Consumer Reports Build & Buy Car Buying Service is provided by TrueCar, an entity independent of Consumer Reports that contracts with large membership organizations, including Consumer Reports, to provide their members and visitors with access to current local market data on new-car pricing, up-front dealer pricing on actual cars in their inventory in advance of visiting the dealership, and a means to contact participating dealers who are committed to providing program users with a positive buying experience. To participate, dealers must meet certain program standards and undergo periodic training. TrueCar has relationships with various original equipment manufacturers, allowing the Build & Buy Car Buying Service to offer exclusive additional incentives to Consumer Reports members.

In addition to helping our readers, the Build & Buy Car Buying Service also helps Consumer Reports, a nonprofit organization, do its work. TrueCar pays a fee to Consumer Reports based on cars sold to program participants by participating dealers, without regard to which makes or models were bought, where they were bought, or who bought them. The amounts received are used to help defray the costs of Consumer Reports’ ongoing work and mission. Consumer Reports does not have any financial relationship with dealers, and the compensation that Consumer Reports receives from TrueCar is not related to the model purchased or to our rating of a specific model.

If you decide to use the Consumer Reports Build & Buy Car Buying Service, we'd like to learn from your experience as we continue to develop and refine the service. So if you submit your contact information to a participating dealer, we may send you an email asking for your feedback.

What Guidelines Must Participating Dealers Follow?

To qualify for participation in the Consumer Reports Build & Buy Car Buying Service, dealers in the TrueCar certified dealer network must follow strict guidelines intended to provide you, the user, with a better car-buying experience.

Here are some of the guidelines that dealers must follow:

  1. The certified dealer will give you a personalized up-front price offer, including available incentives, for an in-stock vehicle that matches the make, model, and trim that you configured. All price offers are subject to prior sale, so you should contact the dealer directly to confirm availability before visiting the dealership.

  2. The dealer will provide you with a transparent and professional buying experience.
  3. The dealer must successfully complete training on the program, including periodic updates.
  4. The dealer will honor any used-car discount or price communicated to you until either the communicated discount or price expires, or the vehicle is no longer in the dealer’s inventory.
  5. The dealer will complete all necessary titling and registration documents, including in cases where you provide your own financing. In addition, the dealer will send the applicable finance institution the application for certificate of title (or other appropriate documentation necessary in the jurisdiction where the transaction occurs) evidencing the VIN, customer signature, and finance institution as the lienholder. In Texas, the dealer will apply in your name for the registration of the vehicle, if the vehicle is to be registered, and a certificate of title for the vehicle, and file with the appropriate designated agent each document necessary to transfer title to or register the vehicle and remit any required motor vehicle sales tax.
  6. A trained dealer representative will respond to your inquiry through the program within 24 hours through your preferred communication channel. The dealer will contact TrueCar to resolve all customer complaints or program issues promptly.

What If I Have a Question or Complaint About This Service?

  • The Build & Buy Car Buying Service is administered by TrueCar. Consumer Reports has no direct contact with participating dealers.
  • If you have complaints about a dealership or the service, please call TrueCar customer service at 877-924-2585.
  • If you decide to not buy a car from a dealer participating in the program and want to stop receiving emails from the Build & Buy Car Buying Service, use the unsubscribe link near the bottom of the email you received. To stop receiving emails from participating dealers, please contact them directly.
  • To halt telephone calls from a dealer, just tell the dealer representative that you do not wish to receive further calls.
  • If you continue to have problems, contact the Consumer Reports customer service department.
  • We want the service to be a positive experience for our users. TrueCar and Consumer Reports will work together to review and try to resolve every complaint and issue that is reported.

How Do I Know What the Price Is?

The program allows you to quickly configure a vehicle with the trim, color, and options you want, and see what others have paid for that same vehicle as configured in your area and see the market average, which represents what others have recently paid for similarly configured vehicles. The market average is a tool to better understand when you are receiving a good price. The market average is not an actual offer.

In order to see real pricing on cars in inventory at one of the participating dealers, you will need to opt in to share your contact information with local participating dealers, who will present you with pricing information on vehicles in their inventory that match, or closely match, the vehicle you have configured. The up-front price offer is for a specific vehicle at the listed dealer, and includes the vehicle’s MSRP minus incentives and dealer discounts, but excludes dealer fees and accessories, applicable tax, title, licensing, other state and governmental charges and/or fees. The final price you pay, of course, will be determined by you and the dealer based on the final car you select on the lot.

With this information and your up-front price offer in hand, you are well-positioned to recognize a good price and determine what you are willing to pay.

Is the Pricing I Receive the Lowest Available?

The pricing information you receive from participating dealers should be competitive in your area and is formulated to include all available incentives. However, it might not be the absolute lowest price for which a specific vehicle can be purchased. Similarly, you might not be able to purchase a given vehicle for the market average. The actual price you may obtain from a participating dealer depends on a variety of factors, including when you buy, the availability of the model, incentive availability, and how much time and effort you want to invest in negotiating.

Additionally, the information on this website and other Consumer Reports publications includes a great deal of specific advice on how to negotiate the best deal. 

Does the Total Before Tax on My Certificate Include All Fees?

Your personalized offer details the fees included in your dealer’s total before-tax price, as well as some specific common fees that are excluded. Your dealer will provide a breakdown of any government fees and charges as required or permitted by the laws in your state.

What If the Dealer Doesn't Have the Exact Vehicle I Want?

Given the many possible trim choices and configurations of modern cars, it is possible that some or all of the dealers in your area who participate in the program will not have that exact car you want in stock. If the dealer does not have the exact car you want, you have several options.

  • Check with other dealers that you selected. Keep in mind that the ultimate price you receive may vary among participating dealers.
  • Custom order a vehicle with your configuration. Some automakers allow you to place a special order for the vehicle. A downside to this approach is that custom orders typically take several weeks to arrive, and sales incentives and/or prices may change during that time.
  • Buy a similar model from the dealer’s inventory. The dealer may have the same make and model car with slightly different features. Ordinarily, the specific features included on the car you select will affect your price. If the car has fewer features, your price will normally be less; if it has more features, the price will normally be more.
  • Shop around. You’re under no obligation to purchase a vehicle through a dealer participating in the Build & Buy Car Buying Service, so you always have the option to negotiate a price on your own with dealers outside the program.

Can I Lease the Vehicle Instead?

Yes. The ultimate price you agree on for a vehicle will be used in calculating the capital cost (price of the vehicle, for the purposes of the lease). Please note that some manufacturer incentives might not be available with some lease programs and that other factors may influence lease pricing. 

What Determines the Dealers I Have the Option of Contacting Through the Program?

After configuring your vehicle, the program presents dealers in your area who have vehicles in their inventory that match your preferences, based upon a formula that considers a variety of factors, such as location, pricing levels, inventory, and success on the TrueCar program. 

How Does the CR Build & Buy Car Buying Service Differ From Price-Quote Services?

  • Under typical lead-referral systems, consumers’ contact information is often sold and resold. Under the Consumer Reports Build & Buy Car Buying Service, your contact information is never sold or resold, although dealers are able to contact you about their offering. And if you tell a TrueCar certified dealer that you want no further contact because you’ve chosen not to purchase, the dealer has agreed to honor your request promptly. If you purchase a vehicle through the program, the dealer from whom you purchased may contact you from time to time as part of its post-purchase program. Such contact is outside the control of the program, but in the unlikely case that you receive too many unwanted contacts after asking the dealer to reduce or eliminate emails or phone calls, contact TrueCar, which will work with the dealer in an effort to resolve the situation to your satisfaction.
  • To participate in the Build & Buy Car Buying Service, TrueCar certified dealers must adhere to specific program guidelines and training. In traditional lead-referral systems, there are no such rigorous program guidelines or training requirements.
  • We hope you will make full use of all the advantages available to you through the Build & Buy Car Buying Service. There are still many potential potholes to watch out for as you negotiate your deal, and we hope you get exactly the car and set of options that will work best for you at a price that is right for you.