Some reports cost less -- reveal less, too
VINAudit.com founder David Wu: "I'm a tech guy. I thought it was ridiculous to charge $30 just to deliver some data over the Internet."
David Wu got the idea for a vehicle history report company about six years ago, after spending three hours online searching for free or low-cost reports.
"My parents were trying to sell the family minivan, and we had to prove to an interested buyer that it had a clean history," recalls the 26-year-old entrepreneur. "The only real offers I found were $35 for Carfax and $30 for an AutoCheck report.
"I'm a tech guy. I thought it was ridiculous to charge $30 just to deliver some data over the Internet."
The result is VINAudit.com, a Kirkland, Wash., startup created by Wu last January.
Wu gets most of his information from the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, a database of vehicle title information to which 40 states contribute, according to the U.S. Department of Justice Web site.
As a provider approved by the title information system, Wu's company prepares reports that contain information about the current state in which a vehicle is titled and the date it was last titled; its odometer reading and its history of title description labels such as "junk," "salvage" and "flood" also known as "brands."
If a vehicle has ever been declared a "total loss" or "salvage," that is also included. Wu says his reports don't include accident information, but he hopes to add accident records to his database. He also wants to capture and provide information that notes if a vehicle has been sold online on sites such as eBay and craigslist.
Prior to starting VINAudit.com, Wu spent four years with Google as a developer overseeing a team that managed Google Talk, an instant messaging network that at that time serviced 100 million simultaneous users.
"It was quite a ride," he says of his job at Google. "After that experience, pushing around some bits for vehicle histories became much easier."
Wu charges consumers $5 per report; dealers pay a subscription fee of $20 per month and $1 per report. He says about 1,100 dealers, mostly owners of independent used-car lots, buy VINAudit.com reports.
He says he is looking at potential business strategies under which he could offer the reports free to consumers and have dealers pay to provide price quotes to consumers.
Wu says VINAudit.com was under development for a year prior to its start in January. He says it is a culmination of his interest in computer technology and a burning desire to own his own company.
He says he started a Web development company, CyberGate Web Solutions, in 1999 when he was 13. Though he operated the company until 2004, he found it was pretty hard to make money at it. After that he ventured out into Web site hosting and a variety of other online projects. He earned a bachelor's degree in computer science and statistics from the University of Washington in Seattle.
"Unfortunately, our database has holes; Carfax's database has holes," Wu says. "There is no perfect database out there."
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