Growing up in a low-income household, I learned from a young age that cars need to last for a long time. Outside of food and housing, owning or leasing a vehicle is one of the highest monthly expenses.
Vehicle financing empowers millions of Americans with access to their car of choice. Yet, as the rise of the smartphone has fundamentally transformed how we buy everything from gifts to groceries, there is still much that can be changed about how people buy and finance their cars.
If I can know my monthly cost for Amazon Prime before I sign a contract, why can't I know my monthly cost for a car payment before going to the dealership? If I can see movie options before I go to the theater, why can't I see my financing options before I sign a 5-year loan contract? Being empowered with concrete choices would make both budgeting and buying a car that much easier and help to save hours on the financing process. So, using my personal experiences from childhood to fuel my passion, I co-founded AutoGravity in October of 2015.
Before continuing, however, a confession is in order: I don't currently own a car. While this may seem a little counterintuitive for a co-founder of a platform among the top five automotive apps, it's helped me understand the market much more intimately. After all, who's more interested in a restaurant menu – the person who's already finished a meal or someone hungrily scanning the entrees?
Along with some 230-million registered drivers in the U.S., I'm one of many potential car buyers. According to a recent survey from IHS Automotive, contrary to the perception of ride/car sharing services eliminating vehicle ownership, nearly all Millennials and Gen Z respondents say they want to own a car.
The barrier is going through the financing process. Many consumers find it disorienting – people already have so much to consider about the car itself, it's a struggle to also figure out the monthly payment, down payment, annual percentage rate, repayment terms and credit approval. Most people aren't prepared for that part of the conversation. They've got a car in mind and want nothing more than to drive.
Our goal at AutoGravity was to make car financing as easy as watching a movie on Netflix, streaming an album off Spotify or buying a book from Amazon. So, we demystified the process by making it accessible to everyone – empowering them through our app on their smartphone.
AutoGravity helps consumers navigate the car-buying process with a simple four-step plan that starts with finding your dream car, new or used, connecting with the closest dealership offering the selected car, applying for up to four binding finance offers in minutes and then selecting the desired offer. When an AutoGravity customer arrives at the dealership, they're able to make a confident decision, have an informed discussion with the finance officer and drive off the lot with a deal they're satisfied with.
To truly empower car buyers, it was crucial that the AutoGravity platform be an attractive place for lenders and dealers to do business as well. Rather than disrupt the process, we became an innovative partner, helping ready-to-buy consumers get access to binding offers and drive off the lot in minutes.
Over the past year, our AutoGravity app has reached more than one million users looking for a digital alternative to their car-buying journey. In fact, our user base has grown ten times in just one year – proving that technology is indeed the "digital glue" that can drive the car-buying experience.
About the author: Serge Vartanov is the co-founder and chief marketing officer of car financing company AutoGravity.