Buying a car is a pain. Especially if you're looking to save some cash by purchasing something used. You end up scouring tons of random Craigslist listings and dreading the moment a used car dealer sits you down with the hyper-aggressive loan officer. Fortunately, there's a new way to buy a vehicle that doesn't even involve you leaving the house.
Based out of San Francisco, Shift will deliver a car to the home of a potential buyer for them to test-drive. If you schedule one of these drives and decide that this is your new whip, you can buy it right then and there using the delivery person's iPad. No driving across town, the county, or the state to roll around in a vehicle and more importantly no pushy sales or financing people.
Launched in 2013, Shift joined a growing number of automotive startups hoping to change the status quo. In the car-selling market, it's joined by Carvana, which also delivers a car to owners but requires you opt to buy it first. Shift's biggest competitor was the defunct Beepi, which did the same thing as Shift, but shuttered and sold for parts.
So while it's currently the only player that'll come to your home or office to let you test drive a car, it's certainly not going to be the last. There's no real reason why an automaker couldn't nudge its dealers to use its own version of an app for scheduled off-site test-drives. But that might be ok with Shift.
Co-founder and CEO George Arison told Engadget that in the future, there's a potential for someone with an inventory of cars in a market the company wouldn't necessarily enter to be a super-seller on Shift using the startup's platform. Sort of like the super-sellers on eBay that use the auction site to sell their goods without having to launch their own sites or deal with e-commerce issues.
If you're a used car dealer in a place like Wichita, Kansas, where Shift might not open its own office, the idea of being the one place in town that makes it super easy for potential customers to buy a car could be too good to pass up.
With millennials making up 50 percent of Shift's customer base, it should be on the radar of any dealer or automaker looking to appeal to a demographic that's become accustomed to nearly everything being delivered to their home. It's no wonder that BMW's i Venture is an investor in the company. The company is currently making a profit on vehicles it sells in Los Angeles and San Francisco. It is working on making its San Diego location profitable.
Arison isn't content with just facilitating the sales of cars. He sees Shift evolving to a concierge service that tells drivers that their cars needs new tires, an oil change or even a wash. The system would schedule someone to pick up their car, have the maintenance work done and return it.
Like most things that involve cars and is outside the traditional model, there are regulations. Each state has different rules on how companies sell cars. So Shift and other startups will have to navigate a patchwork of laws. Texas, for example, is difficult to break into because the state is traditional dealer friendly. States like Texas have franchise laws that are meant to keep automakers from edging dealers out of the market by selling directly to consumers the way Tesla does. The by-product of those laws is that companies like Shift also have difficulty entering those markets.
Shift currently only operates in California. It shuttered its East Coast sales offices to focus on one market with hopes of expanding to other states while navigating the legal systems of those locations. But if dealers start using the same type of system or use Shift's platform, it's likely because your legislators have had a change of heart about how a car can be sold in their district.
So like food, clothing, humans who'll do your chores and even weed, your next vehicle might be delivered to your house and purchased from an iPad while you take a 30-minute break from watching Stranger Things. And frankly, that's better than being trapped in a small room at a dealership while a hyper salesperson uses illogical math you trick you into buying something you can't really afford. The last thing you need is stress while dropping a huge wad of cash on a car.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Beepi was acquired by Fair. That deal fell through and the company was sold for parts.