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New apps aim to make buying a used car more transparent

By Natasha Baker

(Reuters) - Americans looking to buy a used car can turn to two new smartphone apps that provide wholesale prices, which the app makers say can help them negotiate a better deal.

The apps give the wholesale, or auction value, of a car when it scans the vehicle's identification number (VIN), which is found on the car's dashboard or driver side door.

"Dealers really prey on consumers," said Alexander Kiss, co-founder of New York-based company Green Sky Labs, creators of the Vinny iPhone app.

"For example, if a dealer has a $10,000 sticker price on the car, we can show you that the wholesale price on that car is $8,000 and that there's some negotiating room."

A report by Ken Research, a market research company, showed that in the United States the average markup on a used car is nearly 14 percent, and two percent for a new car.

The free Vinny app gives an estimated wholesale price based on transaction prices and the car's condition, age, mileage and other factors.

It also gives the car's specifications and retail and book values from organizations such as Kelly Blue Book and the National Automobile Dealer's Association, and similar cars for sale in AutoTrader and on eBay.

SnafuScan, an app from Innovative Industries, also offers the wholesale price of used cars. Dennis Miller, the company's chief executive, said the price was accurate to within $100 to $300.

SnafuScan, which is available for iPhone and Android, estimates dealer cost based on five years of transaction data and other factors such as vehicle depreciation, inflation and inventory.

The app, which costs $9.99 for a 30-day subscription, also offers tips on how to find problems with a car that can be masked by dealers, such as issues with engine lights, head gaskets or air conditioning.

The apps currently only work in the United States but will be expanded to cover Canada and elsewhere later.

In the United States, wholesale price information is available through car auction marketplaces, such as Manheim, but it is typically only accessible to dealers.

(Editing by Paticia Reaney and David Brunnstrom)

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