After more than 40 years of buying and selling vehicles in dealerships across the country, Rod Buscher needed a new challenge. He started Blinker and said goodbye to the “brick and mortar” buying and selling traditions of the automotive industry.
With the ever-expanding of business transactions available on computers, Buscher in 2013 joined a few other industry pioneers. With Blinker and similar apps like newcomer Fair consumers can safely acquire or sell vehicles — and all of the paperwork involved — via apps.
“With Blinker you can do an entire transaction on a smartphone without going to a bank or a dealership,” said Buscher, who recently attended the Los Angeles Auto Show as did representatives from Fair. “And that’s what we’ve accomplished.”
Acquiring a vehicle via an app isn’t new. But Blinker and Fair are the latest online businesses to streamline the process.
“Blinker was started to take away that tension and anxiety from buying and selling a car privately,” said Buscher, whose company is based in Denver, Colo. “Most people have been able to transact through Craigslist, but it’s not a very safe or secure environment. And it doesn’t have the tools to complete the transactions.”
The two companies have different strategies, but their goals are the same: to reduce the often dreadful consumer car dealership experience.
“It’s a flexible ownership mode,” said Jennifer Parke, co-founder of Fair, based in Santa Monica. “We realize the younger generation doesn’t want to own much anymore, even for a year.
“They want to ability to travel or move around. They don’t want to be stuck with a long-term commitment. There’s a trend for flexibility and to try different brands.”
With the Fair app, cars no more than five years old and with less than 50,000 miles, are available. Parke likes to call them “nearly new.” Taxes, insurance, warranty, maintenance are all included. Financing is available.
“You know what the payment is going to be when you pick up the car the dealership,” said Parke. “There’s nothing hidden. It’s transparency for the consumer.”
Fair is currently only available in Southern California. Expansion to San Francisco is expected by the end of 2017. Blinker is available in Colorado and Texas. California and other states are expected to join the network early next year.
Buscher explained a potential transaction begins with the seller providing one image of the vehicle’s license plate. The make and model and all of the equipment, miles and approximate value are known in a few seconds The seller then provides their driver’s license information and vehicle’s history is quickly gathered.
The owner can then post the vehicle to Blinker. Additional images, a brief description and a map to pinpoint the vehicle’s location are required. The seller and buyer negotiate. The seller gets the full purchase price; Blinker assumes payments from the buyer. Transactions are often completed at “safe zones.”
“I could sit here with you and I could buy your car in less than 30 minutes,” said Buscher.
Blinker has processed about 3,500 transactions. The application has 150,000 downloads. Vehicles can date to 1981 when 17-digit vehicle identification numbers (VINs) began.
“Because I have been in the business so long to be able to change the way this business is done is pretty exciting to me,” he said.“To empower people with the knowledge I have, well, let’s face, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s, it wasn’t a fair fight. The dealers had all of the information; customers had very little. Now, buyers and sellers have all the information.”
Article Last Updated: December 18, 2017.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.