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Carvana: An Online Car-Buying Nirvana?

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“Honey, your car is here!”

No, it’s not your Uber or Lyft pulling up. It’s the car you purchased online a week ago.

There’s a relatively new Amazon-esque auto seller in town, and its name is Carvana—akin to the mega-online retailer because it’s fast and everything is done on the internet. With a quick stop at the Carvana website, you can order a used car and have it delivered in 1–2 weeks—or take a road trip/fly to pick it up the next day at one of Carvana’s unique “vending machines.”

Is it really a good idea to buy a car online, though, sight unseen? This zero-interaction method isn’t for everybody, obviously. But let’s explore some pluses and minuses from experts as well as customer feedback, so you can decide for yourself whether you want to enter Carvana.

Pros

Carvana certainly doesn’t have the market cornered as an online used car retailer—CarMax and Autotrader have been around since the ’90s. But Carvana’s convenience factor is hard to ignore. Here are a few ways Carvana stands out:

  • Everything can be done online. That is, aside from digitally signing the paperwork and taking the keys to your new ride. From 360-degree views of over 45,000 (and counting) vehicles, to “calling dibs” on a car, Carvana’s interface does the heavy lifting.
  • 7-day return policy. If you don’t like the car or it’s not what you expected, you have seven days to send it back. So, take it for a spin, even have it thoroughly inspected by your mechanic, and make sure it checks all the boxes in person as well as online. (Any delivery fees, however, won’t be refunded.)
  • Limited warranty. Carvana offers a 100-day or 4,189-mile warranty on all purchased vehicles. When dealing with a private seller, unless a warranty still exists on the car and is transferable, you’d need to buy a used car warranty separately.       

Cons

While all Carvana vehicles undergo a 150-point inspection—not to mention the benefit of a weeklong “test-drive” period—would you miss sitting in a car, giving it a test drive, and asking a dealer/private seller questions before plunking down the cash? Are you someone who wants to kick the tires on multiple cars at once to compare? Here a few potential downsides to buying through Carvana:  

  • Prices compared to private sales. You might find that prices are higher than with a private seller (sorry, no haggling allowed). But since Carvana is accredited by the Better Business Bureau, you also don’t run the risk of being victim to a “curbstoner” when buying a used car online.
  • Delivery not necessarily free. Carvana’s presence in Oregon is so new, free delivery is not yet an option. Portland, Eugene, Bend, and other Oregon cities are outside Carvana’s free delivery area, so any car you order would have a non-refundable fee tacked on. Many Carvana buyers have had to sit through delivery delays as well. (The delivery window is currently set at 5–15 days.)
  • Few pick-up sites. Currently, there are only 24 vending machines available for pickup in the US—and just three in the western half of the country. The closest pickup location for Oregonians is in Southern California.

There’s no denying the appeal of Carvana’s online-all-the-time model. And if you do find a car through Carvana that you absolutely must have, SELCO can help with the financing.

If you find “the one” on Carvana:

This way, you can work with a lender you know and trust while still enjoying Carvana’s convenience by shopping online. All that’ll be left to figure out is where you’re going for your next adventure.

 

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