This startup promises a better way to buy or sell a used car

Shift's site lets buyers browse used cars that are vetted by mechanics

Shift's home page, pictured June 2, 2015.

Shift's home page, pictured June 2, 2015.

Who wants to buy a used car through eBay or Craigslist, when you need a mechanic to inspect it? Buying through a dealer can also be intimidating and expensive, with sales reps often having unclear agendas.

Shift, an online startup, thinks it can solve those problems, and provide an easier way for people to sell their cars.

The company provides a listing service for used car shoppers to browse other people's cars, and let owners list their cars for sale. But more than a listing service, the company employs mechanics to perform inspections on cars for sale, and hires workers to gather sellers' service records and vehicle history reports. Shift's workers will also deliver used cars to prospective buyers for test rides, within an hour.

The company wants to redefine the process of not just buying a used car, but of selling it too, said George Arison, Shift's CEO, during a panel discussion about on-demand services, at the company's new office in San Francisco on Tuesday evening.

Shift's service is currently only available in the San Francisco Bay Area, but the company is looking to expand into other markets like Los Angeles, Arison said. Car shoppers can browse available vehicles -- there were more than 100 listed Tuesday -- and book a test drive on Shift's desktop site. The company does not have native mobile apps yet.

For buyers, Shift claims to offer used cars at a low price because it does not have overhead costs like a dealership. Unsatisfied buyers can return purchased cars within seven days or 250 miles driven, regardless of the reason, according to the company.

For sellers, the company claims to offer more than a dealer trade-in quote. It uses data from past and current prices to price cars on its site. The company sets a minimum price on the vehicle that's guaranteed to the seller if the car sells. Shift then takes a 50 percent cut of any amount the car sells for over that minimum price.

Shift is one of a handful of startups that are looking to improve the experience of buying or selling a used car. Beepi and Carlypso are two others. Beepi also offers pre-vetted used vehicles, but unlike Shift it does not offer test drives before purchases. Beepi will also let buyers return cars they don't like within 10 days, and get their money back.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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