CarSaver CEO Chad Collier laughs when asked about his first car.
“My first car was a Nissan 200 SX,” he says. “I loved that car, but it was definitely a ‘first car.’ And that thing was fast! I got in an accident like teenagers usually do. I got hit on the side of the front end so my front end was pointed to the left. When I was going straight it looked like my car was turning. It took me a while before I could get enough money saved up to get that front end straightened up.”
Collier also remembers his first car-buying experience — it was a different kind of wreck. He was working as a car salesman to pay his way through college at the time, but even insider knowledge couldn’t make the infamously long, tedious process any easier.
“I negotiated with the dealership for several hours,” he says. “I spent most of the day on a Saturday. I really needed to be at work but I was at another dealership buying a car. Ultimately, I got turned down for the financing, so I wasted all day to find out I couldn’t buy it. I was young and didn’t have a lot of credit. That experience really bothered me.”
Collier continued to work for and eventually own several car lots throughout the South, including a Ford dealership in Tennessee. Automotive News declared him one of the Innovative Dealers in 2008 after he began providing customers with iPods so that they could take no-pressure video tours of cars on the lot.
Embracing technology even further, he and Sean Wolfington officially founded CarSaver in 2016 after working on other ventures for several years. The company is currently the only car-buying platform to sell new, used and certified pre-owned vehicles with an end-to-end online experience.
While e-commerce apps like Carvana and Vroom offer a similar online service, they currently offer only used vehicles. With CarSaver, Collier says, customers have a wider range of vehicles from which to choose, and partnerships with Walmart and Nissan’s Buy@Home platform have increased CarSaver’s reach.
“Walmart reaches 95 percent of the U.S., [so] we see a pretty diverse customer base,” he says. “Certainly millennials are first to adopt this type of buying experience and technology, but we truly do see all ages. We also offer all brands. We’ve had customers buy new Bentleys from us, and we’ve had customers buy a $5,000 or $6,000 car.”
Who’s getting a brand new Bentley delivered to her or his door?
“We have to keep them anonymous,” Collier says with a chuckle, “but we have had several celebrities purchase vehicles from us. A lot in the music industry.”
In 2019, Collier moved CarSaver’s headquarters from Miami to Franklin, though the company still has a presence in Florida. And last year the company saw a 360 percent increase in sales. It kicked off the New Year by announcing a partnership with iHeart.
“We’re excited about that partnership,” he says. “iHeart is the No. 1 audio company in the U.S. Their on-air talent is trusted. They’ve got Bobby Bones, Ryan Seacrest and Wayne D here in Nashville. There are others that I can’t name, but we have a number of new partnerships in our pipeline that we’ll be announcing.”
Collier is also mum when it comes to CarSaver’s future financing plans, though he has publicly considered an initial public offering or a round of Series C funding. (The company raised $40 million combined in Series A and B rounds.)
“We’re evaluating all of our options, whether that means doing another round of financing or entering the public markets,” says Collier.
“It’s an interesting market, a frothy market right now,” he adds. “We’re constantly watching that and making sure we enter at the right time when we do enter the market.”
“There are studies that say over 60 percent of consumers would prefer to buy their car online,” Collier adds when asked about the security of CarSaver’s future. “We feel like there’ll be continued growth. Consumers buy everything online these days — your groceries, your clothes — and we don’t think cars will be any different.”