Used car

The transformative journey of used car startups in India: Report

Used car

The Indian used car market is witnessing a significant transformation, driven by various factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on individual mobility preferences, increased financing options in the used car market, and reduced cash inflow for new car purchases. And perhaps most importantly now, the new and spreading norms on the scrapping of cars.

This shift has led to a surge in availability, and demand for used cars, with buyers seeking alternatives to new vehicles. The market is poised for considerable growth, especially with the implementation of new emission standards and focusing on reducing diesel car production.

As per a report by Motor Intelligence, the Indian used car market is expected to reach $31.62 billion in 2024 and grow at a CAGR of 15.10% to reach $63.87 billion by 2029.

Used car

Among the used car companies in India, Cars24 is leading the pack with over Rs 5,500 crore in earnings. Spinny achieved the second position last year with nearly 30X growth in revenue (GMV). CarDekho, CarTrade, OLX and Droom are next on the list.

The funding and valuation game

The used car space has witnessed four unicorns so far including Cars24, Spinny, CarDekho, and Droom. Valuation-wise, Cars24 is on top with $3.3 billion followed by Spinny, CarDekho, and Droom. At the same time, CarTrade’s market capitalization stands at around $370 million.

Notably, all of these raised their last funding in 2021. In contrast, OLX has not raised any funding for a long time.

Rising scale of leading used car players

Cars24’s revenue from operations marginally declined 8.9% to Rs 5,534 crore during the last fiscal year while in grabbing the second spot, Spinny’s scale (GMV) jumped nearly 30X to Rs 3,261 crore.

CarDekho also managed 46% growth with Rs 2,332 crore in revenue. However, the company is also involved in other operations like insurance, marketing et al. Its revenue from the sale of used cars stood at Rs 952 crore during the period.

Used car

CarTrade’s sales grew 16.3% to Rs 363.7 crore in FY23 as compared to Rs 312.7 crore in FY22. OLX and Droom recorded Rs 514.92 crore and Rs 253.3 crore in revenue during FY23, respectively.

For context, Cars24 makes over 90% of its revenue from the sale of cars while a small part comes from financial services. Similarly, Spinny made 95% of its revenue from the sale of cars while the remaining was from services, including commissions on car sales and financial services.

Where are the used car companies spending?

Cars24 spent over 80% of its expenses on the procurement of goods while Spinny and CarDekho booked 72% and 33.7%, respectively, under the same.

CarDekho spent 21.7% of its cost on employee benefits and 21.1% on advertising and promotional expenses. CarTrade incurred the majority (55.9%) of its expenditure on employee benefits followed by promotional and other expenses.

The red and green: Bottomline of the used car players

Listed on the stock exchange, CarTrade is the only profitable company among the leading players as of FY23. The company posted Rs 40.4 crore profits in FY23 against Rs 121.3 crore in losses the previous year.

Used car

On the back of rising expenses, Spinny has the highest losses, but not the worst margins. Its losses crossed the Rs 800 crore benchmark in FY23. CarDekho and Cars24 are next in line with Rs 566 crore and Rs 467.7 crore losses, respectively. Meanwhile, CarDekho’s auto business reported Rs 360 crore losses during the period.

A look at Covid & Pre-Covid performance

The COVID-19 pandemic impact on Cars24, CarTrade, and Droom was big enough to lead to a decline in revenue. On the other hand, CarDekho and Spinny managed to achieve positive growth, although below expectations.

Unit economics

On a unit level, Cars24, Spinny, CarDekho, and CarTrade, spent Rs 1.09, 1.29, 1.25, and 1.25 to earn a rupee of operating revenue in FY23.

Used car

Consolidations in used car space

The pre-owned car space also saw a bunch of consolidation as bigger brands took over smaller ones over the past five-six years. CarDekho topped the list with seven acquisitions including Revv, Carmudi, Carbiqi, Help on Wheels, ZigWheels, BuyingIQ, and Listed company CarsTrade took over Olx Auto, SAMIL, Adroit Inspection, and CarWale whereas Spinny acquired three startups – Scouto, Truebil, and HopCar – since its inception in 2015. OLX as a group acquired around 12 companies which also included global companies such as Sulit and Tokobagus.

Used car

Recent Developments

Delhi NCR-based Cars24 is reportedly piloting a new service that allows car owners to hire drivers on-demand on an hourly basis. The startup had launched a separate app – Autopilot Driver – a few months ago to onboard drivers for the new service.

CarDekho shut down its used car retail business amid continuously losing money in the B2C model because of high burn on parking, showrooms, and manpower without any sight of profitability.

User behavioural shift in the used cars segment

Second-hand cars have been in fashion for eons. However, there has long been a stigma attached to owning a used car. Beyond social status and related concerns, people have had trust issues regarding sellers’ credentials, the history of cars, and so forth. The growing number of startups in this space, however, have democratized the process and have made it more accessible to common users.

While increased accessibility and the shedding of stigma are commonly observed, there has been a big change in how people approach used cars. As mentioned above, the pandemic has also had a significant impact, alongside changes in policies and advancements in technology.

The trend toward choosing used cars is growing stronger for several practical reasons, a Cars24 spokesperson said. 

“Buyers are discovering that used cars offer significant value, allowing access to higher-end models and features without the steep price of a new vehicle. The reliability of used cars has greatly improved, thanks to comprehensive inspections and refurbishments, making them a dependable choice. Additionally, the fact that new cars depreciate quickly makes pre-owned vehicles an appealing option for those looking to maximise their investment. This shift in consumer behaviour reflects a smarter, more value-conscious approach to car buying,” the spokesperson explains.

The spokesperson further said that car buyers in India are ready to spend 30% (FY22 vs FY23) more on their vehicles, steering towards models with premium features and better overall quality. There is also a surge in demand for SUVs. 

EVs are too making their way in the used car segment. “In 2023, there was a phenomenal 5X surge in enquiries for EVs on the platform, reflecting a growing interest in alternative fuel options and a shift towards cost-efficient and eco-conscious driving,” the spokesperson said, adding that Cars24 is currently averaging 200 enquiries daily for EVs.

CarDekho is also bullish on the used car segment. “Used cars will still continue to do fine as the older vehicles will migrate out of metros,” said Amit Jain, co-founder and CEO of CarDekho Group.

Jain also highlighted that demand for used cars is mostly from individual users as cab drivers need a yellow plate which is expensive, making the proposition unviable for cab drivers. “Cab drivers also need CNG installations as most of the used cars are either petrol or diesel which add extra burden on them,” he added.

TheKredible’s take

Even as it is a huge and growing market, it is well known that making money in the market is a different ball game. Buyers have the option of direct deals with owners, free listing sites and of course, a massive unorganised market, before they approach the organised players. With the option of going with the firms floated by automakers such as Maruti Suzuki True Value and First Choice are always there in case of a purchase. 

Thus, beyond the obvious issue of price for both sellers and buyers, these firms have to invest in differentiators that will be valued. The high losses and lack of loyalty indicate just how little success they have had in this effort. We believe lasting success in the category will continue to demand a long-term, high-investment approach that not all the existing players will survive.

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