Cole Keesling knew as far back as 1997 that the traditional approach to car buying could be improved upon. He was determined to establish a service that could eliminate the hassle of long waits at dealerships, and back-and-forth haggling.
“I knew there had to be a better way,” says Keesling, who has extensive experience as a new and used auto sales manager and finance manager. “I started out a few years ago by talking to people needing cars and getting information on their trade-in vehicle and then talking to multiple dealers on their behalf to get offers so they wouldn’t have to have that hassle. I did about 100 deals manually without any sort of app, and now we have our app, CarSnoop, that makes the entire buying process that much easier.”
Users can stay home and download the CarSnoop app on their smartphone and enter details for the vehicle they wish to lease or buy. The app finds customers a range of new car offers from CarSnoop’s exclusive network of Indiana dealers, who can then bid on the customer’s new vehicle need. It’s all 100% anonymous — dealers have no information on potential buyers beyond the city they live in, and as such, customers are not bombarded with emails and sales calls.
After customers choose the right deal for them, all the necessary paperwork is prepared so that the customer only needs to sign and pick up their new car. Even those trading in their used vehicle can do so through CarSnoop’s hassle-free process, which involves uploading photos and entering a few basic pieces of information like mileage, condition and vehicle identification number.
A refundable $100 deposit is required once a customer has searched the app for their preferred vehicle attributes and is ready to view the best offers. Once the transaction is complete, the deposit is refunded.
The final paperwork and delivery steps can be completed at a dealership, or the dealer can deliver the documents and car to the customer’s preferred location.
“Our number-one priority is the user experience — we want the user to feel the process we’ve built makes sense, is easy to understand, and is comfortable,” says Keesling, adding that CarSnoop is a locally-owned company based in Fortville.
The CarSnoop app is currently only available for Indiana customers, and Keesling says the company —which also includes Keesling’s wife Janel, who serves as brand champion, Vice President Shawn Manion, and Dealership Sales Manager Chris Evans — plans to expand into the Louisville and Cincinnati market by the summer.
“We want 100 dealers per market area of about one million people,” Keesling says. “We’re going to do about 60% of our business from the core dealers - Chevrolet, Toyota, Ford, Honda and Chrysler Dodge Jeep. We’re currently doing new cars only because we don’t want condition to be an objection at delivery. We will be moving to certified pre-owned options in the future as well.”
Keesling says a top issue throughout the auto industry in recent years is a desire on the part of buyers for alternative methods for buying cars that reduce direct dealership involvement.
“I think we’re ahead of the curve with the way the market is going,” he says. “It’s our job to educate the buyer, and everybody is able to chat directly with us. When customers are chatting with CarSnoop, they are literally speaking with me and Shawn. Also, if they want to do a test drive they can do that and ask not to be entered into the dealership’s system. There are virtual test drives online now, too.”
Keesling stresses that CarSnoop is a buying app rather than a shopping app.
“We encourage the customer to do their homework on the vehicle they want to lease or buy elsewhere, and then come to CarSnoop where they can protect their identity,” he says. “On the app, you’re building your exact car, right down to the color.”
The reasons Keesling wanted to launch CarSnoop in the Central Indiana market are simple.
“I’ve spent 22 years in the car business, with most of that in the Indianapolis market, and we’re all from here — we couldn’t think of a better place to start,” he says. “We wanted to get behind the Indiana tech movement. The relationships with dealers that Shawn, Chris and I have here are great. We really believe we’re going to change the way people lease or buy new cars, doing it from right here in Indianapolis.”