This week “we come to you” auto repair service provider YourMechanic debuted their web and mobile apps, and announced $1.8 million in seed funding from Y Combinator, CrunchFund, and SV Angel, among other investors. The company, which announced its launch on stage at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco, is looking to disrupt the auto repair industry, having found that 80 percent of car repairs don’t require an auto-repair facility. The company plans to use the funds to build their infrastructure and logistics to streamline their car part shipping to ensure service efficiency.
Co-founder and CEO Art Agrawal said he started YourMechanic as a way to provide a better car repair experience from independent, pre-screened, insured mechanics at a fixed rate. “The idea happened to come to us from mechanics, we were just fed up and frustrated with getting our cars fixed. We thought maybe there’s a business model with more transparency so that every time I go to a shop, I don’t feel like I’m being ripped off,” Agrawal commented in an interview. “And while I was doing my research, I met these mechanics who were going out and fixing cars for people. I thought, wow, this can work and infinitely more scalable than the repair shop model.”
Car owners can post the problems they’re experiencing with their vehicle, and the year, make and model of their car. YourMechanic provides quotes for repairs from its network of mechanics, and also lets people request specific services like getting their brake pads fixed or getting an oil change. Car owners get a quote online, based on the time it will take to complete the job, a mechanic’s hourly rate, travel fee, and any wholesale parts, and can view ratings for each mechanic. YourMechanic has backend integration with several car part manufacturers which then allows them to provide a flat hourly rate for the mechanic as well as transparent costs for the parts the repair will require. The hourly rate is a fraction of the cost potential customers would incur at a repair shop, which YourMechanic claims charge much higher markups while paying the mechanic only a small margin.
The biggest selling point of the service is the convenience factor, since a mechanic will travel to the customer’s home or workplace to do the repairs. Car owners provide a driveway or parking lot to work from, and the mechanic comes to their location with all parts and required equipment. YourMechanic can also track vehicles in a user’s online profile, keeping track of their current and future maintenance needs and prompting them to book appointments.
The company pre-screens auto mechanics by doing a wide-range of background checks on references and certifications to ensure the quality of their service. Auto mechanics provide their own vans and tools, and once accepted can use YourMechanic branding. Agrawal said the arrangement allows mechanics to make on average 3-4 times more than they would at an auto repair shop. The company’s new mobile apps also let mechanics show customers a wide array of product options and pricing, making the entire process as transparent as possible, something Agrawal said is the main goal of the service.
“What we realized is people wanted fixed prices. People wanted fair and fixed prices, no mark-ups. So we had to integrate and build relationships with suppliers, which took a long time, but this is what people want,” Agrawal said.
The company lets mechanics keep 100 percent of their earnings, and instead it takes a 20-30 percent transaction fee for the parts sold through its partner network of car manufacturers.
Another auto-related “we come to you” service is Cherry, a car wash service people can schedule through their mobile app. Like YourMechanic, users of the app can request a car wash in any public parking spot for a flat rate. There are an increasing number of services that leverage technology to take the pain factor out of mundane activities like getting the car washed and fixed. YourMechanic also recognizes that there are still 20 percent of repairs that require a facility and that they still face direct competition from the physical repair shops, although the company is looking for ways to collaborate with shops that offer those services.
Upcoming updates in the works include a mobile app for customers that will provide real-time notifications about impending car repairs, and building their service in California. The company is poised to take the inconvenience and often disputed pricing for repairs out of the auto repair industry and introduce a fresh approach, but it will need to prove its network of independent mechanics can provide top-quality service in order to replace the role of a traditional repair shop.