Now’s the Time to Shift the Car Buying Paradigm

For a lot of people, purchasing a used car or truck is a necessary evil, with “evil” being the key word. You would think that an activity that has been so dreaded by so many for so long would have been made better ages ago, yet it is still a process fraught with such hazards as bait-and-switch advertising, pushy sales guys wearing enough hair product and aftershave to qualify as walking Superfund sites, and spending hours sitting in a showroom office (occasionally punctuated by aforementioned sales guy telling you “Let me speak with my manager”) before you leave with a new-to-you car and a financing plan that will see you paying so much interest that you probably could have bought a decent second used car with that cash. Surely there’s a better way to shop for a pre-owned automobile, isn’t there? As a matter of fact, there is, and it’s found at


Shift flips the metal-moving script by completely doing away with the physical dealership and its associated bugaboos; instead, Shift is a sort of consignment shop that acts as a go-between for used car sellers and buyers alike (Shift never actually owns the vehicles.), and you peruse Shift’s online vehicle inventory (which lets you filter your search by things like manufacturer, body style and transmission type, as well as highest price and mileage you’re willing to accept) and, if you see something that piques your interest after reading the concise, frequently amusing descriptions, viewing the big, detailed photographs (including ones detailing any big dents, scratches and the like) and reviewing the comprehensive 200-point mechanical and cosmetic inspection report, you can arrange for a test drive. However, instead of taking time out of your day to travel to a Shift storage facility, Shift will have one of its many “Car Enthusiasts” (Don’t call them salespeople!) bring the car to you at the place you want – be it your home, your workplace, your favorite coffee shop…pretty much any place with a valid address – and the time you want – seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time.


It all sounds too good to be true, huh? Well, for my Shift experience, that simply wasn’t the case. After browsing the stock list, I selected a 2011 BMW 335i Coupe wearing the M Sport Package, beautiful blue paint and about 55,000 miles on the clock for a test drive. The car enthusiast assigned to my test drive, Steven, called ahead while en route to make sure I was good to go, and showed up at my home a little before our scheduled 1:30 p.m. appointment. Upon his arrival, it didn’t take me very long to notice that he was cordial, professional, and well groomed; he was also quick to ask if I had read the inspection report and was aware of the car’s cosmetic blemishes (one of which, on the lower driver side corner of the front bumper, is seen above), just to make sure that we were both on the same page and there weren’t any surprises on my end. After a quick walkaround and a check that my license was valid, we were off!


The car was brilliant (as 3 Series Bimmers tend to be), and Steven was happy to let me take it on roads and freeways familiar to me, and to answer any questions or concerns I had. After returning home we looked under the hood, in the trunk, and around the interior in exterior. He knew going in that I wasn’t ready to buy that day (though Shift customers certainly can), and never once tried to cajole or convince me otherwise; he did, however, remind me that if I did change my mind I could place a non-refundable $95 deposit to hold the car for me while I made financial arrangements for paying the $18,850 price which, like all Shift vehicle prices, are haggle-free, non-negotiable, and based on extensive research of values of similar vehicles in the same geographic area, as well as being cheaper than the typical dealer price, since Shift doesn’t have the huge overhead that they do. Before he left he also presented me with a small folder (shown below) that included his business card and printouts of the 335i’s CarGurus price analysis, its CARFAX history report, and the results of the 200-point Shift inspection, and he reminded me that Shift would take care of all the relevant DMV paperwork, financing and whatever else I needed. Plus, if I bought that car or any car from Shift and for some reason came to regret my purchase, the company has a seven day or 250 mile (whichever comes first) no-questions-asked return policy.


Honestly, I can’t think of any practical way that Shift could make the car-shopping process any less painful than it already has. Considering that an automobile is the typically the second priciest purchase a person can make, anything that can make the experience less stressful and frustrating is welcomed. If you live in the Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento or Washington, D.C. areas (Shift will be moving into more regions soon.) and are in the market to buy or sell a late-model used vehicle, you absolutely owe it to your sanity – and the sanity of those around you – to try Shift for yourself.