|Entrepreneur Changes the Way Used Cars Are Sold
- February, 1999
RENO -- When Ray Dicius sells a car, he doesn't take out an advertisement in the Sunday newspaper or place a "For Sale" sign in the window.
Instead, the Los Angeles financial consultant drives eight hours to Reno to sell it at Private Party Cars.
"The trip pays for itself," says Dicius, who once resided in Nevada and has used the service since 1995. "We get at least $1000 more for each car than we would in Los Angeles. It's a no brainer."
Founded in 1982, Private Party Cars is the brainchild of Rick Gardner, a 42-year-old entrepreneur who two decades ago combined an empty, corner lot with the right business concept.
Located two blocks from Reno's "auto row," Private Party Cars is a display lot where sellers can reach customers in a high-class, high-touch way. The company rents display space for $195 to $295 (depending on the car's price) for 42 days; customers can pay $60 extra for a corner space or $45 for a front-line space.
Private Party Cars' services go beyond just space rental on a busy corner. The company also helps customers price their cars based on real market value and professionally show and market the vehicles in a secure environment. For $25, the company will also advertise the car on the Internet, with up to five photographs.
"When a buyer and seller get together to set up an appointment, the first showing results in a sale 99 percent of the time," says Gardner, whose 4-employee firm handles no negotiations, but works consistently with customers until their cars sell.
Gardner's business, "where buyer meets seller" is unique in an industry where sellers were traditionally relegated to working with a used car dealer or taking out a newspaper ad.
Instead of inviting strangers to their homes to see and test-drive the cars, sellers meet buyers on neutral, safe territory at Private Party Cars. "Our facility is fully lit at night and the environment is very professional and upscale," says Gardner. "Sellers need only come here twice: once to bring the car in, and once to sell it."
Private Party Cars is also a great alternative to the traditional used car lot, where customers often face pricing, commission and related frustrations.
"When someone buys a car from a dealer, they rarely come away from the experience with a good feeling," says Gardner. "Here, when buyer and seller get together, it's a rewarding experience."
Private Party Cars further enhances those feelings by sending out both thank you and congratulations cards. To help educate the seller, car-selling tips are sent to customers with vehicles on the lot.
Those efforts have resulted in 85 percent word-of-mouth business for Gardner, whose only other advertising mechanism is a single Yellow Pages ad.
These days, Gardner gets about four serious inquires a month from persons interested in duplicating his concept, and is considering an expansion plan that could find Private Party Cars-like concepts in large metros nationwide.
"After 20 years, I'm finally realizing that the success is in the system, which I want to bottle for others to use," says Gardner, who next year will start selling a "business opportunity" package to other entrepreneurs.
Dicius predicts the idea will go over big. "He has the most perfect business model in the car reselling arena," he says. "I'm surprised more people haven't duplicated his efforts already."