Consumer-to-consumer used-car marketplace BestOffer.com officially opened today, with a fully functional Web site set to go live in February. BestOffer.com’s model combines e-commerce and online auctions with real-world inspections and test drives.
“Right now, buying or selling a used car is a zone of pain,” said Ted Simon, vice president of marketing for the San Francisco-based company. “We want to be an objective, helpful, knowledgeable resource.”
BestOffer.com has been beta testing a limited version of the site. At first, auctions will be limited to the San Francisco area. It plans to roll out in additional cities in major markets in the spring. A local ad campaign breaks on Jan. 22.
The centerpiece of the site will be used-car auctions. Sellers can list vehicles anonymously or with their contact information. Buyers will be able to search listings by location, price, model and condition.
The site’s major innovation is providing information for buyers to evaluate that condition, with a system that blends nuts and bolts with Internet communications. When a seller lists a car, BestOffer.com sends a mechanic to make a detailed physical inspection that includes removing wheels to check brakes and testing all electrical equipment. The inspection can be done at the seller’s home, workplace or any other suitable location within the geographic area.
The pit crew’s tool kit includes a laptop computer and a PDA, used to enter more than 100 points of information. The inspector takes digital photos of the front, back and sides of the auto. All this information is posted on the Web site and is available for inspection by prospective buyers.
Sellers choose the duration of the auction and a reserve price–the lowest price they’ll accept–that is kept secret. If the car sells through BestOffer.com, the seller pays the company a fee, pegged to the reserve, not the selling price. For reserves up to $4,000, it’s a flat $150; above that, it’s 2 cents per dollar, so that the seller’s fee on a reserve price of $8,000, for example, would be $230. The buyer pays a flat fee of $99 at the time of purchase.
The site will include information about such things as the title transfer process, tips for getting a car ready for sale and safety information. There will be commerce partners, including Insuremarket, Mountain View, Calif., and Progressive Insurance, Mayfield Village, Ohio.
The ad campaign, with a tagline of “Looking out for used-car buyers and sellers,” was produced by agency of record Citron Haligman Bedecarrƒ of San Francisco. Said agency chairman Tom Bedecarrƒ: “Because the service has clear advantages, it’s very straightforward advertising, which is a change of pace these days. We’re showing people side by side the old and new ways to buy and sell a car.” n