Car Lister's car-buying platform doesn't sidestep auto dealers; it includes them.
Car Lister is unlike its competitors—in just about every way—in the increasingly crowded online used car marketplace.
DreamWare, the parent company that built Car Lister, isn’t a product of Silicon Valley. The company is based in Naples, Fla. Although in true tech-startup style, three developers who helped build the e-commerce platform all live in a house together (they even have a dog).
The company roster isn’t chockablock full of Stanford and MIT alums, nor has it attracted the same kind of headline-making venture capital. Of the company’s 37 employees, five are ex-military, including founder Bryan Harmon. Nearly half of its employees are women, two of whom are designers. To date, the company has raised $6.5 million in seed money from individuals.
The more important difference, however, is the company’s business model. Unlike many of its rivals, Car Lister isn’t trying to cut out or sidestep automotive dealers; it includes them.
“To be successful online you have to understand how to scale, especially in the automotive industry,” Harmon told Fortune. “You need to know the industry, you can’t just come in and bypass them altogether. They have all the inventory.”
Now the company is working to make the financing—often the slowest, most arduous part of car sales—a speedier process. The company announced Wednesday that it has partnered with eLend Solutions to integrate an online credit application product into the Car Lister platform. The upshot? The time it takes to pay for a car should be minutes, not hours.
Car Lister, which launched in October 2014, allows dealers and consumers to instantly list, buy, and sell new and pre-owned vehicles directly from their mobile device. Once users provide the vehicle identification number and answer a few questions, the application instantly generates titles and vehicle descriptions, allows for the upload of images and video, and includes a full vehicle history report at no cost. The whole process takes about two minutes, Harmon says. The service is free for individuals. Car Lister charges dealers a flat $999 fee.
Car Lister also created a built-in social network for car enthusiasts, experts, manufacturers, businesses, sellers, and buyers. Users can message buyers and give them a virtual tour of the vehicle using video streaming applications like FaceTime.
While the Car Lister platform makes it easier and faster to list a car for sale, there hasn’t been a process for paying for the vehicle—until now. Buyers either had to have the cash or go through the financing process with the dealer or another lender. Under the partnership, eLend Solutions’ system will be integrated into the Car Lister app. Buyers will be able receive instant pre-qualification and direct access to near-final payment terms from multiple lender programs through the Car Lister app without impacting their credit score. Buyers can select their loan preference, payment options, and term, and place a down payment to hold the vehicle.
In short, the customer will have financing squared away before walking into the dealership to pick up the car.
Pete MacInnis, CEO of eLend Solutions, told Fortune that Car Lister is one of a number of players that is bringing a renewed energy into the auto industry around improving the entire buying process and contributing to the “connected car-buying experience.” “We are actively engaging in companies not satisfied with the status quo,” MacInnis says.
Car Lister still faces a mountain of competition from a numerous companies, each one putting its own spin on buying and selling cars online. There are the car referrals sites like TrueCar and AutoTrader.com as well as online used car startups such as Beepi, Carvana, Shift Technologies, and Vroom—all of which have raised more money.
It’s also a relative newcomer. Car Lister rolled out its platform to dealers in January 2015, following a beta period with individual sellers and select dealerships in Colorado to test the platform.
Still, Car Lister has had success in the short time it’s been available to dealers and individuals—and former Morgan Stanley President Bob Scott is now its chairman. Today, the company has signed on 254 automotive dealers in 35 states. The company is also starting to see traction among dealers in using the FaceTime feature, which Harmon says creates a level of transparency that has not always been associated with the used car industry.
The company plans to continue to add features. A “buy now” button is under development and the company is testing interstate shipping. The goal is for the “buy now” button and shipping features to be integrated into the web app by the first quarter of 2016. Car Lister is also testing a third-party integration with a platform that allows users to schedule a mechanic to come to their home or office to fix their vehicle.