Key takeaways

  • Carvana lets you purchase a used car or sell your vehicle from the comfort of your home.
  • It’s a one-stop shop for buying and financing, and you can choose to pick up your vehicle from a vending machine or have it delivered to your front door.
  • Carvana’s process entails getting prequalified for financing, shopping, selecting the payment option that best suits your needs and choosing how you’ll receive the vehicle.
  • Before applying for financing with Carvana, get prequalified with other lenders to ensure you’re getting the best deal.

Carvana aims to simplify the process of buying a used car through online shopping and easy delivery or pickup from one of their car vending machines. It currently operates fully online with only 39 vending machines across the U.S.

Plus, Carvana removes negotiation and face-to-face communication — perfect for those who are looking to buy and drive without all the extra hassle. But before moving forward, it’s vital to understand how the process works and what to expect if you decide to move forward with Carvana.

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.

1. 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 Carvana claims takes under five minutes, 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.

Also, explore options with traditional banks, credit unions and online lenders. Carvana accepts external financing, so you could save on interest if you qualify for an auto loan with better terms elsewhere. Get at least three loan quotes to ensure you’re getting the most competitive loan offer available to you.

2. Shop for a vehicle

With the amount you can truly afford in mind, you can now browse the 25,000 available vehicles — each accompanied by clean vehicle reports from 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.

3. 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. You can also learn about the vehicle’s mileage, specifications and available warranty. All Carvana vehicles come with a seven-day money-back guarantee and a 100-day limited warranty.

4. Confirm your payment type

This page also outlines the expected cost for the vehicle whether you pay upfront or finance the vehicle. 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.

5. 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 to pick it up at one of the 39 vending machines across the country. If you live near a vending machine and choose this option, you will receive a custom coin to insert; the vending machine will bring the vehicle to you. You can then drive off with your new vehicle.

How to ensure you get the best vehicle with Carvana

As with any vehicle purchase, research is the key to having the best buying experience possible. 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 use the Carvana return policy if the car isn’t perfect.

Carvana pros and cons

Carvana is a dream come true if your goal is to avoid in-person negotiation or shopping. But still, it is important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of a fully remote process.

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Benefits of Carvana

  • Convenience. You get the luxury of ordering your vehicle and having it delivered to your door. This is a great option for those who want to steer clear of the traditional car buying experience altogether.
  • Speed. If you purchase with Carvana, you can select your vehicle in the morning and potentially have your new set of wheels by sundown that night.
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Drawbacks of Carvana

  • Return process. Carvana vehicles undergo a 150-point inspection, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be fully satisfied with your purchase. While the warranty program means you can return the vehicle if it is not the right fit, the return process can be frustrating.
  • No test drive. Unlike on the lot, you will not be able to take the car for a spin before signing off. This means you may miss exterior damage not revealed by pictures, and you won’t have a chance to learn how specific features work before purchasing the vehicle.

Carvana reviews

The reviews presented on the Carvana site are primarily positive, featuring a 4.7 out of 5 score. Many reviews focus on the “smooth and hassle-free” process and the excellent customer service from the Carvana team. 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.

Beyond the Carvana website, some drivers report a more negative purchase experience. Reviews on Trustpilot have an average 4.3 score, lower than Carvana’s internal score. Common complaints include title issues, delays with scheduled pickup times and unhelpful customer service advocates.

Should I buy my next vehicle from Carvana?

If visiting a dealership stresses you out, you can avoid it and go for the contactless approach. But if you prefer the adrenaline rush of 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.

It’s also worth exploring competitors, like CarMax.

If you have past credit challenges, CarMax may be better, as they feature auto loans for borrowers with varying credit profiles.