An online search for CarSense now shows CarShop as the top result. What happened to CarSense? The answer is pretty straightforward. CarSense's owner, the multinational Penske Automotive group, began rebranding efforts in 2020, culminating in the March 2021 debut of the CarShop brand.
So, the answer to this story's central question is that there is no difference between CarSense and CarShop, other than the name. A Penske executive, quoted in local media, summarized the switchover as "...while the name has changed, the operations remain the same."
What Does CarShop Do?
CarShop is an online car retailer operating seven physical dealerships in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. A new location in Scottsdale, Arizona, adds an additional site to the company's roster.
CarShop touts its efforts to avoid vehicles with frame or flood damage. And, it's very picky about the cars that do make it to the company's lots by claiming that only 1 in 50 pass muster.
But once this happens, how does CarShop differentiate among the vehicles it sells? The company employs two standards, which we cover below.
Buying a Car with CarShop
Those wanting to buy cars on the CarShop platform can either visit one of its Pennsylvania, New Jersey, or Arizona locations or purchase the vehicle totally online. Buyers have the choice of buying with or without a trade-in. CarShop makes a big point of telling shoppers that the sticker price they see is automatically the best offer. It's a "no-haggle" policy that makes the buying process easier and less stressful.
While buyers in the Boomer or Gen-X generations might balk at the idea of no haggling, CarShop is clearly making a play for the emerging dominant buyer sector, the Millenial (or Gen-Y) shopper. The New York Times reported in June 2021 that this new generation has become the leading demographic in new-car purchases for the first time. One of the most noticeable characteristics of this group is that they don't have much taste for haggling when it comes to car buying. They also strongly dislike the traditional showroom experience in favor of faster and more convenient online alternatives.
Online shopping with CarShop is as simple as finding a car you like, and filtering the results by location, make, price, or other factors. At this point, save the vehicle as a favorite or schedule a visit and a test drive. CarShop provides financing options and makes it easy to buy online without leaving home. Each car comes with a free CARFAX report.
Before browsing CarShop's selection, it's essential to understand how the company categorizes its vehicles. Broadly speaking, there are two main groupings:
- CarShop Certified
- CarShop Select
Here's what this means.
Newer models under four years of age or with less than 50,000 miles go through a 109-point inspection led by the CarShop's ASE-certified technicians. Passing the certification process gives the car the "Carshop Certified" label. This stamp of approval comes with several additional guarantees and benefits, including:
- No Dings, No Dents, No Scratches — The car is guaranteed to have no visible defects anywhere. This is promised both “mechanically and cosmetically,” meaning even the parts you don’t see are free of dings and dents.
- Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty — Every CarShop Certified vehicle gets a 6-month or 6,000-mile warranty covering virtually all parts.
- Lifetime Engine Guarantee — At the same, CarShop includes a lifetime engine warranty that provides for a free annual check of the belts, hoses, and fluid levels. The coverage requires that manufacturer-mandated maintenance be performed according to the recommended schedule.
- 5-day Money Back Guarantee — As the name suggests, a CarShop Certified vehicle is returnable for a full refund within five days of purchase, so long as it has no more than 500 new miles.
CarShop offers its Select category for vehicles over four years old or with more than 50,000 miles on the clock. These cars cost much less than CarShop Certified models, but Select vehicles also don't get the same treatment. The company describes these vehicles as "mechanically sound" and offers:
- 3-month or 3,000-mile powertrain warranty
- An inspection to ensure the vehicle meets applicable state safety standards
- An oil and filter change
Selling a Car with CarShop
Selling your vehicle to CarShop first begins by ensuring the car:
- Has no frame damage
- Is free of flood damage
- Has not been significantly modified beyond the original specifications
If any of these conditions apply, CarShop will likely pass on your car. Otherwise, the process is straightforward and similar to other car buying enterprises. A prospective seller completes a basic online questionnaire and receives an advisory Kelley Blue Book (KBB) valuation for their car. If the offer appears favorable, the seller can arrange to deliver the vehicle for an on-site inspection.
At this point, a CarShop technician inspects the car and makes a final offer based on the mechanical check. The amount may match the KBB price or come in lower if the inspection reveals imperfections or required repairs.
Each CarShop offer is made on a no-obligation basis and valid for seven days. This gives the seller time to think about the proposal or shop around for a better offer. Alternatively, you can trade in the car towards a CarShop purchase.
Benefits of Using CarShop
#1: Transparency About Certifed Versus Select
CarShop clarifies the differences between its higher-priced Certified vehicles and budget-friendly Select cars. It's an upfront approach that makes CarShop very consumer-friendly.
#2: No-Haggle, No Fuss
CarShop tailors its sales practices to Millennials and any car shopper who prefers to skip the negotiation process in favor of up-front pricing. This prevents surprises and allows buyers to accurately compare CarShop offerings against other no-haggle dealers.
#3: Outside Financing Handled In-House
Some might see a lack of in-house financing as a problem, but CarShop handles your application in-house and shops around for the best terms. At the same time, CarShop can incorporate any extended warranty or other additional coverage into the deal. Everything about buying a vehicle at CarShop gets handled in one place.
Drawbacks of CarShop
#1: Limited Number of Physical Locations
CarShop is still a growing company with physical stores only in three states. It's a smaller scale that puts it at a disadvantage compared to outfits like CarMax. On the other hand, CarShop's ability to sell vehicles 100 percent online helps to widen the net. Plus, adding an Arizona location clearly indicates the company is expanding its footprint.
#2: Lower Car Valuations
CarShop claims to offer fair pricing when buying cars, but the chances of getting that initial Kelley Blue Book amount is low. This valuation requires a pristine vehicle that has undergone precise scheduled maintenance. Otherwise, the numbers will drop, and you might have been better off going elsewhere or selling the car privately. But, in truth, this is a common practice in the "sell your car for cash quick" industry, and the convenience of a fast sale comes with a premium.
Conclusion: How Does CarShop Compare?
Overall, CarShop offers a straightforward and convenient experience to its customers. The company also gets high marks for its transparency and upfront approach to buying and selling cars. By being upfront about such things as not wanting a car with frame or flood damage, CarShop manages expectations and avoids customer disappointment. In addition, CarShop gets points for being transparent about its Certified and Select categories. It's an openness that's reassuring to buyers.
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