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Ten Questions About AutoTempest.Com

An Interview with Nathan Stretch, president of Tempest Systems Inc.


Ten Questions About AutoTempest.Com

AutoTempest.com is a used car aggregation website.

Logo courtesy of AutoTempest.com

AutoTempest.com is an aggregator of used car websites. AutoTempest searches Autotrader.com, Cars.com, eBay Motors, Cars Direct, Automotive.com, Oodle.com (which itself pulls in listings from multiple smaller sources), and craigslist. It's not a perfect site by any means, but it does make initial used car shopping a lot easier. Put it on your To Do List when shopping for a used car.

Nathan Stretch is president of Tempest Systems Inc., a company registered in British Columbia, Canada. He is also the founder of AutoTempest.com and SearchTempest.com (and other tempests to come … videotempest.com being next he said). He took time to answer 10 Questions About AutoTempest.com.

Q. Tell the readers a little bit about Auto Tempest. What was its inspiration?

A. I started a few years ago with SearchTempest.com, a simple site to help people searching craigslist. (It basically saves the trouble of typing the same search into multiple nearby cities, and provides a few additional options like ebay results.)

I found a good chunk of the site's users were searching for cars. And I thought, if people are searching for cars in multiple cities, they're probably also looking at autotrader/cars.com etc, or should be. Wouldn't it be handy if you could do that all at once without having to enter the search over and over?

Q. What kind of traffic have you been getting with your site? Does it have any partnerships with the big selling sites like craigslist and eBay?

A. The site is relatively young, so I'm still in the process of building its traffic. However it recently got an unexpected boost. Apparently Paul Michael from WiseBread stumbled on my site while searching for a quote from Shakespeare's The Tempest and liked it enough to blog about it. Kevin Purdy at Lifehacker read that post and then wrote his own, sending about 10,000 people to AutoTempest that day!

As far as partnerships, I do currently have arrangements with eBay Motors, Cars Direct, and Vehix, which I will be adding to the site soon after receiving requests from users.

Q. You say eBay provides an API to access their listings. What is an API and what does that mean for the average consumer?

A. API stands for Application Programming Interface. It basically refers to a clearly defined way for computer programs to talk to each other. eBay's API makes it easier and faster to display their results on AutoTempest (and other sites around the web). For the average consumer, it means I have more time to work on other cool features.

Q. AutoTempest searches Autotrader.com, Cars.com, eBay Motors, Cars Direct, Automotive.com, Oodle.com (which itself pulls in listings from multiple smaller sources), and craigslist. Any plans to expand further?

A. Absolutely. As I mentioned, Vehix.com is next on the list. In the future, smaller sites or even individual ads from dealerships or individuals are a possibility, although first some thought will have to go into how best to present them. I'm also planning a Canadian version, which will search sites like buysell.com and autotrader.ca.

Q. One criticism I read suggested putting all the results on one page instead of using tabs for each site. Is that practical?

A. There are a number of 'mashup' sites out there that claim to do what AutoTempest does, and show all the results on one page. However, you'll notice that they don't tend to show results from the most useful sites, like Autotrader.com and craigslist. That's because these major players don't generally appreciate their results being 'scraped' (nerd-speak for 'copied') and displayed out of context. By separating the results into tabs, I am instead able to give users the authentic results page for each site. Not only do the owners of the car sites not mind that, many of them actually appreciate it.

A second advantage to the tabs is on the user's side. When using AutoTempest, you can be confident that the results you get are genuine. And you can clearly see (and even double-check if you want) that they are exactly the same results you would get searching each of these sites individually. You just save all the time of entering your search info over and over.

Q. You told me one of the interesting challenges in doing this is that each site provides slightly different options for searching. How do you overcome that challenge? It seems like a big one because a lot of used cars could be overlooked.

A. Basically, my approach is to give the user as much flexibility as possible in customizing their searches, but to also provide logical default values so they don't have to dig into the minor details if they don't want to.

For example, say you're searching for a BMW 330i. Some sites don't list the 330 as a separate model, instead grouping all 3-series models together. So for those sites, AutoTempest will instead search all BMW listings for the words "330" and "330i". Generally that will give the desired results. In case AutoTempest doesn't get things right though, you can tweak the keywords it uses, or show all 3-series results instead.

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