All drivers live in fear of the check engine light, which can cost thousands of dollars to turn off in the worst-case scenario. Unfortunately, the data show that costly light is more likely to illuminate in the coming years.
According to automotive data and insights firm S&P Global Mobility, the average age of cars on the road has reached a record high of 12.5 years as drivers pull back from purchasing new cars due to the high costs. Simultaneously, maintenance and repair costs are up, with government data showing a 13 percent year-over-year increase.
Shopping around for the best deal at a repair shop is quickly becoming a financial necessity for the millions of drivers who need to get as many miles out of their cars as possible.
CarAdvise is preparing to meet the moment.
The company partners with independent and large automotive repair shops, including Firestone, Monro, Meineke, Pep Boys and Jiffy Lube, to offer drivers fleet-level pricing on maintenance services, thanks to the more than 1.5 million drivers who use its platform. In addition to lower prices, CarAdvise also offers upfront pricing and the ability to schedule, approve services and pay online.
“When I first started CarAdvise, our mission was to make car care more convenient and trusted, all while saving people money,” founder and CEO Greg Tepas told Built In. “Today, I am proud to say we are a one-stop-shop marketplace for more than 400-plus different services. We want to make the complicated world of car repair and maintenance uncomplicated.”
When Tepas launched CarAdvise in 2016, he had no way of knowing how the Covid-19 pandemic would upend the global economy and send new car prices and repair costs skyrocketing as a result. That said, he did have a vision for what the company could become, one that was remarkably prescient according to Joe Bello, head of marketing.
“When reflecting on CarAdvise’s growth journey so far, I’m thrilled to see how closely it aligns with the vision we had at the onset,” he said.
“When reflecting on CarAdvise’s growth journey so far, I’m thrilled to see how closely it aligns with the vision we had at the onset.”
Eric Buckner, head of product, agreed with Bello, noting that in the year since he joined the company, “Growth is right on track from what I learned on day one.” That said, new product launches, combined with an increasing need for affordable car repair services, could supercharge the company’s growth in ways not even Tepas could have predicted.
Charting the Growth Trajectory
In an economy racked by inflation, a company that helps drivers find the best prices for automotive repairs may seem destined to find success. And indeed, Buckner acknowledged that older cars and inflation have put CarAdvise in a position to grow dramatically. The company’s growth trajectory isn’t dictated solely by higher prices and a necessity for deals on repair work, though.
CarAdvise has been keeping a close eye on the automotive space and has sensed an opportunity to accelerate its growth thanks to a convergence of trends.
“The increasing digitization of automotive services is a key element, with more and more customers seeking convenient, online solutions,” Tepas said. “Another is the growing demand for customer-centric services, as consumers become more discerning and expect personalized, high-quality experiences.”
The auto industry has embraced technology with open arms, shifting consumer expectations in the process. Tesla has done away with the dealership model and operates entirely online, Volvo and Porsche have made their cars available via subscription, and many automakers offer apps that let drivers lock and unlock, start and even remove their cars from tight parking spots. More broadly, personalization has now become table stakes, with a 2021 McKinsey report finding that 70 percent of consumers see it as a basic expectation.
The Automotive Trends CarAdvise Has Its Eye On
For its part, Buckner said CarAdvise has taken a keen interest in artificial intelligence, as applied to car repair and maintenance, as well as new automaker offerings in the maintenance and repair space. This includes Honda’s Service Pass, which provides complimentary maintenance for two years or 24,000 miles and sends drivers updates via app to take their car in for servicing.
Of course, auto repair shops aren’t exactly in the business of building apps, nor are they known for exceptional customer service. This is where CarAdvise sees its opportunity. And while it has already done a lot to help the auto servicing industry evolve and improve its reputation for customer service, Buckner said the company isn’t resting on its laurels.
“We are focused on redesigning the product end-to-end and adding a ton of great features along the way, like our forthcoming maintenance schedule and reminders,” Buckner said. “Our launches this year will increase our engagement and conversions, which should lead to more referrals, partnerships and ultimately more growth.”
“Today, I am proud to say we are implementing solutions around the entire lifecycle of the vehicle as a one-stop-shop marketplace to save people money ranging from fuel to tires, insurance, to extended warranties,” Tepas added. “We want to make the complicated world of vehicles uncomplicated, and ensure people save money in every way possible.”
In order to implement those objectives, CarAdvise will be hiring, with Bello stating that the marketing, product and technology teams will all see headcount increase. “The rapid growth of these teams mirrors our overall scaling strategy, representing the core elements that drive our business and serve our customers,” Bello said.
Scaling Careers, Too
Growth will occur across the board, with Tepas sharing the specific goals of the hiring strategy. Growth on Buckner’s team will be focused on adding UX/UI designers to help build new features and optimize existing ones. As its product portfolio expands, Bello’s marketing team will work to get the word out to new users and repair shop partners. All of that growth will need to be sustainable, both in terms of tech and customer service capabilities, positively affecting operations and customer services teams as a result.
Organically, professional development comes in the form of wearing multiple hats. With a headcount of around 50 people, there are plenty of opportunities for employees to take on work outside of their function, and team members are challenged to jump on new projects and to contribute in areas that may be outside of their experience.
“To ensure our team’s skills keep pace with our business’s changing needs, we provide regular training programs, access to online learning resources and promote a culture of continuous learning and mentorship,” Bello said. “These resources foster a workforce that’s agile, adaptable and primed to deliver exceptional service.”
For Buckner, the company’s support of continuous learning and development — which starts at the top with Tepas — has provided him the ability to attend auto industry conferences and access training and education from outside the industry. Tepas said the company is “deeply committed” to the professional development of its team members and noted that its head of business development started off as an individual contributor on the BD team. “We believe that our company can only grow if our people grow with us,” Tepas said.
The CarAdvise of 2024 will certainly look and feel different to the CarAdvise of 2023. That’s one of the consequences of scaling. While evolution can’t be stopped, “we remain dedicated to preserving our unique culture and core values,” Bello said.
More Than Metrics
Growth is a process, but it’s also a teacher. Those who lead a company through a time of rapid scaling learn that it’s about much more than just expanding the user base, product offerings and revenue. Leaders also grow as a result. “I’ve come to understand that true growth encompasses a broader spectrum,” Bello said. “It’s about customer satisfaction, team development, innovation and even company culture.”
Tepas has also changed his view on growth, shifting from a narrow focus on financial results and market share to one that is more holistic, complex and multidimensional.
To him, growth now also encompasses how the company can grow in terms of its innovativeness, level of customer satisfaction, size of its social impact and, of course, its commitment to employee development. The CEO got a little philosophical, emphasizing that wherever the company ends up next, its story will be about much more than just a growth in metrics.
“As we grow, we remain committed to building a company that not only is amongst the most innovative in our space, but also cares for its people and contributes to a better society.”
“It’s also about the journey, the people we meet, colleagues who become friends and building something unique and special together that ultimately makes everyone a lot more money than just a salary,” Tepas said. “As we grow, we remain committed to building a company that not only is amongst the most innovative in our space, but also cares for its people and contributes to a better society.”