September 19, 2013

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Article

App Created in Utah Helps People Negotiate Smarter Deals on Cars

By Rachel Madison

September 19, 2013


An app created in Lehi is helping people nationwide find the best deals around when they’re in the market for a used vehicle. Vinny is a free mobile app that scans a vehicle identification number, or VIN, and reveals the wholesale price of that car.

“Every car has its own unique number, so Vinny scans that barcode and it will tell you the wholesale price of the vehicle,” said Dalena Tran, co-founder of Vinny and head of marketing and social media. “We get that number from nationwide auctions. There are wholesale auctions around America that are basically only for dealers. We take that pricing information and give it out to the public.”

Tran said Vinny’s price is formulated by entering the figures into sophisticated statistical algorithms that can be calculated within seconds. In the app, consumers can also include the number of miles the car has and the condition it’s in to make the price reflect the car better.

In addition to showing consumers the wholesale price of vehicles, the Vinny app also provides vehicle history reports for a price through a partnership with a company called VinAudit. Vinny’s price can also be compared to prices from AutoTrader.com, eBay, Kelley Blue Book, NADA and Cars.com. A new feature, added to the app just this week, includes a payment calculator. Consumers can use this to estimate how much their monthly car payment will be depending on the interest rate and length of loan they obtain.

Tran said the average mark up on a used car is $2,400 at a dealership, while new cars are typically only marked up by $700.

“This is because the customer doesn’t know how much the dealer bought the used cars for,” she said. “With the way used cars go through auction, a lot can be sold cheaply and then the dealer has an in-house repair shop or mechanic who can fix it and sell it for a lot more than it’s worth.”

In the future, Tran said another goal the company has is to include an option on the app for car insurance quotes.

“We want to have the ability for people to scan a VIN and find out roughly how much they’d pay for insurance each month with that car,” Tran said.

The company doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar office, but the team of seven employees works together remotely from various locations around the United States. Tran is the only person still in Utah, while other co-founders have moved to places like New York and Florida. Tran said the advantage to having all of the company’s employees spread out across the nation is the ability to market the app to different states.

“We like to say we’re based everywhere,” Tran said. “We started the app in Lehi because we thought Utah was a great place to build a business and find investors. We were all here in Utah for a long time, but now we work remotely and travel a lot to meet together.”

Because the Vinny app is free, Tran said the company’s only revenue comes from the vehicle history reports it optionally provides to consumers. Once the company launches future features, such as the insurance quote aspect, it expects to gain more revenue.

In addition to garnering its own revenue, Vinny also recently received $10,000 from Utah Angels 2, which made its debut investment launch in June. Each person in attendance at the debut event was asked to vote on one of seven startup teams. At the close of the event, the UA2 founders presented Vinny with a $10,000 check as the winning team.

The beta version of the Vinny app was released in November 2012 on iTunes and immediately gained popularity.

“Vinny got picked up by a pretty big blog called the Unofficial Apple Weblog and we got tons of downloads,” Tran said.

The completed version of the app was released earlier this year in May and since then, it has had more than 50,000 downloads from around the world. Although the app is currently only available on iTunes, Tran said plans to make it available on the Android platform are in the works.

Overall, Tran hopes the app will continue to gain popularity and provide people with the information they need when it comes to buying a used vehicle.

“People really do hate the car buying experience,” she said. “I recently read that it takes about 18 hours to purchase a car, from the research to the test driving to the purchase. We’re trying to minimize the whole process while giving people good information about prices.”

 

 

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