The maxim of launching a startup in the digital world works like this: Take an existing business that has been doing things the same way for decades, move it to the Internet, disrupt the old way of doing things, and make money.

In today’s Startup Smackdown the competitors are companies dealing with a major consumer annoyance — parking. The competitors are two Chicago-based companies: SpotHero, which launched in June of 2011, and ParkWhiz, which has been around since 2005. To keep things fair, we will compare and contrast both services where their HQ is located, in Chicago.

Ready…..FIGHT!

ROUND 1: EASE OF USE

SpotHero: On landing at SpotHero’s home page, the user is greeted by a picture of a blue car and a box with four tabs in it: Events, Neighborhoods, Park All Weekend, and Search by Landmarks. I chose Chicago’s Loop neighborhood and clicked on the pop up calendar to indicate I was looking for parking on November 15th. Immediately I was presented with a large, easy to read map of the Loop neighborhood and a list of prices for the parking spots available to me on that date.

ParkWhiz: On ParkWhiz’s home page, instead of choosing a neighborhood, there is a box that allows you to enter the specific address of your destination and then shows you parking near that location. I typed in an address of a building I am often at and immediately was presented with a list of parking locations and their prices.

Winner: ParkWhiz

ROUND 2: PRICING

Let’s face it, if you need to park somewhere, the first thought that creeps into your head is price. You don’t want to get stuck paying $30 for four hours of parking. A very curious thing happened when I used SpotHero and ParkWhiz over the course of several days to compare pricing.

SpotHero: All the prices are clearly marked and easy to read. The map showing where each spot was located is big and clear, making navigation easy.

ParkWhiz: Something feels fishy. Parking prices aren’t displayed — the user is forced to go through several more steps to get their final price. When I first compared the two services for the same neighborhood, I got the following results:

180 N Wells Day Rate – $28.60 Parkwhiz vs $19 on SpotHero 50.5% Difference — SpotHero wins
180 N Wells Night Rate – $13.20 Parkwhiz vs $10 on SpotHero 32% Difference — SpotHero wins
113 N Wells Day Rate – $21 Parkwhiz vs $22 on SpotHero 4.7% Difference — Parkwhiz wins
113 N Wells Night Rate – $11 on Parkwhiz vs $10 on SpotHero 10% Difference — SpotHero wins
500 W Monroe Day Rate – $29.70 Parkwhiz vs $24 on SpotHero 23.75% Difference — SpotHero wins
320 S Canal Day Rate – $24.50 Parkwhiz vs $22 on SpotHero 11.36% Difference — SpotHero wins

The pricing was much easier to negotiate on SpotHero, not to mention overwhelmingly cheaper.

Winner: SpotHero

ROUND 3: TOTAL PRICE

Hidden in ParkWhiz’s pricing structure is an unwelcome surprise: Not only are its prices already higher compared to SpotHero, but it also tacks on 10% of the purchase price to your total bill.

SpotHero doesn’t add anything to the buyer’s bill, making ParkWhiz even more expensive than it already was.

Winner: SpotHero

FINAL COUNT: SpotHero 2, ParkWhiz: 1

If you are going to Chicago and need a place to park, SpotHero’s initial interface may not be as precise as ParkWhiz’s but it’s not a deal breaker. SpotHero’s price more than makes up for the extra click it takes to find your spot. There is something inherently annoying about a service adding on extra fees that consumers just don’t like.

Congratulations to SpotHero on your victory!

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