Car Pro Advice: The Internet Cannot Be Trusted

Car Pro Advice: The Internet Cannot Be Trusted
Photo Credit: Olivier Le Moal/Shutterstock
Every day, someone says to me something like “I read on the Internet that this car had this problem, and this car had that problem, etc”. After all, if it is on the Internet, it must be true, right? Not so fast. I can go online and find bad things about every vehicle ever made. Remember too, the happy owners don’t typically post things online, because they are happy. When you look for problems with a particular car, you get a very skewed view…only the bad stuff, which may be a small fraction of the people who own a particular car.

Many of the things you see on the Internet are false and scammers must be doing something right. There does not seem to be a slowdown in people getting ripped off. Hopefully, most people are able to spot the scams these days, yet when it comes to automobiles and in some cases, car dealerships, people tend to believe everything they read.

A recent Car Pro Show caller saw a price online somewhere in the Northeast, and he was in Texas. As I explained, vehicles cost dealers the same all over the country. If a dealer far away is substantially cheaper than local dealers, it is most likely a bait-and-switch price. They only have one vehicle at that price OR they use a lot of rebates for which most don’t qualify.

Then there is the problem with believing blogs and other things written online. We do not know who wrote the information or if it is even remotely correct. This scenario plays out all too often: a salesperson at the local Ford store is bored and decides to blog bad things about the Chevy Malibu. Perhaps that same bored salesperson decides to blog great things about Ford Fusion. I know for a fact some dealerships write horrible things about their competition online and somebody out there is going to buy into it and base an important decision on what they read.

On the radio show, I warn people all the time not to value their own trade-in by going to Kelley Blue Book, or looking at similar cars on a site like AutoTrader. Neither of these plans generally works out very well. While the new car info at KBB is good, their own website admits that “the values we provide are based on several factors including, but not limited to, the current marketplace which can be erratic and inconsistent.”

People tell me all the time they see cars “just like theirs” selling for a certain amount of money, always more than a dealer is offering them as a trade-in. I have to slow them down and make them aware that they are looking at asking prices. That doesn’t mean the vehicle actually sold for that price, sold at all, or it could have ultimately sold for thousands less. This just isn’t a good criterion upon which to base anything.

Some things never change in the automotive industry. One thing I tell people on the air constantly is to forget what a website says a used car is worth. No matter how new or old, no matter what brand, a car is only worth what someone is willing to write a check for it, and not a single one of these sites will buy your car, so keep that in perspective.

All this is not to say there isn’t good automotive information available online. I think is a good website for doing research, but as with everything else, you really need to keep in mind that much of what you find is opinion, not fact.

Studies suggest most consumers spend thirteen hours researching cars before they go look. I have no problem with this at all, but nothing will ever take the place of actually driving a new car to see how it fits you and your family. That is why most of us do not buy shoes online; we need to try them on first. Car reviews, yes, even mine, are just one person’s opinion.

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