CarGurus Study Reveals Top 5 Reasons Why Consumers Loathe and Love Car Dealers

Price Matters, But Online Car Shoppers Also Want Quick, Trustworthy Communication

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., June 1, 2011 -- CarGurus, a leading online auto research and shopping destination, today released the results of a study of more than 1,000 written reviews of car dealers posted at ( by consumers who shopped for a car in the past six months. Poor communication and deceptive business practices were the dominant themes in the negative reviews, while friendly service and upfront, timely communication were cited most often in favorable consumer reviews. The findings suggest that among online car shoppers, a car dealer’s candor and responsiveness carry significant weight and can make or break a sale, sometimes even before the consumer meets the dealer in person.

For each dealer review submitted, consumers rated dealers on a scale of one (negative) to five (positive) stars and were asked to provide written comments about their experience. Thirty-four percent (34%) of the written reviews analyzed had ratings of one or two stars; 10% were rated three stars; and 56% were rated four or five stars. The following lists highlight the most common themes in written comments contributed by consumers:

Top 5 Consumer Complaints About Car Dealers

  1. No response. Consumers complained that some dealers failed to respond to email or phone inquiries about an advertised car.
  2. The bait and switch. Consumers complained of the classic bait and switch, citing instances in which a car they viewed at the dealer’s site did not match the advertisement or the dealer reported the car had “just been sold” when the consumer visited the dealer location. Consumers felt that they were duped into visiting the dealership, then pressured to consider other cars.
  3. Communications disconnect. Consumers cited frustrations in getting accurate, prompt answers from dealer staff via email. Others cited inconsistent communications between the dealer’s online staff and showroom staff. In some cases, what was promised in an initial email contact proved to be inaccurate once the consumer visited the dealer’s location.
  4. Unsatisfactory customer service. Consumers cited instances of rude, arrogant or uninformed service from dealers. Others indicated they do not like feeling pressured to buy and complained that aggressive communication and arrogant attitudes from some dealers were a turnoff.
  5. Time wasted. Consumers complained of the time spent chasing answers from the dealer or, in other cases, time wasted driving to the dealership only to find the car no longer available (with no prior notification from the dealer). In some cases, consumers complained they were made to wait despite having scheduled an appointment or asked to fill out lengthy paperwork before they were able to see the car they wanted.

Top 5 Reasons Consumers Love Car Dealers

  1. Friendly, professional service. Courteous and respectful service proved to be a crowd pleaser. Many consumers with good dealer experiences commented on dealers that were sensitive to their unique needs, and they commended specific salespeople and expressed future loyalty.
  2. Fast response. Many positive consumer reviews praised dealers for their quick response to online inquiries about a car.
  3. Forthright, accurate answers. Consumers were grateful for dealers’ willingness to provide detailed answers via email or phone rather than pushing for a location visit. Dealers that provided candid, accurate information about the car being considered received high marks.
  4. Clean dealerships, clean car interiors. Many favorable reviews commented on the cleanliness of the dealership and on the appearance of the used car’s interior.
  5. Good prices. Consumers who felt they had purchased a car at a competitive or fair price were generally pleased with their dealer.

"For most car shoppers today, the dealer relationship begins online, and that has changed the game for consumers and dealers alike," said Langley Steinert, founder and CEO of CarGurus. "In this age of online information transparency, reputation matters more than ever. The dealers that have embraced this new online paradigm are winning customers. However, those dealers that have failed to adapt their business practices to the online channel risk alienating not just one prospective customer, but all consumers that come online after that one."

While CarGurus has long offered consumers complete price transparency in local car shopping with its free DealFinder shopping tool (, the company recently added dealer reviews to DealFinder to provide additional transparency around a dealer’s reputation. This allows consumers to gain insights on a dealer’s reputation in the context of the specific cars they are considering. In this manner consumers can easily find great deals from great dealers and avoid dealers that have a bad history of customer satisfaction or service.

Consumers who have shopped with and/or purchased cars now regularly contribute dealer reviews at CarGurus. These reviews include ratings on a numeric scale of one to five as well as written commentary. CarGurus is the only online car shopping site to offer this level of information transparency on both price and dealer reputation, all within the same interface and accessible with just one search.

About DealFinder

CarGurus’ free DealFinder ( shopping tool gives consumers instant guidance on the best car deals available in their area, now with insights on quality of the dealer’s sales service. Shoppers plug in their zip code and desired car and get an instant view of available vehicles, ranked from great deals to cars that are overpriced. DealFinder rankings are based on a mathematical analysis that factors in the prices of millions of current and recently sold comparable car listings to determine a car’s Instant Market Value and how each listing compares to the current market. Unlike many other listings sites, DealFinder’s search results are unbiased by listings providers.

About CarGurus LLC

Located in Harvard Square, Cambridge MA, CarGurus LLC is an online automotive community founded by Langley Steinert, formerly Chairman and co-founder TripAdvisor LLC. CarGurus' founders, board, and investors bring a wealth of experience from such leading web companies as TripAdvisor, eBay, Expedia, and Yahoo. For more information about CarGurus visit us at

Amy Mueller