Although plenty of American consumers do a fair amount of online research before buying a car, the majority of consumers probably wouldn’t think to turn to Google when actually making a vehicle purchase, so it may come as a surprise that an estimated $15 million cars are sold each year on websites like eBay and Cars.com. The obvious problem with these websites, which often provide a virtual marketplace for sellers without imposing many regulations, is that buyers end up purchasing cars without accurate history reports, cars with malfunctioning parts, or even cars that have been stolen.
But a few different start-up businesses in California’s Bay Area are out to change the way vehicle sellers and buyers interact online, and if they become successful, the online car selling trend may just pick up even more.
One start-up called Shift has recently been founded by a group of Stanford graduates in the Bay Area, and this service functions as a third-party in every car sale without actually buying or selling any cars. The staff at Shift will take care of the little details involved with a car sale — e.g., bringing the car to the potential customer for a test drive, putting customers in touch with lenders, and conducting a rigorous inspection.
Two other start-ups in the Bay Area — Beepi and Carlypso — function in a very similar way to Shift, and all aim to provide a safer way to buy cars online. Although some consumers may not be thrilled with involving another party in a transaction (which obviously increases the overall cost of buying a car online), it’s clear that generic online re-selling websites aren’t doing enough to curb the sales of broken and stolen vehicles.
By providing trustworthy virtual marketplaces for car sales, these Bay Area start-ups aren’t just providing consumers with more security, more choices, and better deals — they’re also supporting multiple businesses that are involved in the online car sales industry.
“Online purchases were a large portion of of the Consumer Sales program at DAS but the numbers have decreased in the last few years possible due to a higher risk of possible scams and fraudulent transaction,” said Jon Kreuger, service quality director at Dependable Auto Shippers. “It is a great idea theses companies have come up with and hopefully this portion of online sales will increase and the Auto Shipping industry will grow.”
Only time will tell if these services end up benefiting the car industry in the long run, but considering how many problems have been caught with less trustworthy websites, these new services seem to be a great start.