Startup Search Costs

37 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2018 Last revised: 21 Sep 2020

See all articles by David P. Byrne

David P. Byrne

University of Melbourne

Nicolas de Roos

University of Sydney

Date Written: September 19, 2020


Workhorse economic models used for studying the market impacts of search frictions assume constant search costs: individuals pay the same cost to obtain price information each time they search. This paper provides evidence on a new form of search costs: startup costs. Exploiting a natural experiment in retail gasoline, we document how a temporary, large exogenous shock to consumers' search incentives leads to a substantial, permanent increase in price search. A standard search model fails to explain such history-dependence in search, while it follows directly from a model with a one-time up-front cost to start searching.

Keywords: Search, Price Dispersion, Price War, Retail Gasoline

JEL Classification: D83, L81

Suggested Citation

Byrne, David P. and de Roos, Nicolas, Startup Search Costs (September 19, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

David P. Byrne (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne ( email )

Level 4
111 Barry Street
Melbourne, Victoria 3010


Nicolas De Roos

University of Sydney ( email )

University of Sydney
Sydney NSW 2006

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