By Lee Barnathan, California Business Journal.
Rod Buscher imagines a time when you can go to Starbucks and buy … a car?
Buscher is founder and CEO of Blinker, a technology company whose mobile app allows anyone to buy, sell, finance or refinance cars with the snap of a photo in Colorado, Florida, Texas and California. Blinker plans to expand to all 50 states this year.
“We can go to Starbucks and list your car while we’re there. I could buy your car with financing, never leave the table and be done in 30 minutes,” Buscher says by phone from his Denver headquarters. “You can turn your keys over to me and I could drive away with your car, and you would have guaranteed funds in your bank account the next morning.”
After 35 years in the car business, Buscher witnessed many problems with the buying and selling process – aspects the general public loathed. Most people disliked the high-pressure of the sales and finance offices. They didn’t like the value they received for their trade. But, also didn’t like the safety and security of a private-party transaction. They found lien payoffs and paperwork challenging.
“Blinker’s goal was to remove those negative experiences from the buying and selling process, bringing those processes in to the digital age with convenience, ease, safety and savings,” Buscher says. Buscher wasn’t an expert in technology, banking or finance, so he hired the right people and, after three years of trial and error, Blinker debuted in the fall of 2017.
Today, Blinker’s in-house team of over 70 software developers, finance experts, customer support agents and DMV veterans have made a car buying and selling process that seems like magic completely possible.
With no fees or middlemen, Blinker is helping buyers and sellers share an average of $4,000 – $5,000 in savings on every transaction. Refinance customers usually save around $100 a month compared to their existing loan, Buscher says.
“We’re empowering people to buy, sell and refinance cars themselves, and do it safely and securely,” he adds.
Blinker makes everything as simple as snapping a photo. For a seller, Blinker instantly displays every detail about their car – including the estimated value, year, make, model, factory equipment and approximate miles – so they can post it for sale in minutes. Blinker also lets sellers offer their car for sale for a monthly payment, just like a dealer. But the seller gets paid in full and the Blinker takes the payments.
Buyers simply snap a photo of their driver’s license to get pre-approved for financing in 60 seconds or less. For security, Blinker verifies the identity of every buyer and seller, and the ownership records of every vehicle. Blinker also provides a free Carfax Report™ with every listing.
If financing is needed, Blinker offers loan terms that are very competitive with leading banks and start as low as 3.9 percent. They also offer very competitive refinancing rates. Additionally, Blinker makes products like service contracts and GAP insurance available with purchases.
When the sale is complete, the seller receives payment in full directly in their bank account and the buyer makes monthly payments to Blinker (unless they paid cash for the car). If the car has a lien on it, Blinker pays off the existing loan with the funds from the sale. Blinker also helps transfer the title and allows customers to sign paperwork digitally on their smartphone through a partnership with DocuSign.
“We’re like PayPal,” Buscher says. “We’re helping two people transact by providing the technology to make it seamless and secure.”
Today, Blinker has expanded to Texas, Florida and California – the three states with the most registered cars. The company has generated over $92 million in sales and the app has been downloaded almost three hundred thousand times.
Buscher admits to having fun with the Blinker, too. Before riding in cars via Uber, he takes a picture of the car, then asks the driver about the make, model and mileage, surprising them. After he tells the driver about the app, they typically download it. This feature is available in all 50 states today by simply downloading the Blinker app.
“People can think of Blinker for fun like Shazam or Zillow,” he says. “If you’re out having dinner, and see this cool Ferrari in the parking lot, download the Blinker app and snap a photo. You will instantly learn everything about the car. Make a betting game with your buddies: ‘What do you think that car’s worth?’ You all make your bets, snap a photo and discover the answer. You can use Blinker just for fun.”
But more often than not, Buscher wants people to use Blinker because it’s a better way to buy, sell, finance or refinance a car.
According to the Federal Reserve Report, private-party sales made up about one-third of all used car sales in America over the last few years. And over 60% of people finance cars every year. Today, the private party market is approaching 15 million vehicles.
“Nobody does what we do,” he says. “There’s no competitor that can provide all the tools with financing and the technology to be able to put a buyer and a seller together and allow them to do a transaction the way we do, even sitting in a Starbucks over a cup of coffee – all for free. Our customers love the experience.”
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