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Carvana is working to upend the process of buying a used car by streamlining both how you sell your old car and buy one that’s new to you. Since its inception in 2012, Carvana’s mission has been to enable drivers to get their next set of wheels from its vending machines with the same ease you might expect when grabbing a candy bar.
Putting the kitsch of the gold coin and the vending machine aside, determining if Carvana is right for you requires you to consider what about car buying matters most to you. To get the best deal, understand the process all the way from research to vehicle financing to getting the keys before heading to its online showroom.
What to expect when buying a car with Carvana
The Carvana used car buying process prides itself on seamless purchase while still encouraging personalization through its customer support. Carvana currently operates fully online with only 34 vending machines across the U.S. But, aside from its vending machines, it also offers delivery.
The goal of the company is “to make sure you have peace of mind when it comes to your new ride.” The “about us” section on the site states that while Carvana sells cars, it does not have car salespeople. This approach separates the company from the traditional competition that can add pressure from the staff. Plus, it removes negotiation and face-to-face communication — perfect for those who are looking to buy and drive without all the extra hassle.
How to buy a car with Carvana
The process of purchasing a vehicle using Carvana can be done completely online and — according to the company’s support center — can be done simply in only a few steps.
Prequalify for financing
Before starting the car shopping process, it is wise to apply for auto loan prequalification through Carvana — and at least two other lenders. The process, which takes under five minutes according to Carvana, will give you a firm grasp on what you can afford. Prequalification is a key step in getting the best auto loan available to you. Simply fill out personal information like your contact information, employment status and annual income.
Shop for a vehicle
With the amount you can truly afford in mind, you can now browse the 25,000 available vehicles — all inspected by both Carfax and AutoCheck. Head to the “find a car” tab on the site and you will be presented with available options in your area. Here you can also get specific on the price you want to pay, how you want to pay, make and model, year and mileage, body type and features you want. If you have a specific vehicle in mind you can search to see if it is available in your area.
Explore the vehicle you choose
After setting your sights on your dream car, which will be held for 30 minutes, you can virtually tour the interior and exterior of the vehicle by clicking the “get started” tab. Here you can also get a better idea of the mileage, vehicle specifications and available warranty. All Carvana vehicles come with a seven-day money-back guarantee along with a 100-day limited warranty.
Confirm your payment type
This page also outlines the expected cost for the vehicle in both, the “pay once” and the “pay monthly” approach. The “pay once” price considers the entire up-front cash price for the vehicle, shipping included. For those choosing to finance the vehicle, “pay monthly” will show your monthly cost based on your initial prequalification number. If you are looking to trade in you can also explore this option here.
Choose delivery or pickup
Once you have chosen your vehicle and confirmed payment you can decide if you want the vehicle delivered directly to your door or if you want to pick it up at one of the 34 vending machines across the country. If you live near a vending machine and choose this option, you will receive a custom coin that after inserting will retrieve the vehicle from the car tower and bring it to the delivery bay. You now can drive off with your new vehicle.
Pros and cons of Carvana
If the goal is to avoid in-person negotiation or shopping, Carvana is a dream come true for many drivers. But still, it is important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of a fully remote process.
Benefits of Carvana
The primary benefit of purchasing with Carvana is convenience. Because, yes, while the novelty of ordering your vehicle to your door is appealing, it is a great option for those who want to steer clear of the traditional car buying experience altogether.
If you were to buy your vehicle at a traditional dealership you likely would do some research ahead of time online, meet with a salesperson, walk around the lot and potentially walk away with a vehicle or come back another day. If you purchase with Carvana you can decide on your vehicle in the morning and potentially have your new set of wheels by sundown that night. This is a major selling point for many drivers looking to purchase in the easiest way imaginable.
Drawbacks of Carvana
The main drawbacks that drivers may be met with boil down to the inability to get a true feel for the vehicle from pictures alone. While the warranty program means you can return the vehicle if it is not the right fit, the return process can be frustrating.
Unlike on the lot, you will not be able to take the car for a spin before signing off. Another factor that you cannot garner from photos alone is any exterior damage or how specific features work for you. While Carvana vehicles do undergo a 150-point inspection, you cannot get a perfect feel for a car unless you are in person.
Reviews of Carvana
The reviews presented directly on the Carvana site are primarily positive, featuring a score of 4.7 out of 5. Many reviews focus on the “smooth and hassle-free” process. Other reviews comment on the large range of vehicle prices available and quick loan preapproval. This reflects much of what Carvana prides itself on and remains the primary attraction for many drivers.
Outside of the Carvana universe, however, there are some drivers that had a more negative purchase experience. Reviews on Trustpilot have an average 3.7 score, lower than Carvana’s internal score. Some examples of common complaints include drivers having to commute over 50 miles to pick up their vehicles and unhelpful customer service advocates.
How to ensure you get the best vehicle with Carvana
As with any vehicle purchase, the key to having the best car process possible is research. Be patient when shopping and comparing the different available vehicles. Look out for specific factors, like MPG and available tech, and check out Kelley Blue Book for outside vehicle reviews.
During the seven-day period after getting your car, it is wise to take the car to get inspected by a mechanic. This way, you can take advantage of the Carvana return policy if the car isn’t perfect.
Should I buy my next vehicle from Carvana?
The bottom line is this: If the thought of a dealership brings stress, then avoid it and go for the contactless approach that will just leave you with a new set of wheels. But if you prefer the adrenaline rush that comes with negotiating the best deal and need to sit in the driver’s seat to see if it’s the right fit then Carvana might not be right for you.