You want the best price on things you buy second hand, but finding out how much you should pay is a hassle. Removing this friction from a lucrative part of the purchase funnel is the goal of Priceonomics. The first startup out of the winter 2012 Y Combinator batch, Priceonomics has crawled the web to compile its next-generation price guide. It launches today featuring 10 million prices on 50,000 products, and plans to expand across verticals soon.
Here’s how it works. Let’s say you want to buy a TV on craigslist, a bike on eBay, or something from the TechCrunch holiday gift guide. Visit the site and search for the product. Priceonomics returns an estimate for how much you should pay for it along with a range of prices it’s crawled. It then displays listings of people selling it. Filter by keyword, proximity, and price to narrow the results. There’s also value to sellers, as they can check how they should be pricing their own products.
Most listings I clicked had already been sold, but the site is designed for you to discover what you should pay, not necessarily where to buy. If you can wait a little while, enter your email address and Priceonomics notifies you when the product is posted at a great price.
There’s also browsable price guides for specific product types. You could click Computers->Apple->MacBook to discover you should pay about $1000 for this used laptop, or at least somewhere between $682 and $1,318. Currently the site features 71 product types across categories like transportation, cameras, computers, phones, and TVs, but more are on the way.
Used product price guides aren’t new, especially for cars, but Priceonomics does it right. I love how quick and clean the site is. It’s so refreshing compared to slogging through Google product search results. My only gripe is that I have to click a listing to find out if it’s already been sold. With time I’m sure the founding team of CEO Michael Flaxman, CTO Omar Bohsali, and Rohin Dhar will sort this out and highlight active listings. Flaxman tells me developed the idea for Priceonomics because “I’m a serial craigslist shopper…[but] I’ve always found it really hard to figure out what things are worth.”
I asked Flaxman why Priceonomics is different from existing price guides. He explained, “First, in almost all our verticals we’re the first price guide to exist. Want to know what a five-year old bicycle is worth? Good luck finding that! Second, our guides are generated by the collective knowledge of literally millions of people. All the data is transparently available for everyone to see. This gives us a credibility that doesn’t exist for the big car pricing sites. This means that all of our guides are constantly updated automatically as we continue to index the web, so there’s no risk of our prices becoming stale.”
Because it fits into the purchase funnel at the stage where people are clearly trying to buy something, the Priceonomics has big monetization potential. Featured product guides for brands, sponsored search results, traditional display, lead generation, and affiliate links would all work.
While the rest of the Winter YC class will launch soon, Priceonomics made a smart push to get out the door today. It may have missed the pre-holiday shopping blitz, but there’ll be plenty of people looking to spend cash gifts or find out whether they should return a new product and buy used instead.
Update: I’ve heard back from the Priceonomics team and added several quotes to this article.