Review: Carvana, a convenient future isn't always better.
rctothefuture last edited by rctothefuture
Before I post my review on my Mini Paceman, I thought I'd post a review of buying from Carvana as it was a pretty interesting experience worth telling folks about.
What is it?
Carvana is an online, used vehicle retailer based out of Tempe, AZ. They've been in business since 2013, and have expanded across the nation since becoming one of the "Top Growing Companies" in 2018. Now Carvana's foundings are a bit sketchy.
Carvana was founded by Ernest Garcia III, Ryan Keeton, and Ben Huston while working, and being on the board of directors, for the notorious used car selling company, DriveTime. DriveTime was known for selling lower priced vehicles with large interest loans to high risk sellers. They're is significant evidence that DriveTime was a predatory loan company and when Carvana was spun off, there was concern that Carvana would follow the same model under a different name.
Instead, Carvana's Ernest Garcia has left the sudo mob boss family behind to form a new path with both Ben and Ryan. They do still offer financing through their company, but it so far hasn't become the loan shark style financing people have seen at DriveTime. Time will tell, but a bad taste can easily be remembered forever.
Carvana is based around the idea that the future of auto sales won't be your traditional dealer model, it'll be something akin to a new age retail store model. You find what you want online, order it, and it either arrives at your home or at the store for you. Carvana's big hook is their vending machines.
Carvana has a special set of hydraulic ramps built into a "car venidng machine" that picks the car you want and puts it into a private show room for you. It's very much a gag, but it captures people's attention driving down the road.
Most Carvana sales are done with them being delivered to your home. They drop the car, you take it for a spin, sign some paperwork and it's yours. Simple, easy, no issues. I did not experience this.
I purchased my Mini Paceman in October of 2019. I had been looking a few months prior to buy a small, fun to drive, hatchback for around $12,000. Wanting to rid myself of my beater. I had been scouring dealers in the SE WIsconsin and Northern Illinois area and finding it was either mis-listed, "sold before I got there", or not as nice as advertised. Working in the industry I knew this would happen but I figured I'd find a Diamond in the rough.
Having wanted to keep my net wide, I searched Carmax's site and found a few winners (Focus ST, Mini Clubman S, Mazda3) but they were either extremely high mileage or a bit out of my price range. I figured I wouldn't win there, so I made a big search on AutoTrader.
That's when I saw a listing as "Delivered to Home, no Extra fees!" I figured this would be too good to be true, but I clicked on it. I was brought to Carvana.com. I had never heard of the site and I was curious as to what it was and what they had. I looked up "Manual, hatchback, less than $13,000" and was given a sea of options all able to be delivered to my work or my house.
I thought it was too good to be true. A review of some google reviews mixed with reddit posts sold me that it was a solid enough company. I spent the next 3 hours looking by brand, transmission, color, features. They were all there, and all accurate! No flappy paddle manuals or misinterpreted packages. It was glorious! If you want to spend hours on there looking, it's almost better than AutoTempest (almost).
After some digging, I found my gorgeous 2014 Mini Paceman S and I decided to buy it.
After clicking on the "Buy" button, my car was "Reserved" on the site meaning no one could buy it unless I cancelled the deal. This is common on a lot of cars and can be frustrating, but some customers do occasionally cancel.
Once it was reserved, I had to fill out some basic info (Name, Address, Phone and Email), upload my drivers license and then choose where it was going to be delivered. After I filled it out, I was given the option of how to purchase.
Carvana has 3 options: Cash, Personal Financing or Carvana Financing. Now I had not intended to purchase a car that day, but I figured I'd check out their financing. They asked for my income, expenses and that was it, no Credit Check. They gave me a better rate than my bank had given me (6.4% vs 8.9%) and all I had to do was put $1,000 down.
So with that all in mind, I entered in my Debit Card and purchased the Mini! After uploading a paycheck stub, insurance and a few other details it was all mine and I set up delivery for 2 weeks on a Monday. That's where it started to go wrong...
Delivery, or lack thereof
About a day after I made the purchase I received a call from a Carvana representative. They wanted to confirm my work's address and delivery for Monday 2 weeks out. After a few questions were answered, we were all set and I just had to play the waiting game.
In the meantime, I worked on selling my beater Lincoln Town Car with over 250k miles on it. Didn't want to even waste getting a $200 from Carvana or a dealer. Put it up on Craigslist and it sold 3 days before I was to get my car delivered. Figured I'd book a Lyft to work on Monday and drive home in my new Mini.
However, on Friday I received a call that my new vehicle was delayed in shipment and was sitting in Indianapolis. They wouldn't be able to deliver my car on a hauler for an additional week! I was furious, I was told it would be delivered after 2 weeks of travel from Georgia and now I'd need to figure out transportation for another week?
I kept my head calm but was stern that I needed a solution. After some back and forth with a supervisor, we decided that I would fly out to Indianapolis and they would pick me up and take me to my car at a Carvana vending machine. They would reimburse my flight and do what they could to make things solid.
That night I booked an American Airlines flight for Saturday from MKE to IND. It was not cheap at the time.
The future isn't as always that easy
Arriving in Indy was pretty cool, I've never been there and seeing some of the vintage Indy cars in the airport was exciting. Got me in a better mood now that I woke up at 5 am to fly on a puddle jumper for my car.
I was called by my driver, who picked me up in a Carvana branded Ford Focus. He was very nice and felt awful about the situation, he was the assistant manager and was very talkative which made the 35 minute drive from the airport tolerable.
When I arrived at the Carvana facility I was greeted by the manager who was also very nice. We sat down at an Ikea style table and went over some paperwork. He gave me some paperwork, a bag filled with Carvana goodies (hats, water bottle, umbrella, pop socket) and handed me a coin.
I got to walk over to a coin deposit box where I dropped the coin in and my car was picked up from the top of the vending machine and brought down.
Now this sounds like a cool experience and it is, until it takes over 10 minutes for the car to be reached, locked in, brought down and put into the showroom for your review. Not as long as a porter getting your car for delivery sure, but not exactly the "Japanese vending machine" speed that's advertised.
In the show room I was able to review my car for any defects or make a note of anything. I found a porter had left a bottle of detail spray in the passenger foot well and weirdly an OBD2 bluetooth scanner for their iPad's. Was worried codes were cleared before I bought it. However, it was noted that no codes were present and they promptly removed it along with the detailer spray.
I took the car for a test drive and noted a few problems.
CD player wouldn't read my CD, the microphone on the bluetooth system didn't work, and the passenger window switch was inop. They also left massive swirl marks in the plastic trim from when they did a quick detail.
At this point, I was already flown out and I wasn't going to afford the Camaro, Cadillac's or Lexus's back at the dealer. I came back to the store and showed these issues to the manager.
He again apologized and stated that he could either take it to the local Mini dealer for repair or knock $500 off the price of the car. I knew these issues were more than $500, but I wanted to get back home and do a shakedown run. After all, it came with a 30 day warranty so any issues could be addressed once I was home.
With my keys, lowered price and paperwork in hand I thanked them for their help and started my long drive home.
After I got home, I was sent a review link about my experience and the car. While Carvana had gone out of their way to ensure I got my car on time, they had made several mistakes and I wanted to make them aware of it. Sure, it was a $12,000 car, so I wasn't expecting an experience like I bought a Corvette or a RCF. But buying a vehicle with some issues, a lack of a correct detail, and of course a failure along their supply chain was enough to give them a 3 out 5 rating.
Within an hour I got a call from another rep at Carvana. I explained the issues I had and was very detailed in my concerns. I was asked what I could get to make things right, and I simply didn't know how to answer. Things had gone wrong, and they weren't all Carvana's fault, but I simply wanted it to go right. I wanted the future of car buying to be like Carvana, and it should be. But with the issues I had, as rare as it seems to be, it does make me a bit apprehensive.
I was given another $500 off the car and was asked if I would buy another car through Carvana again?
Well, would I?
Yes. I think Carvana's issues with my car was a rare experience. I think that's why they went out of their way to make it right for me. It's why I've recommended it to friends and family as a way to buy the car. I can't tell you how great it was to not deal with sales people, F&I people, to have a process so smooth it almost felt unreal.
Carvana is a convenient and easy to use company. They have a checkered beginning and their origin is of dubious repute. There have been clickbait Youtube videos of them making mistakes.
They are a company that could be set to remove the old school used car dealer, or at least minimize those dealer's gimmicks. The idea that I never have to set foot on a lot, get a car delviered to me and find out I don't like it, only to get another car dropped off and enjoy that is HUGE. It's how all business should be.
But as they grow, they need to maintain their customer attitude. I hope everyone gets the same level of respect and care that I did. I hope that they don't become like their DriveTime fathers, but I also hope they don't feel the need to become the next Amazon or Tesla. They need to maintain their Chic-fil-a customer service stlye, customer first everything else second.
So would I buy again? Yes. I'm already eyeing up my next purchase. I'll review them again when I do, I just hope I don't regret it. I already regret not get something bigger...
This is a great write up - thank you! I've visited their site a few times both to look for a purchase or to sell my car. An oppo or two sold them their car back this summer when prices were nutso high.
e90m3 last edited by
@rctothefuture Interesting, it seems there are a lot of companies trying to be the future of car buying, like carmax and what not. I feel like one way this is changing traditional car dealers is they're more willing to do business just over the internet. It was 2014, but I bought my M3 over the phone sight unseen.
@jminer appreciate it! I actually sold the Wife's Renegade through Carvana this summer as well and while it wasn't nearly as interesting, I could talk about it.
The selling aspect was a much different and easier experience. They literally come out, verify mileage and condition, write you a check and you're done. It's easier than trying to sell games at Gamestop.
@e90m3 it has changed dealers somewhat, I've noticed when looking up performance vehicles a lot of ad's lead with "FREE DELIVERY, AIRPORT PICKUP OR CONCIERGE SERVICE". Not sure if that's due to the vehicle or that specific dealer clientele.
In Wisconsin at least, a lot of dealers throw their weight around still and try to hardball you. I don't live in Fargo in 1980, I can go to another dealer and get a better deal!
The best is a local Toyota dealer boasts "The Largest Inventory of Used Cars in the Midwest!" and uses that to justify their pricing. Meanwhile, I can order a clean, rust free example that's never seen salt from California for $1,000 cheaper. It makes no sense.
I appreciate the fact that with Carvana, I can go buy a $6,000 Mitsubishi Mirage and it'll be delivered with the same care as a C7 Grand Sport or a Tesla Model X.
@rctothefuture good to know - I've sold 2 cars to CarMax and it only took a couple hours, but this sounds even better.
I'm not even particularly picky about cosmetic condition so buying through a place like Carvana if prices are fair sounds like a solid option.
@jminer that's one of the benefits with Carvana, they list as many defects as possible when you go to buy a car.
I think my detailing fiasco was a young kid not knowing how to fully buff a car. I've seen worse when I was working at the dealer, so I shouldn't complain.
DipodomysDeserti last edited by
@rctothefuture I sold my Jeep to Carvana over the summer. Being from Arizona, I'm familiar with the sketchiness of the founders. Drivetime was orginially Ugly Duckling, which Garcia the elder bought after being convicted of felony bank fraud as apart of the Savings and Loan Scandal. Ugly Duckling was you typical subprime auto loan operation, with Garcia continuing to take part in sketchy real estate deals. Dude has been the richest person in Arizona since Bruce Halle (founder of Discount Tire) died.
Anyways, they bought my Jeep from me for more than the suggested retail price, and never even inspected it. Check was cut for me when I showed up. The girl who handled my paperwork couldn't drive a manual so they didn't even take it for a spin. Buyer beware with those guys.
Just Jeepin' last edited by
@dipodomysdeserti Yeah, I was the Oppo guilty of alerting everyone to the abnormally high prices Carvana was paying. I NEVER MEANT FOR SOMEONE TO SELL THEIR JEEP.
DipodomysDeserti last edited by
@just-jeepin As much as I loved that Jeep, I needed to get rid of it, so thanks again for the heads up on that. My youngest daughter is still very upset that I sold it.
beefchips last edited by
Haven't had experience with Carvana but man, selling to CarMax was awesome. They offered me more than any other dealer in town for my WRX. Only ~1k off my estimated private party price (based on a highly scientific analysis of what randos on CL were asking). I brought the car there, they looked it over, took it for a spin, and cut me a check. Whole thing took like half an hour.
flatisflat last edited by
@rctothefuture A very good read!
I actually bought my Clubman from a Carvana competitor that was based solely in California at the time. Emphasis "was". They are now no longer based anywhere as they went out of business some 9 months or so after I bought my car. Glad I didn't have to finance through them!
MM54 last edited by MM54
I see their ads often (and sometimes trucks) but you're the first I've heard who have bought from them. I have to say, having dealt with a lot of companies across the board in terms of helpfulness, it sounds like the carvana folks did an A+ job with flying you out to pick up the car and the other various support. Shit happens but it sounds like they did all they could to make it right. I'm sure to some degree you're paying for the convenience of the process (vs buying privately) but that's cool to know that, at least so far, they're worth considering.
rctothefuture last edited by rctothefuture
@dipodomysdeserti sounds about right, crazy they still play those games.
Our Carvana rep didn't drive the car either. Just put a piece of paper on the dash saying it was their property now and called for a tow truck that evening. Was pretty crazy they didn't drive it!
@flatisflat what company was it? Was it that failed Lyft venture to sell cars?
@mm54 appreciate it!
I would recommend them if you're looking for something specific. I get notifications on Purple and Blue Challenger Scat Packs every few weeks. I would say with how well they handle their situation, they are worth checking out.
flatisflat last edited by
@rctothefuture Company was 'Beepi'. Pretty sure unrelated to lyft.
Also, correction: it appears they folded only about 4 months after I purchased my car. Really, really glad I wasn't 'on the hook' to rely on them for much of anything post-purchase.
My delivery day was delayed as well, but it was from them choosing to replace some body trims and the front windshield after I had reserved the car and not even from my calling either out as a malady. I was super impressed by their thoroughness and list prices, but I think that also played a role in their slim-to-nonexistent profit margins.
Your experiences are what I generally feared when I was shopping on Carvana. My experiences with buying from dealers, new or used, means if I came across something clearly wrong with the vehicle, 99% of the time they will take it in and fix/repair it free of charge. I bought a used Chrysler 300 from a Chevy lot, and one of the tires had something stuck in the tread protruding in to the tire. Instead of replacing the one tire, they put a fresh set of tires on for me free of charge. I don't think Carvana is capable of doing something like that YET. At the same time, that's why Carvana has their 30 day guarantee.
I can definitely see them polishing their final product in the next few years, but like you said, I too hope their customer service remains elite. My only other gripe is the lack of negotiation on price/packages. If you can send counter offers in Carvana, that could be a game changer. Although that will add a whole new level of complications.
Currently browsing manual Renegades for no reason whatsoever on Carvana....
jminer last edited by jminer
@i86hotdogs I think your experience with traditional dealers might be the exception. Most I've dealt with will cheap out on every single thing you ask them to do (if they do it at all).
Then try to rake you over the coals in the finance office.
@i86hotdogs yeah, I can forsee that being an issue. I had that problem with Carmax. My ex GF bought a car (Cobalt SS) there with her Dad when I was on a work trip. Came home to find it had 4 different brands of tires with low tread and a pretty good transmission leak.
Took it back to Carmax and the manager was insistent that it met their review process. I took him outside and showed him the tires and small puddle of transmission fluid leaking. He tried to measure the tires by feel and say "Well they all have tread, what's the problem?"
I then asked for HIS manager who came out, heard our concerns and tried to let their mechanics fix it. 2 days later it was sent over to the Chevy dealer and came back with the second cheapest tires they could find and the leak fixed.
Honestly, if they just sent it to the dealer first it probably would have got better tires but I just worry what else their "technicians" bungled when working on it. I know Carvana just has dealer's or their larger facilities do the repairs, which is nice.
Also, get a Latitude in yellow! Throw on the Mopar exhaust and you've got a rally 500 with a Jeep badge!
Also, get a Latitude in yellow! Throw on the Mopar exhaust and you've got a rally 500 with a Jeep badge!
I drove a 4x4 sport in the Anvil color. I likes the simple setup and steel wheels. Definitely will get an exhaust and some other goodies. Basically almost everything off the 500 abarth can fit on to the manual renegade.
@jminer you probably are right. I'll only go to well reviewed dealers unless I am looking for something super specific and rare. Even when I bought my Transit Connect from a Ford used lot, I was able to talk them down almost $3,000 off the list price. Maybe it's my overwhelmingly good charm (probably not). And as rctothefutore showed us, I never will shop at Carmax. They always seemed to be overpriced as well; $14,500 for a 2012 Ranger?!
@i86hotdogs I have similar thoughts about buying at carmax. I’ll browse the lot as they have a good variety, but their prices are high. I have sold 2 vehicles to them though as they’re always higher than other dealers on that side too.