Should I Buy My Car Online, or Not?
I was in the market for a car for a few months before I decided to get one. I finally had a better paying job and a new apartment so it seemed to be a good time to start shopping for a car. I was growing tired of the parade of 90s cars I had driven throughout my years in college.
I remembered hearing about Carvana and I had already browsed their website in the past. I figured it would be a nice place to start searching. Immediately I was surprised by how inviting the process was, especially in comparison to the dealerships I’ve visited.
A few years back I had gone to several dealerships to price some cars and check out the market. It was not pleasant at all, and it was nothing like it should be when you’re about to make a large and exciting purchase. Going to a dealership sometimes seems like a strange interrogation. I’ve been asked about what I thought my credit score was before I was even asked what kind of car I wanted.
The process seemed so daunting with the dealership and I felt more like I was being swindled or upsold into something that I wasn’t even sure that I wanted, not to mention the grossly marked-up price points you’ll see at the dealer. I declined to buy a car with that place, and I ended up paying cash for a car from a local nonprofit dealership that year.
The Carvana Process
With Carvana, things were so much different. The first thing that jumped out to me wasn’t the gimmicky, but innovative car vending machine that Carvana has, but mainly the soft pull credit inquiry. After a simple application I was able to see my down payment, monthly payment, and term length for every car in the inventory. As the topper, they happened to be testing the market in my area so my car came with no delivery cost.
I was shocked at how simple the process of purchasing the car was. I couldn’t help but wonder how this might impact the dealership industry over time. They might want to step it up before they go the way of Blockbuster . . . Shout out to Netflix.
Carvana sent me the contracts to sign electronically and I paid the down payment online as well. Essentially, I bought the car without ever needing to leave the house. I had never seen the car in-person or driven it. I’m still shocked by how streamlined the process was. Some people might even think it’s a bit bizarre . . . especially when you’re showing YouTube videos of Carvana’s car vending machine to a tire-kicking car buyer. It does help that you’ll feel like a REAL celebrity when they deliver the car to you.
Check out the YouTube video of a Carvana vending machine . . .
Carvana usually has cars at a lower cost because there are no dealer fees. My car, a 2013 Scion with relatively low miles, still has two years left on the manufacturer's warranty.
Carvana also offers a 100 day bumper-to-bumper warranty for every car, and I even got $500 off by using a referral code from a friend. I can only imagine the cost of all this had I bought the same car from a dealer… the price was well below the Kelley Blue Book Value. Winning.
Even though there is no contact with the car before the purchase. You will have seven days to test drive the car after it arrives. If you don’t like the vehicle you can send it back, and choose a different car.
When my car showed up less clean than I was expecting, I let Carvana know and they sent me a gift card in the mail along with a tote bag filled with a few Carvana swag items.
Customer service with Carvana is truly impressive. I have noticed that there are very few dealerships that have a solid internet platform where customers can actually buy the car from start-to-finish online.
Sigh . . . Meanwhile Back at the Dealership
In every instance where I have made internet inquires to dealerships, I later received a string of emails from several different sales people asking me when I could come in and almost always ignoring the actual questions that I had asked about the vehicle I was interested in.
Anytime I had a question about the car I was buying from Carvana, I used the Live Chat feature or called directly, and they answered my questions every time. They even had the Carfax, and AutoCheck available for the car. Carvana makes sure you feel comfortable with the purchase and they seem to be very focused on the customer. They also handle all the state registration, taxes, and title requirements for you.
I wouldn’t have changed much of anything about the process. My car did show up a day early and no one informed me. However, I had been calling annoyingly on the regular to see where the car was, so it was easy to make last minute arrangements to be there for the delivery. Considering everything, I can’t wait to buy another car from Carvana.
There’s a change coming in the car sales industry, and the dealerships are hardly prepared. Would you buy a car online without driving it first? You might want to try it.