When it comes to online car shopping, Carsquare wants to reinvent the wheel


Khurrum Shakir founded car-shopping site Carsquare. (Evy Mages/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Make: Mercedes-Benz. Model: S-Class. Location: Washington, D.C. Condition: New or used. Price: Under $75,000. Year(s): 2010 to 2015. Color: Black. Start search.

Plug those terms into Carsquare.com and the Web site generates a list of 68 cars for sale within 100 miles of Washington that meet the criteria. The results hail from a range of sellers that include local dealerships, Cars.com, Oodle.com and others.

Leesburg-based Carsquare aims to reinvent your online hunt for the perfect automobile by creating one massive repository with listings from major new and used car dealers, as well as sites where consumers already flock today, such as Edmunds or AutoTrader.

“One of the things I’ve done over the years is to structure partnerships with the providers who are on our site,” founder and chief executive Khurrum Shakir said. “We have direct access to their feeds and we provide them traffic in return.”

It’s the same model that Web sites such as Kayak.com and Expedia.com use to help you sort through airfares. Instead of searching individual airlines for the ideal price, route or departure time, those Web sites scour flights based on your preferences and serve up the best options.

Shakir started Carsquare more than four years ago as a side project after his own search for a car proved both time consuming and frustrating. The company raised an undisclosed investment in March from Robert G. Hisaoka, a local philanthropist and co-owner of several large car dealerships.

Carsquare.com, which officially debuted to the public late last month, counts 4.5 million vehicles in its database today, Shakir said. The company expected to surpass 45,000 unique visitors and 250,000 page views in July.

But the company is entering a crowded market. ComScore, a company that tracks Web traffic, found 79.5 million people visited the top 20 automotive search and information Web sites in June. The top properties were AutoGuide.com Group (14.1 million), AutoTrader (11 million) and Internet Brands Automotive (10.5 million).

“The easiest way to differentiate ourselves is that a lot of these guys are our partners,” Shakir said. “Cars.com, AutoTrader, CarMax, they won’t show each others’ inventory. They get those listings from dealers and dealer groups. We show everybody’s inventory in our concept.”

Those Web properties are also the source of Carsquare’s revenue. The company collects a fee each time one of its users asks to be contacted by a car dealer, Shakir said. The company is also exploring other moneymaking methods, including online advertising.

To cut down on the amount of time a consumer spends searching for vehicles, Carsquare allows you to save your search terms and send alerts via social media or e-mail when a new listing matches your criteria. In essence, the site will keep looking for your car without you having to check in each day or risk missing the perfect listing.

A study of car buyer habits published last September by J.D. Power found that consumers purchasing or leasing new cars visit an average of 10 Web sites, including manufacturer and third-party sites, before purchasing a vehicle.

“You can search auto sites for days trying to find that one particular car, but do you have that kind of time?” Chief Marketing Officer Mikah Sellers asked.

Steven Overly is a national reporter covering federal technology and energy policy with a focus on Capitol Hill. He previously covered the business of technology, biotechnology and venture capital.
Continue reading
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Business

business

capitalbusiness

Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters