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Used car supermarket Carcraft launched an iPhone app recently, which allows users to search the stock from their phones, and also make a finance application. 

Carcraft already has a smartphone enabled website, but the new iPhone app offers a more attractive interface, and a new 'Love this Car' feature. 

Searching for a car

Having spent the last month or so looking for another car, I have found mobile very useful for comparing prices, checking reviews on the move, and checking stock at local dealers. 

I've mainly used the Auto Trader app to check prices, and What Car?, which does have a reasonably useful mobile website. The move to mobile apps from Carcraft is a great idea, as it allows customers to check prices and stock and perhaps tempt them away from their local car dealer.

The search interface is simple, with just six fields required to start your search: 

Carcraft app - car search

It could do with being a little more complex though in some areas. For example, the price ranges are restrictive. As shown below, I can only select a £1,000 price range, unless I select under £5,000 or over £12,000. So, if I want to search for a BMW between £7,000 and £10,000 I have a lot of work to do. 

Carcraft app

Also, an advanced search option would be useful. As well as price range, other factors are crucial when searching for cars; mileage, age, engine size, or whether it is an estate or saloon. These options would allow users to narrow their searches and remove the need to look through irrelevant results. 

While I think it's a good idea to prevent users' searches returning no results at all, the suggested alternatives could be improved. Having searched for a BMW under £8,000, I'm given cars worth £16,000 and upwards: 

Car details

The product pages look good, and the basic details are there, and the three calls to action, calling for details, finance application and part-ex quote, are all clear: 

Finance application and part exchange quotes

These two features are an excellent idea, as this allows users to compare a deal they may have been offered on a similar car with what Carcraft could provide. 

I didn't try the finance application, but the part-exchange valuation option is useful as a rough guide.

Love this Car

This is a potentially useful feature, which allows users to search for a car based on the registration number, and Carcraft will suggest similar cars in its range. 

Auto Trader used a camera function in its app which recognised number plates from pictures, gave you details of the make and model, and searched for similar cars available to buy.

This was an excellent feature, but sadly the DVLA forced Auto Trader to remove it

This registration search is the next best thing though, and allows for more instant price comparison. I tried a few registrations in the app, and it worked for some but not others, including my car: 


The user experience on this app could be improved with advanced search options, and more accurate results, but it does contain some very useful features. The low average review score (1.5 out of 5 stars) on the App Store tells the same story. 

The fact that users can instantly get a quote for part exchanging their existing car and make a finance application does make it very useful. 

As more people use mobiles as part of the research process for buying cars, then having this app in the hands of potential customers could be a great strategy for Carcraft, but it does need to get the user experience right. 

Graham Charlton

Published 4 May, 2011 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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