VR-like 360-degree viewing comes to the used-car market with Beepi

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If you’re a web-based tire-kicker, either because you’re really in the market for a new ride or you just like looking around, your online options just got richer. Used car marketplace Beepi  just added a virtual-reality feature that makes internet car shopping a whole lot more immersive. With VR-like, 360-degree scrollable views inside and out, checking out a Beepi listing is almost but not quite like being there IRL.

Beepi doesn’t maintain its own inventory of vehicles, but instead acts as a go-between or marketplace. Unlike Craigslist, however, sellers can’t list just any old clunker on Beepi. The service generally limits the cars it lists to a max six years old and no more than 60,000 miles. And in order for your car to be accepted for listing, it has to pass a 240-point inspection.

Beepi will send a specially trained inspector to check out the car at your office or home. The same inspector also takes all the pictures for the still images and the new 360-degree interactive views. Beepi told us it takes two to three months to train their inspectors on all parts of the process and typically about two hours for each inspection/photo session.

Related: In the future, buying a car involves no pressure, no lies, no leisure suits

For every three prospective sellers who inquire about listing vehicles, two cars end up being inspected, and only one makes the final cut. So apparently the company screens the cars pretty thoroughly. Part of the Beepi service for owners is a guaranteed sales price. If no one buys your car in 30 days, Beepi will buy it for the agreed-upon price. All the seller has to do is accept a check and turn over the keys.

On the buyer side, Beepi delivers the car tied in a big bow (really — and you get to choose the color). Also, all required state vehicle registration and documentation is done for you, saving that huge hassle. You do a quick test drive to be sure you’re satisfied, and if all’s good, you complete any necessary paperwork and get the keys. At that point, you begin a 10-day test drive — if you’re not happy you can reverse the whole purchase and get your money back. Beepi also provides a full three-month, 3,000-mile warranty in addition to any remaining manufacturer’s warranty.

You can’t actually physically kick the tires with Beepi’s Walkaround feature, but you can move around a horizontal plane with high-resolution imagery. We’d like to be able to zoom in but you can’t yet: A Beepi spokesperson told Digital Trends that’s a “next-on-the-list” feature. In the vehicle report section, in addition to an AutoCheck vehicle history, there’s a ding-and-dimple chart with a description and closeup photo for each.

The Get Inside feature lets you experience the car’s interior by scrolling in all directions. For the inside view, Beepi stitches together two 360-degree images. We saw a Beepi smartphone app demonstration showing the interior of a 2113 Mini Cooper. When we mentioned to Beepi that it would be great to be able to click to start the engine and hear a recording of the sound, a company representative told us they are already working on what they call a Virtual Engine that will let prospective buyers hear the engine start and run.

Right now Beepi is available in the most of the U.S. West and Southwest, some parts of the Northeast, and two cities in Florida. (Here’s a chart with exact coverage.) Beepi hinted that buyer-side service may be available in more areas in the near future. Beepi’s plan is to continue to add immersive and interactive features to its used-car virtual-reality showroom. For now, all you have to do is decide whether you want the BMW or the Mini.

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