David Shapiro CEO and Founder, Cartelligent
David had a summer job during college at a car dealership exposed him to the stress and hassle consumers faced with the “hard sell” process. He founded the concierge car-buying service Cartelligent to guide his clients to the right vehicle for their needs and get them a fair price, successfully growing the company from a single office to a statewide brand with the foundation to expand nationally.
In Journal, David shares how easy it is to get your dream car delivered to CANOPY, and how it feels to drive 100 miles an hour along the Autobahn in a sporty BMW.
How did you develop the concept for Cartelligent?
Everything about getting a new car feels great—it’s great to drive around your neighborhood, go out of town for an adventure, and enjoy that new car smell. The process of buying should be great too. So that was my idea: to make the car-buying experience as enjoyable as having and driving a new car. That was the genesis of Cartelligent.
What pain points do you see in the car-buying process?
The biggest pain point is that finding the right car and negotiating a good price takes too long. The story we hear most often from clients is that they spend hours visiting, calling, and emailing different dealerships and then leave feeling uncertain, frustrated, and like outsiders.
We take a different approach. We start with a phone conversation to meet our clients wherever they are in the car-buying process. We listen carefully to their concerns, their needs, and their preferences. Then we craft a plan together and guide them through the entire experience. We seek to understand what our clients really want. With Cartelligent, you have a car expert on your side to simplify the car-buying journey and get you a great deal on any new car.
Our approach to helping people buy or lease a car creates a more enjoyable experience because we understand our client’s wants and then provide a solution that meets or exceeds their expectations. This is even more satisfying when people feel that we’re their guide and partner through the journey. Our business is less about selling cars and more about providing an enjoyable car-buying experience.
Many businesses in this market are attached to specific brands or parent companies. Is Cartelligent affiliated with any manufacturers or organizations?
No, We work with all makes and models, and that’s a huge advantage for our clients. When our clients hire us to find them a new car, our service covers every brand and all available stock. If the car you want isn’t in stock, we can order it for you, typically at a more favorable price. For example, if your ideal car has a dark blue exterior, beige leather seats, and a panoramic sunroof, then we’ll cast our net across the entire state of California and beyond to find it.
I see on your website that Cartelligent specializes in new cars, but you also work in pre-owned vehicles and leasing. How do those elements of your business complement each other?
Most people come to us for new cars because we’re experts in the space, but they often also want to know whether it’s better to buy or lease, or better to buy a new car versus a certified pre-owned one. Many people don’t realize that a certified used car often doesn’t represent good value—they’re actually higher-priced used cars because the dealer bought it, fixed it up, and then added a good profit and a “certified” extended warranty.
For example, if a new car is $50,000 and you find a certified used model for $36,000, you might think you’re saving $14,000. In reality, that certified pre-owned car is worth $31,000, and you’re considering paying $36,000, which is $5,000 too much. If Cartelligent can get you that new $50,000 car for $44,000, many people find that’s better value than paying $36,000 for a pre-owned vehicle worth only $31,000.
We love to be that guide to answer those questions and break down what each costs over time and why. Not one answer fits everybody—it always depends on the person’s situation.
Do you have any top-level notes for buying versus leasing?
Some people generally say leasing makes sense for people who drive lots of miles and don’t take care of their car or don’t have a garage, but most of those insights are generalizations. There are two parts to this decision: the financial and practical part, which means looking at the lease rate and overall cost to have the car for the lease term, and the emotional part. Practically, leasing means a lower short-term cost, lower monthly payment, and lower commitment, which can feel safer than buying a car outright. Emotionally, leasing can be a good solution if you know you want a car and are ready to commit, but to a few years rather than indefinitely; on the other hand, some clients feel more comfortable owning their car the way their parents did.
You may want to be able to upgrade or change your car as better technology or better longer-range EV options come to market. In the same way that a flight will cost you different amounts at different times, car lease prices are affected by supply and demand: sometimes the rate is $400 a month, and sometimes it’s $800 for the same car. If a client is open to a different model in the same category, we can often find a better deal. The answer to whether to buy or lease is different for everyone.
Take us through the process of buying a car through Cartelligent.
We start with a 15- to 30-minute phone consultation to see where you are in the car-buying process and discuss your questions and goals. People who are early in their journey generally receive a homework assignment to test drive the models they’re considering and their budget. Once they’re ready, clients engage Cartelligent for its service, which costs $595. For that, we develop a full scope of the car you’re looking for, how you want to pay for it, and when you want to take delivery. We factor in restrictions, such as whether you have an old car you need to sell or trade-in as part of this process or whether you’re considering leasing first.
Cartelligent’s purchasing team constantly researches and gathers data on available cars and lease and finance packages. If there’s a car to sell, we determine the value of that car by looking at the blue book and checking what comparable vehicles are trading for. Within 24 to 48 hours, we’ll get in touch and discuss our findings, fine-tuning everything to where the client happily agrees to take that car with these terms.
How do your clients take delivery of their new car?
The car will get delivered to one of our delivery centers throughout California: Menlo Park, Sausalito, Walnut Creek, and Southern California. We connect the client with a delivery specialist who will coordinate the actual delivery of the car, whether at the delivery center lot or their home or place of work. They’ll show you how to work all the car’s features, pair your phone and Apple CarPlay, and demonstrate safety features—everything to ensure you enjoy a first-class delivery experience.
I’ll be delivering cars to CANOPY Members in Menlo Park or San Francisco over the coming months and years!
Do you have any favorite places to take a road trip?
I love to go to Germany and drive on the Autobahn. I’ve done this around 15 times. I’ll fly to one city and then visit multiple places, enjoying some great food and beer in the evenings before hitting the road the next day. I’ve enjoyed visiting the BMW plant and museum in Munich and Porsche’s equivalent in Stuttgart. I’ve experienced Volvo’s European delivery program, which was a great adventure. If I had a month to live, I would probably do one last ride on the Autobahn—my smile is stretched across my face when I’m driving 100 miles an hour on the Autobahn in a new BMW.