Denver-based Blinker Inc.’s used-car sales app is spreading to two of the biggest U.S. states for car sales, but it’s taking a different approach learned from its debut in Colorado and Texas.
Blinker is offering auto-loan refinancing and sales of car fleets in California and Florida, focusing first on building deal volume and partnerships with others in the two states before going after their millions of individual car buyers and sellers.
“It’s important we have choice for our customers before we start marketing heavily,” said Rod Buscher, CEO and co-founder of Blinker. “The most difficult thing is getting people to learn about Blinker. Once people experience Blinker and buying or selling a car, they say they’ll never do it another way.”
Blinker’s app launched less than two years ago in Colorado and expanded to Texas last summer.
It lets people take a picture of a car with their mobile phone, get that specific vehicle’s value and then post an ad in Blinker to sell it.
Blinker makes the entire sales transaction digital — including title transfer and signatures — and arranges in-app financing for car buyers. Car owners can also use Blinker to refinance a vehicle.
The app competes with Cars.com, Facebook’s marketplace, Craig’s List and other online places to sell cars. But its competitive advantage, Buscher said, is letting car sellers and buyers do nearly all aspects of a used-car transaction on their mobile phone in minutes.
The 65-employee company is beginning to sell auto insurance through the app, and it expects offer insurance as a regular part of the in-app transactions within two months, he said.
Now Blinker is in talks with banks, credit unions and similar membership organizations about partnerships that would make Blinker a digital auto sales platform used to offer cars to their members, Buscher said.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “We’re just going down the road map we set out, and there’s no one like us. We’re the only fully transactional app.”
Buscher and other Blinker execs are veterans of the auto industry. Buscher co-founded the John Elway Dealerships chain and the Summit Automotive Group, a 32-dealership franchise that included Groove Automotive.
Blinker is finding healthy business with owners of large number of vehicles who find Blinker a better alternative than selling through used-car dealerships or auctions, Buscher said.
Sellers earn an average of $2,900 more by going with Blinker than they can by doing a dealership trade-in, and buyers save an average of $2,000 below dealer retail value, the company says.
One owner of a vehicle fleet in California listed 70 cars on the app, Buscher said.
Similarly, Manheim Auction, an Atlanta-based wholesale auctioneer of cars, has been listing vehicles through Blinker in Colorado and will be starting to do that in Austin and Houston, too.
Blinker gets a lender’s license in every market in which it operates. It may be able to jump past that requirement in some future states with licensed lenders as partners, Buscher said.
The ability to refinance cars is a big part of Blinker’s business, refinancing auto loans makes up 50 percent of the company’s business so far, Buscher said. It uses direct-mail marketing to offer refinancing of car loans. All that’s required is a picture of a car and a driver’s license submitted through the app.
The startup buys data identifying consumers with auto loans that have higher interest rates than they’re likely to qualify for based on their current credit score, Buscher said. Blinker says it averages saving refinance customers $130 per month on their car loans.
Buscher predicts the app will be live in more than half of U.S. states by year’s end. Buscher, who lived for three years in Spain, started due diligence and partnership talks about starting Blinker in Europe, too, he said.
The company hasn’t disclosed its funding from investors.
Buscher is currently talking with investors about a Series C round of investment targeting $50 million in funding for expansion, he said.
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