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Would You Buy A Used Car Through An App? Seattle Company Hopes So

Tred is launching its car buying and selling app in Miami and several other Florida cities.
Bill Bortzfield
Tred is launching its car buying and selling app in Miami and several other Florida cities.

Buying a used car can be risky.

Is the title legit? Does the car have hidden issues? Will a seller get scammed with a fake check?

Those are just some of the pitfalls that can lead drivers to trade in their vehicles at a dealership, even if it's for less money.

A Seattle-based company called Tred hopes to remove the private-party risks while upending the traditional dealership model as it rolls out its used-car selling and buying service in Miami, as well as in Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa and St. Petersburg.

Tred has no physical lots or sales people. Most of the process is handled via its app or on Tred.com.

The company says it's striving to make sure buyers and sellers are protected.

“There are many types of vehicle fraud. If a seller is selling a vehicle privately and the vehicle is not registered or titled in their name, then there are all kinds of ways they can bamboozle a buyer,” said Tred founder and CEO Grant Feek.

It starts with a vehicle background check. When someone signs up to sell a car on Tred, a series of reports are run, including a Carfax report. The reports include the vehicle’s ownership history and a VIN (vehicle identification number) audit.

Unless a seller has a nearly new car that’s still under factory warranty, the seller is also required to take the vehicle for an inspection at a Tred partner, such as Firestone or Pep Boys, before it’s accepted for listing.

The company charges $500 to sell a customer’s car, but that only applies if the car sells. Otherwise, an initiation fee that ranges between $10 and $20, depending on the vehicle, is the only charge.

Tred is a licensed dealer in Florida, and its staff does the same paperwork that's required of any Florida dealership, Feek said. 

Most test drives are arranged at Fed Ex locations. When a sale is made, the parties meet back at the Fed Ex location to sign the pre-filled paperwork.

Feek stressed that sellers are also protected.

"When you release that vehicle, we can guarantee that money’s going to hit your account," he said. 

He said vehicle fraud is rampant. If a fraudster does manage to scam the system, the buyer would still get paid, with Tred eating the cost, according to Feek.

The company also handles the financial transaction online so no physical cash ever changes hands, again to lessen the potential of fraud and increase safety.

Feek said his company’s system also results in a higher profit margin for sellers and lower prices for buyers.

His company claims Tred sellers make about 30 percent more than they would on a dealer trade-in, while also asserting buyers save about 25 percent.

Tred also guarantees national exposure to sellers. Its cars are cross-listed on sites like autotrader.com, cars.com, cargurus.com and more than a dozen others.

And just like most traditional used-car dealerships, Tred offers financing to buyers along with the option of vehicle service warranty contracts.

“If the buyer decides, 'hey, I like the car, I can do the price, 'they can just pull out their phone. And they can pay for the vehicle right there,” said Feek.

Although new to Florida, Tred.com does have a track record.

It was founded in 2011 and currently also operates in cities in California, Oregon, Texas and the state of Washington.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.

Copyright 2020 WJCT News 89.9. To see more, visit WJCT News 89.9.

Bill joined WJCT News in September of 2017 from The Florida Times-Union, where he served in a variety of multimedia journalism positions.