Carvana ($CVNA): The Only Way to Buy a Car (My Car Buying Experience)
My car buying experience after ordering two different vehicles with Carvana.
The following is not a paid advertisement from Carvana (I wish!). Although I am a Carvana shareholder, I simply wanted to share what ended up being an overall positive buying experience, so others looking to buy a vehicle know what to expect and how it compares against the alternatives, as well as give the perspective of a customer to help from an investment standpoint.
After ordering my second vehicle from Carvana last week, and receiving the vehicle this week, I’m sure I will never buy another vehicle any other way.
It took only 5 minutes to order. No used car salespeople or commission agents. The only person to ever call was after the order was submitted, to simply let me know that the scheduled pick-up time was on track, and asked if I had any questions before picking up the vehicle.
This week I picked up my vehicle, with no issues at all.
Start to finish, Carvana is the best car buying experience I’ve ever had.
Not only is Carvana “The New Way to Buy a Car®”, but I believe it is the only way to buy a car.
First Order with Carvana
As background, I started off with ordering a different vehicle than the one I completed and picked up this week.
I looked everywhere, including local dealerships in my state, CarMax, Vroom, and Carvana.
There were no cars from the physical dealerships that matched what I was looking for (Lincoln MKC, specific years, <40K miles, black or grey exterior, black leather interior, remote start, etc.).
CarMax had one at the time of me looking, but required a shipping fee (not a delivery fee, since the location in my state does not deliver) to bring it to the closest CarMax 2 hours away.
Vroom did not have any that matched what I was looking for. With a different vehicle, I tried to find more information on the final purchase price by adding a car to my cart in the Vroom app. Over the next 24 hours, I was called 4 times, due to Vroom still using commission sales personnel, as seen in the job listing below (Also, the statement in the red box below says Vroom is hiring a sales professional to help with “elevating pain”. I’m sure it is a spelling error, such that Vroom is trying to “alleviate pain”, but maybe this is how they thought of their 2020 Super Bowl commercial!).
Carvana had multiple versions of the car I wanted, giving me more options to choose from (different prices, mileage, features, etc.).
They had no shipping fees to access this larger inventory. Carvana also had no delivery fees if I picked up the vehicle in market.
Better yet, there were no salespeople when buying the vehicle. I simply ordered from my app and completed the purchase within minutes, creating the best buying experience I’ve ever had.
While I couldn’t test drive the vehicle before purchasing, Carvana offered enough to make up for that, including:
Ability to test drive the vehicle at my pick-up location before completing the purchase
7 days to test the vehicle on my own, with the option to return it for free
More information on the listing than I needed to feel comfortable (pictures, highlights of scratches, free Carfax report, and more)
To top if off, I saved a decent amount compared to Kelly Blue Book:
Shortly after completing the order and waiting until the pick-up date, I started getting notified regarding my vehicle pick-up date being delayed. This was annoying to go through at the time, given the reason for purchasing was due to being without one vehicle. However, one thing I realized after was how transparent Carvana was. Through text (which has been a nice feature for communicating at nearly any time) they let me know they were delaying the pick-up date due to a mechanical issue found during the last inspection before delivery. They said they would not be selling me a vehicle that had any issues.
I find it difficult to believe all dealerships would tell me there was an issue with the vehicle they were about to send me, when I had not yet paid for it. Instead, they would likely just say it’s delayed.
While this transparency and honesty is what I expect from other online retailers (like an Amazon), it is not the norm in the used car industry. (This is one of the many benefits of Carvana, where they only have one brand to control. Many people, including myself, lump traditional used car dealerships under one umbrella. It only takes one of the many used car dealerships to do something shady to have that uneasy feeling with any other dealership.) My trust with Carvana has increased after that experience.
Later, Carvana notified me they would be sending me a check for $250 as a way to apologize for the delays. It wasn’t the amount that was surprising (given it was small in relation to the vehicle price), but it was that the gesture was completely unprompted and not asked for.
In the end, after another delay, I decided to cancel this first order with Carvana. My thought was the delays were likely isolated to this specific car, given the mechanical issues they notified me about. My guess was that Carvana was currently either short staffed in that location / inspection and recording center (IRC), or it was in line to be repaired with other vehicles.
Canceling was as easy as going into the app, and hitting cancel (no different than canceling an order on Amazon). This was nothing like canceling a gym membership. No one pressuring me to keep my order, nor anyone to say I should repurchase with them. No issues at all. Incredibly easy to simply cancel the order.
Second Order with Carvana
After canceling my first order. I decided to look elsewhere again before reordering from Carvana.
I was quickly reminded why I went with Carvana in the first place:
CarMax only had two options at this time, and both were higher mileage and not available without paying a shipping fee.
I did not want to have to deal with Vroom and their salespeople.
Only one dealership in our state had a similar vehicle to what we wanted. To access more info, I was required to put in my name, email, and phone number. Within minutes, I received a call, voicemail, text, email, and a “personalized video message.” This instantly turned me off, and I felt way too much pressure.
This led me right back to Carvana. Carvana had 14 vehicles that matched what I was looking for, and 17 if you included ones to pre-order. This gave me more options regarding mileage, price, exterior looks with different years, etc., all leading me to picking out this Lincoln MKC:
While on a walk during lunch, I ordered a new vehicle from Carvana. It only took 5 minutes in the app to complete the entire purchase.
As proof, I took screenshots (I was curious how long it would take, so I took screenshots to remember the times in-between).
I decided to use a local bank for financing instead of Carvana in order to get a lower interest rate. This was also easy. By having no commission agents at all during the buying process, you don’t have anyone persuading you to finance through them. I only needed to enter the amount of the loan and bank’s name to complete the purchase.
A funny testament to how quick and easy it was to buy from Carvana can be seen by having no issues completing an entire purchase on low battery!
After completing the purchase, I only had to upload my new insurance information (since it was a different vehicle now compared to the first order) and upload a picture of the check from my bank that I was going to use to pay for the vehicle at delivery (which was the same as before, given it was for the same amount, something I was able to do by customizing my down payment).
The only call I received post purchase was a representative letting me know the scheduled pick-up time was on track, and asked if I had any questions.
On the day of the delivery, I received a notification in the app, was able to track the the vehicle as it headed my way, and received a text from the person delivering the vehicle:
Given Carvana was not in my market, I elected to meet Carvana in the closest market to where I lived (thereby getting the vehicle the soonest possible, and not having to pay a third-party delivery fee). The location for the pickup was a Walmart parking lot. This was a large enough lot for them to pull in, a public meeting place, and an easy to find location.
Once offloaded, I was able to test drive the vehicle before signing the final papers and handing over the check.
After test driving, I had to sign just a few pieces of paper. It took no more than a couple minutes. Some of the documents were related to registration. I had to no idea Carvana was going to assist with this. My wife and I attempted to fill them out the day before, but could not complete them since we did not know what to put for quite a bit of it. This is why it was a nice surprise to have Carvana do this.
After completing the purchase, the Carvana driver put on a temporary license plate. The car was also spotless inside, and the tank was full of gas. Although these are all little things, it was much better than any of the opposite occurring.
The transaction was complete, and the car was officially mine.
Although I ran into some delays with my first order, it was still many times better than any other car buying experience myself or my family has went through. I am also happy that I was able to do two different orders and go through different experiences.
Some will point to the first experience as a reason not buy from Carvana. I disagree. Carvana showed their complete transparency when there were issues, their commitment to only sell a vehicle in working order, and their extreme ease with canceling. All of these substantially reduce the risk of buying with Carvana versus buying elsewhere (in addition to the 7-day return period).
The second order through Carvana was then a great experience, and shows how the first order was more an isolated incident, and likely explains why Carvana is still around and continues to sell more cars every year.
The best decision I ever made was reordering with Carvana.
However, given the alternatives of dealerships, CarMax, Vroom, etc. and their significantly less selection size, higher prices, less convenience, and overall poorer experience, reordering with Carvana was likely the only logical option.
I don’t believe Carvana’s slogan should be “The New Way to Buy a Car”. Instead, it should be: Carvana: The ONLY Way to Buy a Car.
Carvana Investment Write-Ups and “Research Notes”
I have followed Carvana ($CVNA) as an investment for a considerable time (given I have been a shareholder for equally as long of a time). Within the last couple of months, my research around the company has dramatically increased.
I will soon be releasing Carvana write-ups here on Substack.
I have not yet released the official introductory post regarding my latest material I will be making public, but as a teaser, I will soon be making available over 140+ pages of my Carvana investment “Research Notes”.
Access to these “Research Notes” will be available to paid subscribers. For an example of what to expect with Carvana Research Notes, check out the following 425 pages of Research Notes for Cardlytics ($CDLX):
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