Transportation

Buying a used car? Shift expands to Sacramento market, including at-home test drives

These are the fastest- and slowest-selling used vehicles in Sacramento. Drive one?

What is the quickest selling model of used vehicles from 2015-17 in Sacramento, according to a recent iSeeCars study? How about the slowest. The average for all vehicles to roll off the lot with a new owner is 46.4 days.
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What is the quickest selling model of used vehicles from 2015-17 in Sacramento, according to a recent iSeeCars study? How about the slowest. The average for all vehicles to roll off the lot with a new owner is 46.4 days.

There are mobile apps that can make a burrito appear at your front door. Why not a used car?

A service called Shift has just rolled out — literally — to Sacramento. The website/mobile app runs on the simple premise of making used car buying and selling a peer-to-peer experience that cuts out the dealer middleman while attempting to offer a better user experience than a website like Craigslist.

Shift on Tuesday expanded service to Sacramento and Portland, bringing its total number of markets to nine.

“We had noticed a ton of people from Sacramento wanting to buy cars from Shift,” CEO Toby Russell said.

Before Tuesday, those potential buyers would either travel to one of Shift’s existing “hubs” in the Bay Area - San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland - or meet a concierge halfway, Russell said.

Shift has also set up a a hub for test drivers in Sacramento, which is live and running in Johnston Business Park just south of Highway 160. Potential buyers can test drive two or three cars in one session starting from that location, Russell said.

The major draw of Shift is its at-home test drive service, which is run by the company’s concierge employees. Users can schedule a time, and the concierge will show up at their driveway with the selected car ready to test-drive.

The concierge can take care of financing and registration; no trip to the DMV necessary, Russell said.

“You can go online, shop for a car, push a button and have it actually bought,” Russell said. “You can buy it right there on an iPad app.”

Russell said in a lot of cases, if the buyer instantly loves the car, the entire process from test drive to purchase only takes about 40 minutes.

Russell said the average vehicle sold through Shift sells for between $15,000 and $17,000.

“Many car dealers and most of the online players, the vast majority of their vehicles today are coming from auction. We focus on ‘pre-loved cars,’” in this case coming from a previous Sacramento owner, Russell said. “They’re in way better condition.”

The company charges a service fee for the concierge, and handling of financing and DMV registration.

There are some measures in place to prevent joyriding or similar issues, Russell said. Users must upload a copy of their driver’s license before they can take a test drive.

Russell said there’s also some behind-the-scenes technology in place to ensure that buyers are serious. He said, for example, it would probably raise red flags if a user spent a few minutes browsing and then asked to test-drive a McClaren sports car.

Russell also noted that, though the service may have similarities to Uber, it’s not a gig job for the concierge; they’re full-time, trained employees.

Shift launched in 2014.

Michael McGough anchors The Sacramento Bee’s breaking news reporting team, covering public safety and other local stories. A Sacramento native and lifelong capital resident, he interned at The Bee while attending Sacramento State, where he earned a degree in journalism.


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