Sonic Automotive Inc. is helping consumers sell their used vehicles in the private market through its used-only EchoPark stores.
For a fee of less than $100, owners can sell their vehicles directly to other people with the help of EchoPark's staff and stores.
"There are 45 million used cars sold annually and a third of them are sold through private transactions," Jeff Dyke, Sonic's executive vice president of operations, told Automotive News. "We want to provide a safe place for consumers to come in and we'll do all the paperwork for them, do a fair appraisal, even an inspection -- all in a place that is not only convenient to them, but it is also safe."
The inspection costs an extra $150, he said.
Dyke said EchoPark stores provide a neutral location for two strangers to meet rather than at a home, where a seller is potentially "exposed to someone who is there for another reason."
It is also a "big opportunity" for EchoPark, Dyke said.
"EchoPark can serve as a steward between private-to-private parties to come to our facility," Dyke said. If the buyer does not make the purchase, EchoPark can buy the car, he said.
The program has been in place since Sonic launched EchoPark in the Denver area in the fall of 2014. It's marketed on EchoPark's website as part of the EchoPark experience.
Sonic has five EchoPark stores in Colorado and plans to open a sixth, in Colorado Springs, in the first quarter. It plans to build about two dozen more in Texas and the Carolinas next year. It bought AutoMatch USA, which has four used-only stores in Georgia and Florida, that it will convert to EchoPark stores by the end of 2017, Dyke said.
Dyke could not provide specifics on how many used vehicles EchoPark has procured through private sellers nor how many additional Sonic sales the program has generated. But he said anecdotally it has helped EchoPark grow business.
"I can take business from a mom-and-pop dealership and from a new-car dealership, but it's the 15 million used-car sales that are done private-to-private that no one is getting involved in," Dyke said. "And EchoPark is."