SAN ANTONIO – Laurie Johnson just bought a used car, spending thousands of dollars on a cherry red Toyota Prius she never even laid eyes on until a flatbed trailer delivered it, complete with big gold bow on top, to her driveway.
“I think it’s adorable,” she said. “I can’t wait to drive it.”
That’s right. She’d never even taken the car on a test drive.
Johnson bought the car online through Beepi.com, a California-based startup that just cruised into the San Antonio market.
“We’re really out here to revolutionize the car market,” said Peter Mosher, Beepi’s post-inspection specialist who personally delivered the Prius. “There’s so many things wrong it (used car industry). It’s broken for sellers. It’s broken for buyers."
Beepi aims to fix it by taking the hassle and haggle out of used car transactions for both buyers and sellers.
“I remember when I bought a car, I bought a used car by myself, and I was so terrified of being ripped off,” Johnson said.
How does the online marketplace work? It begins with a seller.
Jim Westgate used Beepi to sell his wife’s BMW.
“It’s so much easier,” he said. “You don’t have to have people coming over here, driving the car. Nobody suspicious is coming to look at it or anything like that.”
A Beepi inspection specialist came to Westgate’s home to check it out.
“They actually do about a two-hour inspection of the car,” Westgate said.
Beepi only accepts cars that are 2006 or newer and have fewer than 60,000 miles.
“They give you a price, a firm price,” he said. “If they don’t sell the car within 30 days at that price, they actually pay you for the car at that price.”
The 2013 BMW sold in two days. Westgate said Beepi came, handed his wife a check and took the car.
The company also promises to buy the car for a minimum $1,000 more than a dealer’s offer, provided that offer is in writing. In fact, Westgate said Beepi offered significantly more than an area used car dealership. Beepi profits by marking up the price of the car between three and nine percent.
The pictures, as well as vehicle history, are posted on the website, Beepi’s virtual showroom. Prospective buyers can browse through a wide range of vehicles, from Porsches and Mercedes to Honda’s and Fiats.
All buyers like Laurie have to do is browse, click and wait.
While Johnson admits it was an unconventional way to make a large purchase, the clincher was Beepi’s 10-day return policy.
If she doesn’t want it, Beepi comes to get it and refunds her down payment.
“Normally, you just go and buy a car and you’re stuck with it,” Johnson said. “This is a better way.”
No matter how you buy a used car, consumer advocates suggest having an independent mechanic check it out.