The story behind BookMyGarage’s unique approach to car servicing

by Douglas Rotberg, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer

The dawn of the Internet

When the internet was really starting to gain serious traction in the UK in the late 1990s, long before BookMyGarage was born, my instincts told me that comparison sites would transform the automotive industry in various ways, as indeed they have. I became determined to be one of the leaders in this brave new world.

My background and experience did, after all, create the perfect stanchion from which to view the landscape. I had bought three large failing car dealerships, turned them around, and sold them for a healthy profit, having originally learnt the business at Rolls-Royce, an excellent training ground.

After starting out as an apprentice, my final role, at the tender age of 28, was to run the world’s largest Rolls-Royce and Bentley repair facility. I handled aristocrats, billionaires, sheikhs and a few “interesting characters” simultaneously on the showroom floor. There is surely no other place where you’d find such an extreme cross-section of society chatting so amicably!

The birth of Carsite

When the noughties arrived, I decided to decamp from traditional bricks and mortar to start Carsite, the first online B2C ex-fleet car sales platform. It was a brave business model where consumers would buy and pay for a 3-year-old used car online without seeing it in the flesh first. Carsite ultimately went on to be a nationally recognised brand and the way it evolved set me up well for challenges to come.

It was during these early days that good fortune struck when I met my future wife, Karen. She had just triumphantly sold the internet company she co-founded in 1995, Jobsite, to Associated Newspapers, owners of the Daily Mail and many other titles. It was the start of a successful, lifelong partnership that bore fruit in all aspects of my life.

The creation of Tesco Cars

Karen’s energy, determination, internet startup experience and all-around business smarts helped propel Carsite to a whole new level. The company soon attracted the attention of that well-known behemoth, Tesco, and they swooped in with an offer in 2012 that we simply couldn’t refuse. It was an amazingly exciting time.

Karen and I were installed as Chief Marketing Officer and Managing Director respectively of the new Tesco Cars division. When we were eventually removed from our “golden handcuffs,” we were able to move onto the next business. The idea for it came from customers of Carsite who would ask: “you’ve given me a great discount on a great car, but where do you recommend that I get it serviced?”

The birth of TootCompare

The UK car servicing market was a generally-acknowledged mess at the time.  With around 25,000 garages to choose from, consumers told us that they didn’t know how to differentiate between the good ones and those that were frequently highlighted as rotten apples in the tabloids.

It was very evident there was a gap in the market for a company that helped consumers decide which service their car needed, at what price, and at which garage.  So, we decided to create a solution, which is today called BookMyGarage. As things go with internet startups, we weren’t called BookMyGarage at launch, but TootCompare.

The questionable intermediaries

There were also new online intermediaries appearing all the time with dubious business models, all geared to take advantage of garages and consumers alike.  So, Karen and I decided to take on these unnecessary internet middle-men and level the playing field for all, introducing transparency to what everyone knew to be a very murky world.

Television shows, like the BBC’s Watchdog and Rogue Traders, began to highlight how many of our competitors play games with either garages and consumers, or both simultaneously, to make money for themselves.  They showed that they get in the middle of every relationship in the car servicing market they can and try to monetise every exchange within them.

Marriage with RAC

We soon traded in the playful TootCompare name to leverage a well-known one, becoming RAC Garage Compare.  It was still our company, but we suddenly had the clout of RAC’s marketing machine behind us.  Is there any adult in the UK who does not recognise their brand?

As is often the case when a large company and a small one partner up, our perspectives on the way forward never quite aligned and eventually the relationship was agreeably severed.  But RAC gave us good exposure in the marketplace for which we remain very grateful.

The birth of BookMyGarage

We were now free to get our unique message, proposition, technology and positioning right for garages and consumers.  We soon re-launched the company and re-branded as BookMyGarage.com.  This also enabled us to get the type of investment which would lead us into becoming the 35th fastest growing company in the UK.

BookMyGarage has become the one-and-only logical solution in the whole car servicing market because, while we do sit in-between the two sides, providing B2B services to garages and B2C ones to consumers, we do not get in the middle of any relationships between any garage and any of their customers.  We view ourselves as merely a sort of dating service, introducing motorists and mechanics to each other.

The problems BookMyGarage solves

BookMyGarage’s performance suggests that everything we are doing is working, but I do get frustrated that most garages and consumers still don’t seem to know how we are different to every other option available.  Nor do they understand the ingredients that genuinely make us a win:win:win for everybody: all motorists, all garages, and us.

Basically, BookMyGarage is truly the first company to align everyone’s interests in the car servicing market.  What makes BookMyGarage special is actually rather easy to wrap one’s head around if one gets to the core of the two sides of the equation: garages and consumers.

Garages are willing to pay a small fee to get legitimate bookings.  Consumers want a free, quick, easy-to-use and hassle-free website that transparently and fairly compares all relevant garages based on what is most important to them (e.g. price, distance, verified reviews and garage availability).

BookMyGarage’s time is now

At the end of the day, Karen and I and all of our 40-strong team at BookMyGarage are confident about the value we bring to both motorists and garages.  We value your opinions, so please share with us any observations you might have to help us continually improve our business.

But for now, BookMyGarage is the quickest, easiest and most transparent way to search for, compare and book car services from over 8,500 garages based on those criteria that are most important to you.  And all the prices we show are controlled by the garages themselves, so you’ll always get their best deals!

THANK YOU for visiting BookMyGarage.com today!