I bought the car I currently drive at a local used car lot after finding it on AutoTrader. It’s the exact same year, make, and model as my wife’s car. We liked hers so much that I decided to just get another one exactly like it. I found it with the right mileage at the right price just a few minutes away. I checked the CARFAX and did a bunch more homework on that model, despite the fact that we’d been driving my wife’s car for several years and knew as much as one could know about a car. We did the usual haggling and eventually settled on a price half way between the asking price and my market value offer. Easy cheesy, right? Because CARFAX tells you everything about your used car. But does it, really?

No, CARFAX does not tell you everything

CARFAX is a great service, and is mostly “truth”, but it’s not the whole truth. CARFAX only reports what car repair and maintenance specialists actually enter into its database. If you own a car, and you know the mechanic pretty well, it would be very easy to convince them not to enter that little ding or bent frame or damaged rod into CARFAX.

I can only guess that’s what happened to my car. Initially, we had no issues with the car, but about 15k miles after we bought it, the engine blew. Now, this is a Toyota Sequoia, which is known for its ridiculously reliable drivetrain. The two mechanics I took it to just shook their heads, and said, “Wow, you don’t see this happen to a Sequoia.” Turns out, the car had been wrecked, the frame bent, and some damage done to some part of the engine that caused it to die. You’d think CARFAX would have such information, but it did not.

Used cars are used by people

People are social. Cameras, social media, and mobile apps are ubiquitous. When my car was wrecked, whenever that might have been, I guarantee you someone took a picture of the car(s) after the accident, at the very least for insurance purposes. Today, VINWiki is collecting that type of ubiquitously available data by simply enabling anyone with a mobile phone to take a picture of any car and add that data point to the VINWiki database.  In just over 18 months, VINWiki has accumulated almost 50,000 users of their free iOS / Android app. Those users have uploaded pictures of more than a 150 million cars just like mine. And yours.

VINWiki: A great content marketing story

Ed Bolian, the founder of VINWiki, didn’t launch his startup at Pitch Practice, but he did pitch several times and entertain us with some of his exotic car stories…and stories about exotic cars. In the summer of 2017, Ed was at a bit of an inflection point with VINWiki. The app is free, and Ed has always been very open about the fact that he is collecting data and attracting users first, and creating a monetization strategy second. So far, so good, with 50k users and millions of new data points.

But a man’s gotta eat, right? That inflection point was “return to selling exotic cars or figure out a way to make money from VINWiki.”

So, about all those exotic stories about exotic cars? Turns out, Ed has a LOT of those stories and a LOT of friends in the car biz with a LOT more of the same kind of stories. So, Ed setup a make shift video studio, filled it with some automotive trinkets and memorabilia, sat in front of that camera, and told some stories. The VINWiki YouTube channel now has over 257,000 subscribers, and has become a very nice way to fund this startup that is (literally) “changing automotive history.”

Ed publishes a new video every weekday. It’s all stories about cars. It’s literally about automotive history. The video channel has nothing whatsoever to do with the VINWiki app. But downloads of the VINWiki app have more than doubled since they launched the YouTube channel. This is content marketing at its finest: providing value to your target audience.

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