The used car industry is massive. There are 40 million used cars sold per year in the US representing $320 billion in value and $70 billion in industry revenues. The average household buys a $8,000 used car every 3 years. This is the second largest household expenditure after housing.
Given how massive the industry is, it’s shocking how awful the used car buying and selling process is. To sell a car online, owners have to endure the pain of taking pictures, describing their car and posting them on Craigslist, eBay Motors or Auto Trader. They have to receive people at their home with all the security risks this entails, especially for women. After showing the the car to buyers, sellers have to organize getting paid and deal with the paperwork to transfer possession. This is a huge pain especially if there is a lien on the car. Alternatively if they deal with dealers, sellers get 10 to 20% less than the KBB trade-in price (which is already very low) and have to spend hours in the process. Dealers rarely give offers on the phone forcing them to visit 3 or 4 dealers to get a reasonable price. Let’s be honest, no one ever said they looked forward to spending 5 hours with a car salesman!
For buyers it’s even worse. There is no real way to buy a car online. After doing an average of 9 hours of research, buyers have to reach out to sellers to organize a test drive. This entails further safety concerns, especially if the payment is in cash. Buyers also have to deal with registration and financing. If they are buying offline, they spend an average of another 9 hours at the dealer. They go through a lengthy negotiation process. If they good negotiators they end up paying the KBB retail price, which on average is 54% more than what the dealer bought the car for. Worse buying a used car is fraught with risk given that sellers have more information about the car than buyers, and it’s very possible that the car is a lemon. Most states don’t have cool off periods and used cars are not returnable once purchased.
As I mentioned in my article The Evolution of Marketplaces, a new generation of marketplaces is emerging that focuses on providing delightful consumer experiences in categories that were essentially broken. This is best exemplified by Uber’s massive improvement of the taxi Read More →