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September 06, 2016

Used-Car Virtual Shopping: A New Buying Reality

1_used_car_virtual_shopping_carvanaIt was my dinosaur moment. Suddenly, it was clear the world was unrecognizeable as I knew it. I can choose to take the ride or become extinct. The realization occurred at a social media conference on shopping for used cars.

I learned that artificial intelligence is changing the meaning of reality, and 80 percent of all financial transactions will be done on a phone in the very near future. How will these dramatic shifts impact autos, I wondered? Well, it turns out, it has already changed the car buying landscape.

The reality that consumers do their pre-shopping for cars online is old news. But recently, it has become possible for a shopper to buy, sell, and finance a used car without ever leaving home. Vroom has been selling and financing cars online for a while. And newer startups are entering the scene.

According to Lindsey Duke, public affairs at, "Carmax is testing different components of the selling process online to better understand our customers’ needs and one of the new capabilities we are currently testing is offering our customers online financing. We believe being prequalified for financing before the store visit may help build the customer’s confidence and will make the in-store shopping experience faster and more enjoyable." 

Ally Financial Inc., an automotive financial services company, offers consumer auto financing products for used vehicles that are purchased through relatively new virtual showrooms, Beepi and Carvana. Online financing helps make the entire online purchase transparent, safe, economical, and hassle free -- could we take that a step further and say fun? Yes, you could say that. And shouldn't buying a car be that way? was founded in 2014 to sell high-quality, vetted, used cars. Sellers list vehicles including make, model, year, trim line, mileage, paint, options, and VIN. The owner writes a description by answering questions about the functions, bodywork, cosmetic details, tires, wheels, engine condition, title, and whether or not the seller has a record of service performed on the vehicle.

Then Beepi sends an accredited inspector to vet the car. "We ask that inspectors have at least three Automotive Society of Engineers certifications or have gone through a dealership certification program such as the BMW Step Program," said Lisa Broock, spokesperson for Beepi. "We also require that inspectors have a minimum AA degree in automotive technology or a related field and at least three years of experience. After they are hired, they go through the Beepi Certification Program, which entails 300 hours during 8-12 weeks of classroom and field instruction. We have a 240-point inspection that a car must pass before being listed. The majority of our vehicles are six years old or less and have no more than 60,000 miles on them."

As soon as a vehicle passes Beepi inspection, 360-degree photos are taken of the exterior and interior. Then it is made available to the Beepi community online. Beepi guarantees that it will find a buyer for the car within 30 days, or it will buy it directly from you.

It also manages the payment and the paperwork. Shoppers purchase the car using online financing available through Beepi; customers across the credit spectrum are presented with finance options appropriate to their qualification.

2_used_car_virtual_shopping_carvana_deliveryBeepi details the car, registers it for you, and delivers it to your door with a ribbon on it. Consumers have 10 days to drive the vehicle up to 1,000 miles and then return it if they are not satisfied. "We have a return rate of under 3 percent," says Broock. "Some of those returns are because the buyer didn't check with the spouse before buying a Porsche, or some exotic vehicle." -- a division of DriveTime Automotive Group Inc. a used-car retailer and finance company -- is another online location for purchasing a used car. Carvana has a unique spin: It has the first vending machine, built in Nashville. A buyer puts a coin in the vending machine and the car that they bought becomes theirs. Carvana even finances a plane ticket to Nashville, up to $200.

You see my point? It's another world where kicking tires isn't really kicking tires anymore. 


Kate McLeod-headshotby Kate McLeod for Motor Matters

Kate has written for magazines and newspapers for over 20 years. She has written for More,,, Houston Chronicle, Motion, Chief Executive, The New York Daily News, The New York Sun, and Her column, GirlDriver, USA is syndicated in seven newspapers in Upstate New York. Ms. McLeod is the author of Beetlemania, The Car That Captured the Hearts of Millions. She holds an MFA from Catholic University in Washington, D.C. and is also a playwright.   She is former First Vice President of the International Motor Press Association and a member of both The Authors and Dramatists Guilds.


Did you know that you can find used car values at the AskPatty Car Buying Service? 

Powered by ClearBook, all you have to do is enter your year, make and model, and answer a few questions about the condition of your vehicle, and you'll find fair market values for your used car. Please take a look, and let us know how it works for you!!


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