AutoNation Review: Should You Buy a Car Here?

July 20, 2018

buying a car through AutoNation

Some of the biggest used car sales companies have bizarre origin stories – CarMax was born out of Circuit City’s demise, and DriveTime was originally known as Ugly Duckling, of all things.

AutoNation is no different. In 1996, Republic Industries, a waste disposal company, expanded their business into the automotive sales industry. What began as the purchase of existing car dealerships in the late 1990s quickly expanded into a nationwide business for car buying, selling, and repairs.

Headquartered in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, AutoNation today has 360 locations in seventeen states and a strong online presence. Through their website, customers can sell their car, buy a new or used car, schedule an appointment for service, and even get pre-approved for a loan via text.

AutoNation States Served:

  • Texas
  • Arizona
  • Nevada
  • Virginia
  • Georgia
  • Ohio
  • Colorado
  • Oklahoma
  • Illinois
  • Minnesota
  • Maryland
  • Pennsylvania
  • Alabama
  • Tennessee
  • Florida
  • Washington
  • California

AutoNation Reviews

In terms of client satisfaction, Consumer Affairs rates them just under two stars. Customer complaints were commonly based around incomplete or undisclosed repairs made to the vehicle. However, most of the time this should be covered by the CarFax report included by AutoNation.

A lot of complaints also seem to originate from AutoNation’s service centers and car financing departments. Since few people love their bank or their mechanic, it’s understandable that these areas of the business could be contentious.

This is based off only 50 reviews over this past year which isn’t a strong representation being that they serve millions of customers throughout the year. The Better Business Bureau awarded them four out of five stars, although 71% of the reviews through their page were classified as “negative”. This shows that they are on top of their game to resolve any issues that may pop up.

Of course, people rarely log onto the internet to compliment a business, so these complaints are not necessarily representative of overall satisfaction.

Is AutoNation a Good Place to Buy a Car?

The actual “buy a car” process isn’t too unusual, though it’s a bit clunkier in our experience than some of the competition. You can filter cars by make, model, body style and price. You can also differentiate by new vs. used vehicles. Your experience with AutoNation will vary greatly depending on your location. There are no stores near us (Richmond, VA) and so the shopping experience was theoretical at best.

Giving AutoNation your name and email address will show you the “AutoNation Price” for the vehicle in question, which appears to be on par with other online dealers. Their selection is large enough that a search for a new Subaru Impreza yielded over two hundred relevant results. If you see a vehicle you like, they do offer a 72-hour hold option for free if you’re not able to buy at that moment.

autonation review of car buying process

AutoNation offers a CarFax report for their vehicles, as well as an option to check for open NHTSA safety recalls via the NHTSA website. They have several options for financing, which you can fill out online to save time in-store; they also have a payment calculator so you don’t drive one hundred miles to discover you can’t afford the car you want to purchase.

It may also help to get a few car insurance quotes for the car in mind to make sure the coverage plan fits within your budget.

Pro’s of Buying Your Car Through AutoNation:

  1. The ability to see the car before you buy. Like a traditional car dealership, AutoNation will allow you to see and test drive the car to see if it’s a good fit. And with over 360 locations, you should be able to find one near you.
  2. Haggle-free pricing. Similar to CarMax, AutoNation has migrated towards a fixed price model with its inventory. If you don’t like negotiating for the best price, this might be up your alley.
  3. AutoNation fully inspects and repairs its vehicles. All cars sold come with a five day, 250-mile money-back guarantee, and with the included CarFax report, you can be reasonably sure you’re making a safe purchase.
  4. Since they do not have agreements with other dealerships, the way TrueCar does, AutoNation will not pass your information along to third parties.
  5. The main feature that sets AutoNation apart from its counterparts in the space is its service centers; they service 35 different makes of vehicles and offer multi-tiered service plans for those looking for an extended auto warranty.

AutoNation Cons:

  1. A dealer or private seller might be more amenable to haggling, so if you enjoy that sort of thing (or have a very specific budget), a more personal experience might be a better fit.
  2. Compared to other online car buying websites, AutoNation hasn’t reinvented the wheel. We encountered some site errors while going through their process.
  3. AutoNation’s online car buying experience is a bit clunky, and not as user-friendly as some of the competition.
  4. Your experience with AutoNation will also vary greatly depending on your location.
  5. Customer reviews for AutoNation’s service centers are mixed. While you’re still likely to have a good experience there, it’s by no means guaranteed (just like with any mechanic.)

Should you Use AutoNation?

If you like the idea of browsing a wide variety of vehicles – particularly new ones – from your phone or computer, AutoNation is the place for you. The website allows you to filter several options and to browse their inventory. If a bundled service plan is important to you, and if there’s a dealership nearby, AutoNation might be a good fit for you.

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