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      02-14-2019, 03:17 PM   #1
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Really could use your input about the current online car shopping experience

I’m working on a startup in the automotive retail space. It would help me immensely if you could please share some of your thoughts about the current online car shopping experience – either here in this thread or via PM. This will help me in two ways. First, if my thinking is wrong and the experience isn’t currently as bad as I think it is, I’d like to know so I can focus on something else. However, if you think the online car shopping experience can be a lot better, I’d love to know so I can let potential investors know it’s not just me – other informed car buyers are also frustrated with the status quo.

Here’s my take:

The car ownership lifecycle consists of a few steps.
  1. Research and decide what car you want to buy. This includes specific vehicle information (colors, trims, options, packages, etc.), and for pre-owned cars, it also includes information about the vehicle’s ownership and usage history, condition, and modifications
  2. Find a car that meets your criteria
  3. Buy the car
  4. Drive, maintain, and love the car
  5. Sell the car (optional)

I think the biggest pain point – for me at least – is finding a car that meets the criteria I decided on in the first step. Even with new cars, there’s no way to search for an exact match at the “vehicle configurator” level (e.g. can’t reliably search for a car with the Competition Package, carbon ceramic brakes, specific interior options, wheel options, factory colors, and so on). You have to set up the search the best you can, then look at pictures, read descriptions, use VIN decoders, etc.

On the pre-owned side, it’s even more challenging, because vehicle history, condition, and modifications all come into play and are all almost entirely unsearchable. There’s also no way to search for cars exclusively – i.e. show me cars without nav or without a moonroof.

And of course, listings often have incorrect information, as anyone who has searched for a three-pedal E46 M3 knows.

All this leads to hours wasted clicking into listings, reading descriptions, scrutinizing photos, decoding VINs, and contacting sellers.

I won’t get into my solution – that’s for another post. I just want to get your thoughts based on your own car shopping experience. Is it frustrating and time-consuming for you, too? If so, do you think this is just a “car enthusiast” problem? I think it’s a problem for any knowledgeable, informed car buyer, not just car enthusiasts. There are plenty of people who are uninformed and uninvolved car buyers who have no clue, but my sense is that this is something most people making a thoughtful, informed decision run into whenever they’re shopping for a car – enthusiast or not.

What do you think? Also, are there any "features" you’d like to see? Or is anyone doing it really well?

Last edited by ///BYU; 02-14-2019 at 04:49 PM. Reason: Updated title
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      02-14-2019, 03:31 PM   #2
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Sounds kind of like VinWiki. Might be worth checking out. At least for identification purposes.

To your question, I do think it's monstly an enthusiast's problem, as a lot of people type in "Blue Honda" and buy the blue Honda.

That does shrink your consumer count. I think, however, the bigger issue is getting people to feed that information into your service and use it, unless you plan on collecting that data automatically like autotempest but getting into the nitty gritty of the specs using the VIN.
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      02-14-2019, 04:44 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Soterios View Post
To your question, I do think it's mostly an enthusiast's problem, as a lot of people type in "Blue Honda" and buy the blue Honda.

That does shrink your consumer count.
Thanks, Soterios. What do you think about the buyers in between "car enthusiasts" and "blue Honda" people? I'm in total agreement there are a lot of uninformed and uninvolved car buyers out there. What about non-enthusiasts who are knowledgable and informed car buyers? They're not really into cars in general, but they're into their car - especially during the purchase cycle - making sure they buy something that fits their lifestyle. Everything I've researched tells me this is a sizable percentage of the buying public. They do their research, they know exactly what they want and what a fair price is. If you had to guess, how sizable, percentage-wise, do you think that segment is? And do you think they find the current shopping options at least somewhat frustrating?
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      02-14-2019, 05:32 PM   #4
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It depends on the level of granularity you are looking to provide. We nutty enthusiasts are the only ones who will care or even know that there are some cars (i.e. 1M) that received nav even though it wasn’t on the spec sheet. Or as another example with the Golf Rs there are a small subset of early production 2017s that had only certain components of the Driver’s Assistance Package.
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      02-14-2019, 09:05 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ///BYU View Post
Thanks, Soterios. What do you think about the buyers in between "car enthusiasts" and "blue Honda" people? I'm in total agreement there are a lot of uninformed and uninvolved car buyers out there. What about non-enthusiasts who are knowledgable and informed car buyers? They're not really into cars in general, but they're into their car - especially during the purchase cycle - making sure they buy something that fits their lifestyle. Everything I've researched tells me this is a sizable percentage of the buying public. They do their research, they know exactly what they want and what a fair price is. If you had to guess, how sizable, percentage-wise, do you think that segment is? And do you think they find the current shopping options at least somewhat frustrating?
I don't disagree entirely with your statement about research, but I think it's just very generic for that segment (the sizable one)

I think what they research heavily is the brand, model, and year. Trim packages and options I think are a very distant checkbox.

As far as frustration, I assume it might be... well there. Lots of new car search sites have popped up in recent years, so there must be demand not being met.
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