Consumer Reports Build & Buy car buying service: How does it work?

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If you’re looking for a new car but dread facing the intense sales pitch of a car salesperson, technology can now make at least part of the process a breeze.

Consumer Reports’ car buying service — called Build & Buy — is touted as a major way to ease the stress associated with purchasing a vehicle. The secret sauce of it all is the transparency in pricing.

Consumer Reports Build & Buy Car Buying Service: What you need to know

Consumer Reports’ build & buy model features a number of services to help people looking to purchase a vehicle. They include:

  • The ability to see what others have paid for the car
  • Member discounts
  • Benefits of a nationwide network
  • Consumer Reports recommendations

We gave Consumer Reports’ Build & Buy Car Buying Service a test run to see how it can make the process of purchasing a vehicle run smoother.

First off, the Build & Buy Car Buying Service is provided by TrueCar , which uses its dealer network to find you the vehicle you want. If you already subscribe to Consumer Reports, the service comes at no additional charge.

Although Consumer Reports has no direct contacts or financial ties with any dealerships, the site does get paid a flat fee from TrueCar for every vehicle sold through the car buying service by a participating dealer.

How Consumer Reports’ Build & Buy Car Buying Service works

The big deal about this car buying service is that it eliminates gotchas: You get to see the actual price of a vehicle — including fees, incentives and accessories — before you buy.

It works like this: You go to CR’s Build & Buy Service wepage and select the make of the vehicle you want, the model and your ZIP code.

Consumer Reports buy car buying service review: Worth it?

Once entered those things, the button on the right will turn green and read “See Savings.”


When you click that, it will open a new page that shows you the vehicle’s MSRP, your market’s average price, and a discounted member price that you can expect to pay.

Consumer Reports buy car buying service review: Worth it?

If you click the green button, you’ll have to input your phone number so that CR can give you a specialized price.

Here’s something to be aware of: If you input your phone number, your contact info will be immediately forwarded to area dealers, who will call you. Here’s how that screen looks:

Consumer Reports buy car buying service review: Worth it?

I was suggested three Nissan Leafs in the area and I clicked on one of them to delve deeper into the pricing and features.

When I did, it said, “You unlocked the TruePrice on this vehicle … A TrueCar Certified Dealer will reach out to you shortly with your personalized offers.”

Deep dive on pricing

Where CR’s car buying service excels is its deep dive on pricing. For any vehicle you select, you will be able to see all of the charges associated with the car, including freight delivery charge and base MSRP. This is something a dealer wouldn’t normally reveal to you.

Also, it shows guaranteed savings for being a CR member, as well as a Partner Discount. Here’s what those figures look like:

Consumer Reports buy car buying service review: Worth it?


Some of the smaller numbers, like wheel locks and nitrogen, may seem insignificant to some, but they add up.

CR says if your pricing breakdown includes things like “pre-delivery inspection,” “delivery,” “destination,” or “dealer prep” charges on a second window sticker, you should refuse to pay them.

Compare what others are paying

Another neat feature of the car buying service is you get to see what other buyers have shelled out for the same vehicle. The graphic will tell you whether you have been offered a great price or not.

Consumer Reports buy car buying service review: Worth it?

It’s important to note that there are some specific costs that aren’t included. This includes the amount you’ll pay for tax, title, license, and other governmental fees.

Final thought

After getting in the driver’s seat of Consumer Reports’ Build & Buy service, the question I’m left with is, “Does it really make car buying any easier?”

Sure, it reveals some obscure charges and pricing that makes the process not as painful. But you still have to interact with aggressive dealers, albeit armed with more knowledge than you had before.

The main benefit is that the service offers a greater degree of pricing transparency: It itemizes many of the fees and extra charges that you might not normally think to question if you were on a dealership lot trying to buy a car.

Is that worth the time it takes to research a vehicle on the car buying service? I think it is.

Furthermore, if price is the key factor for you when searching for a vehicle, the Build & Buy model will empower you like few other tools.


Now that you know a little more about this car buying tool, check out what money expert Clark Howard has to say about buying a new car.

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