I Bought a Car from Carvana - Here’s How it Went
Updated: May 12
If you’re like me, in the market for a used car these days, boy do I sympathize with you. I can’t think of a worse time to buy a car in the 15 years I’ve been driving. The whole chip shortage and the red hot used car market are not easy to navigate. Do you think your friends are having trouble buying a house? Try buying a car. Well, ok maybe it’s not as bad as buying a home.
I look at it objectively though, why are people paying through the nose to buy a car they don’t even like? I am seeing cars with almost 80,000 miles on them being priced MORE than what they sold for just a few years ago. Are people that reluctant to just hold onto their cars for a while longer?
For those of you who have been with me for a while, you’ll know I absolutely love cars and most recently, fell in love with my very first Prius. I even wrote about why thought it was the best car for car camping and nomad life.
Being in California and working from home now, I wanted to experiment with going car-free and reducing my carbon footprint by biking or walking everywhere. Though I’m in a suburb, there are parks, grocery stores, gyms, restaurants, and libraries a mere 2 miles away or less.
Thus, being an enterprising author around all things money, I thought I would take advantage of this market and sell my beloved Prius, go car-free for a while, and then buy a Tesla or maybe an Audi A4.
Well, that didn’t go as planned as you can imagine. Luckily, I was able to have a car by test driving them for a day or more, and even made some money doing it.
Then, I finally decided to give Carvana a try. Looking at their ads and vending machines, it seemed they must be doing something write other than inflating the prices of all the cars I like, and virtually eliminating the geographic differential in the price for various vehicles since you can have them shipped practically anywhere in the country.
So, I went on their website, which is very user-friendly, and searched for an Infiniti Q 60 (Infiniti’s replacement of my beloved G37). After finding a few, and looking at the price breakdown, I realized that the only thing that’s not refundable is the delivery fee, and they made it very easy to search for local cars that had free delivery.
After finding the car and clicking the Get Started button, it was almost as easy as ordering a jacket online. I entered my profile information, license information, and it took about 5 minutes to complete the transaction. This is so much shorter than a dealership!
Alas, there was more to do, but that got the ball rolling. Since I was paying cash for the car, I didn’t have to complete a financing application but had chosen to ACH my bank account to send the funds.
This is where the trouble started, in my opinion. After I chose my preferred delivery date and time, they sent me a message and text that I need to confirm my payment method, which I already did. After they sent me another message to call them, I did and they said I should overnight a cashier's check to keep my certain date.
I thought to myself “Why would you let me choose the delivery date and then tell me my payment method would cause a delay?!” The ended up taking the funds out of my bank the next day anyway, and I had to delay the delivery by a few days which was fine.
In the days leading up to the delivery, they sent fun little texts like “Get ready to meet your new car!” or “A Carvana advocate will be reaching out shortly”.
On the day of the delivery, the driver called me and sent a text confirming the time and when he was on the way, which I thought was very courteous.
He arrived right on time, and the glistening car was rolled off the truck next to my driveway.
We did a quick walk around, he let me drive the car, and then we took note of some cosmetic and technical issues that would need to be fixed through warranty. After a few minutes of signing documents, he was off!
They even sent a video for you to share on social media showing off your new car, which is a smart marketing move on their end, and makes for a fun milestone celebration (I didn't share it).
I kept the car for about 5 days, drove it 3 of them, and decided to return it. I don’t know what it is, but I can tell when a car was loved and when a car has been through the wringer. This one came from New Jersey from what I recall, and maybe the salt or deicer on the roads caused blemishes in the paint. I also noted there was gum and other residues on the windows and such, and even though it had a good history report, I didn’t feel spending so much money on a car that needed so much attention was a good idea.
That being said, Carvana was easy to work with on the return. Even though they initially got the 7-day deadline wrong (on my dashboard it said my last day to return the car was before I actually received it), I was able to chat with an agent and schedule the pickup in a few minutes.
They were super helpful, even saying I didn’t need to wash or refuel the car. I did anyway because I felt bad and I received it cleaned and fueled up, so it was the least I can do.
They also asked if I’d like to exchange the car, and offered to give me an extra few days with it, which was very kind but I declined. I didn’t want to miss the deadline in case I didn’t find another car in time.
The pickup driver came, I signed one form (the return agreement), and the car was whisked away.
To my surprise, the refund hit my account the very next day! It’s taken longer for me to get a refund for a $15 shirt sometimes!
Overall, even with a few hiccups and the issues with the car, working with Carvana was a great experience. Personally, I like to haggle with private party buyers and dealers, so this takes some of the fun away from that. However, if you’re the type of person that would rather not haggle and buy from a place like Carmax, then I think you’ll love Carvana.
The customer service, user interface, selection, and logistics were super easy, and for the most part, it felt like a red-carpet experience.
I’m not sure I’ll buy from them again soon, but if I do, hopefully, I’ll get to go to one of those cool car vending machines!