Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 7 December 2019

Car inspection service helps potential owners scout the best used wheels

Scout My Car is one of a new crop of services to help secondhand buyers find out if the motor they want is up to scratch.
Alexander Kappes, co-founder of Scout My Car, a startup in Dubai which arranges inspections for people looking to buy a car on the private second-hand market. Reem Mohammed / The National
Alexander Kappes, co-founder of Scout My Car, a startup in Dubai which arranges inspections for people looking to buy a car on the private second-hand market. Reem Mohammed / The National

When Alexander Kappes bought a second-hand car, he thought he had secured a good deal.

While he won’t reveal how much he paid for the Porsche Carrera in 2014, he says he was happy. That changed very quickly. “I ran into issues that cost me several thousand to repair, such as the brakes being worn out,” says Mr Kappes, 31, who is half German and half Palestinian and the former chief executive of Groupon Middle East.

While the Dh7,000 repair bill was a fraction of the price of the car, it was a nuisance nonetheless.

“You spend time taking the car to the garage, identifying the problem and then spend money fixing it, an issue you could have prevented if there was a good service to help you identify it,” he says.

The process made him realise the need for a service in the UAE to check cars for potential buyers, but because he was still working for Groupon, which he left in 2015 to start Foodora, Dubai’s first premium delivery service, he did nothing with the idea at first. After running Foodora for a year, the company was merged with Talabat, at which point he moved on.

“That was when the idea, which had been festering in my mind all this time, came to me,” he says.

Being a car enthusiast, and having worked for Daimler and Porsche in the past, he knew a little, but not enough. So he toured garages that offered vehicle inspections to learn more. He discovered a huge variety in the quality of the inspections, price and the service offered.

“You would expect a vehicle inspection to always do the same thing but they vary significantly; some inspections don’t have a lift, which means they can’t inspect the underbody of the car where you will identify most issues,” he says.

Another stumbling block he realised was that to get the car inspected, you have to drive to a garage, which are often in industrial areas, and wait while the car is analysed. His solution was Scout My Car, which he set up with Omar Benseddik, 21, from Morocco.

The company contacts the car owner to arrange an inspection, collects the vehicle and takes it to one of five approved garages, where a 144-point inspection is carried out. The vehicle service history is also studied. It then explains any issues to the customer and recommends a price for the car. The service starts at Dh399 for regular cars and goes up to Dh749 for premium and classic motors. It is currently available in Dubai and Sharjah, but is in the process of expanding into Abu Dhabi.

About 20 per cent of the cars it inspects are a “complete no-go”, according to Mr Kappes.

“In a lot of cases, those are cars that are imported into the UAE for sale. You see a lot of American imports that come here which often were write-offs or salvage cars in the United States, and they have been fixed here and they have refurbished and so on for sale here,” he says. “Sometimes it is quite grave issues that we identify. Sometimes we don’t even think these cars are roadworthy.”

Bill Carter, chief systems and innovation officer at Autodata Middle East, says there is a place in the market for a service such as Scout My Car.

“There is a quite a common problem out here in that people don’t do their due diligence on the car they are buying, so that can obviously lead to horrendous problems,” he says, adding that there is a range of options available to people who want to have a car checked over.

“You can take [your car] to the Tasjeel testing stations in Dubai and they will do a comprehensive inspection which you pay for. Also most of the main dealers will inspect a car for you and charge for it.”

Autodata is also planning to launch a service similar to Scout My Car later this year at Emarat petrol stations. Mr Carter says drivers will be able to get their car appraised and checked as well as a “valuation certificate” stating how much it is worth.

Mr Kappes says what sets Scout My Car apart from other services is the convenience it offers. The company contacts the seller, picks up the car, carries out the inspection and drops it off again – all in the same day.

Tarek Grichi, 33, from Canada, who lives in Abu Dhabi, paid Scout My Car Dh399 to inspect a BMW X5 and praises its “fast” service, which “dealt with everything”.

On Scout My Car’s Facebook page, there are 27 reviews, 26 of which gave the service five stars.

“We have inspected over 500 cars now, since September 2016 and at the moment we are looking at about four to five inspections a day,” says Mr Kappes.

“We are quite proud of it.”

business@thenational.ae

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Updated: May 2, 2017 04:00 AM

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