When choosing a new car, many people still opt for the traditional dealership experience. Even though online alternatives are catching up fast, the dealership is still the dominant way to buy a car (some state laws prohibit direct sales). And with more than 130,000 new and used car dealerships across the U.S., the most common car-buying approach isn’t likely to change anytime soon.
Therefore, choosing a good dealership can be tricky. With so many to choose from, how can a car buyer be sure to identify one that’s trustworthy and capable? Luckily, the modern-day consumer has DealerRater. Let’s explore the features of this unique platform and how it helps consumers make more informed choices about which dealership to work with.
What is DealerRater?
In simple terms, DealerRater is a website that aggregates multiple reviews of a particular dealership into a combined profile of that business. Potential customers can then research this information. Notably, DealerRater reviews are from individual consumers, not feedback from third parties.
This feature is part of what sets this site apart. The idea is that a consumer best connects with a fellow consumer rather than faceless companies. Furthermore, DealerRater reviews rely on the real experiences of those who’ve purchased or serviced their cars from a specific dealership. This feedback regularly mentions staff members by name. It’s a level of detail that offers real insight into a dealership and how it operates.
In total, DealerRater currently contains more than 7.5 million reviews. The ratings are often used on other prominent platforms as an authoritative source on dealership quality. These partner sites include Cars.com, Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book, and J.D. Power.
Using the Site
Using DealerRate is simple. At the homepage, select “Dealer Reviews” (see further below for other functions), followed by the make of car that’s of interest. In addition to the listing for major automaker brands, the site also includes leasing companies and independent (used) car sellers. Once the selection gets made, enter a zip code and click “Search.”
The results page reveals a ranked list that is filterable using a minimum rating or within 250 miles of the zip code. So-called “Certified Dealer” entries will always appear first, and one featured review (positive or negative) will appear within the main entry. In addition, the information will indicate whether individual dealership staff members have ratings (good or bad). These details can be helpful when determining what salesperson to contact.
Click on the “Read More” tab to see additional detailed information about the dealership. Details include an overview of the business, employee specifics, consumer reviews, and available inventory.
DealerRater Certified Dealer Program
DealerRater also operates its Certified Dealer Program, whose members receive an additional “Certified Dealer” badge on the accompanying dealership entry on the website. There are three prominent areas of competence required to become a Certified Dealer include:
- Quality of customer service: Assessing customer reviews to see if the dealer is responsive to complaints, finding areas of improvement, and addressing any issues.
- Integrity and transparency: Ensuring that the dealership works with consumers to resolve problems and is actively involved in improving the customer experience.
- Learning best practices: Members of the dealership team have completed best practices training to improve the business’s overall level of service.
A Certified Dealer badge affords the qualifying dealership a place at the top of the rankings.
DealerRater tries to distinguish itself by highlighting the careful process by which reviews get screened for authenticity before becoming part of the platform. This is vital, of course, because the importance of online reviews can’t be overstated in the modern age. Gone are the days when online reviews were just a fringe consideration as most people looked to family and friends or magazines and television for an authoritative take. This is the age of consumer power and consumer information sharing.
The first step in the process uses the site’s automated filters to eliminate obviously fake or untrustworthy comments. The ones that make it through the automated filters are then read by content moderators. If any of these posts seem suspicious, the moderators will investigate further to determine ultimate validity. Only those comments that pass both the automated steps and the human content moderator assessment will get confirmed to the site.
Other Search Features
In addition to dealership reviews, DealerRater offers additional resources. A “Service Review” search covers ratings of dealer service departments and staff. There are also vehicles listed for sale and details on car recalls. In all, it makes for a reasonably comprehensive review site to learn about car brands and their dealers.
Benefits of DealerRater
There’s no shortage of online car reviews these days. Yet, it’s easy to overlook the importance of the overall dealership experience when purchasing a vehicle. Many people, especially Millennials, don’t like the idea of visiting a dealership (hence the rise of outfits like Carvana ). These shoppers find the encounter tedious, tiring, and intimidating (factors that have helped CarMax and similar operations with a no-haggle environment). Plus, the concern about paying too much or experiencing pressure to make a purchase can be overwhelming.
Therefore, the DealerRater platform offers valuable insight into consumer experiences at particular dealerships. This information can help avoid a negative experience or at least set expectations.
Another key DealerRater benefit is keeping dealerships accountable. The interesting thing about this platform is how it’s not just about rating dealerships but also individual dealership staff members. It could be, for instance, that a dealership may not have a stellar reputation, but one or two employees may be highly ranked. This helps set a potential pathway for working with this particular business.
With dealerships facing public customer scrutiny and review platforms getting more users, there’s a greater likelihood of bad dealerships getting weeded out and good ones prospering. This creates a more robust and dynamic consumer marketplace. On top of that, a consumer has a visible and straightforward way to hold a dealership accountable for a bad experience. Genuine complaints make it to the site and become featured very prominently. Dealerships worth their salt will learn from negative reviews and do more to reach out and resolve customer issues.
Another benefit of this platform is how comprehensive it is. In addition to offering reviews on most new-car dealerships and many used car sellers, DealerRater lets shoppers compare car listings with dealership reviews. It’s an approach that fosters confidence for the consumer. Importantly, everything on the consumer side of DealerRater is free.
Are There Limitations to DealerRater?
A look across the internet reveals speculation that reviews on DealerRate may not be legitimate. For years, detractors claim that many positive dealership reviews result from a small group of commenters or even one individual, pointing to writing style as evidence. These critics also point out that most consumers with positive experiences don’t go out of their way to leave positive reviews. These feedback sites, they contend, are more of an engine for negative comments.
Could it also be that dealerships have the opportunity to pay for the suppression of negative feedback and promotion of positive reviews? As it stands, there is no concrete evidence for this. Everything points to the comments on DealerRater to be legitimate. Claims to the contrary appear based on unfounded speculation.
The best thing a car shopper can do if they’re unsure about feedback on DealerRater is to check for comments on other platforms like Google and Yelp. If these reviews match, then chances are everything is above board. However, if there’s a vast disparity between the feedback across multiple sites, dig deeper to see if something is amiss.