Is The Carvana Online Car Buying Thing Legit?

My review and experience buying a car and picking it up from the Carvana Vending Machine in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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carvana vending machine raleigh nc

The process of buying a car is not fun. No matter how much you love getting a new car, the negotiating, the finance process, and reading and signing all the paperwork is no more fun than a root canal. And I have never had a root canal, but I hear they are NOT fun.

So when I heard of Carvana, the completely online car buying experience, to say I was excited is a bit of an understatement.

I was shopping around their site and finally after finding a car I was interested in I picked up the phone to call.  I needed clarification that things were in fact as simple as I was reading them to be.

Going through the process was really simple. You select the car you are interested in. And that put a lock on it making other shoppers unable to start working their deal on it.

From there you go through a checklist of requirements and then confirm your shipment or pickup date.

Now y’all know this is right up my ally right?

I order groceries online and have them delivered, I order my Walmart goods and pick them up. Amazon is my best friend and now I was ordering a car from my bed. Literally.

I was convinced that if this in fact worked, I only needed this car cause I wanted it.  Because really if I could do all these things online, I really have no real reason to leave my home.

carvana car ordering

The Process Of Ordering A Car Through Carvana

  • Search and find your vehicle
  • Input your information and upload your driver's license
  • Select your financing options
  • Verify your down payment (if required)
  • Submit

Sounds super simple right?

It was!

carvana app

Finding your vehicle through Carvana

You can search online or even download the Carvana app from the mobile app store.  This made it super simple to search and find what you are looking for.  I knew just what I wanted, and how much I wanted to spend, so I just checked daily to see what was out there.

There would be new things that would pop up daily.

Once I found my vehicle I started “working my deal”.  This locked the vehicle and made it unable to be selected by another shopper.

working a carvana deal

Working your Carvana deal

There were several steps outlined and each had instructions that explained what you need to do.  As with a normal auto deal, your information is input and then you upload copies of your driver's license.

Trading in a vehicle

2018 white Acura TLX
Her name was Munroe, also known as Munnie

I decided to trade in my vehicle.  I entered my plate number and it pulled all the information for my vehicle.  From there Carvana offered me a trade-in amount.

The amount offered was very fair and higher than I had found using the Kelly Blue Book Instant Cash Offer program.  So I decided to go with it.  You can start by getting a trade-in amount to determine if you want to move forward or not.

Selecting your finance options

Carvana offers financing directly through them or you can obtain outside financing.  I decided to go with my own financing, but I checked to see what the Carvana rate would be.

It was higher than I was willing to spend, but it was nice to have the option.

Since I was using my own financing I just had to input the details for my lienholder.  It calculates how much you need to bring as your downpayment if one is required.

If you do have a downpayment you put in your payment info and agree to allow the payment to be processed when the delivery or pickup happens.

carvana lobby in Raleigh NC

Next Steps After Ordering Your Car Online

After I submitted my information, which was late in the afternoon, the next day I got a phone call from a representative from Carvana.  

They let me know what else was needed from me. Because I was trading in my car they needed to verify my payoff.

We called on a three-way call to verify my payoff with Acura. And then she sent me a link to easily upload the remaining needed items directly.

That made it super easy to upload the copy of my driver's license right from my phone.

Vehicle delivery

Carvana has the option to have the vehicle delivered to your home or to pick it up at the Carvana vending machine.

The big kid in me selected to go pick it up from the vending machine. Seemed like it would be fun.

Car shipment with Carvana

Once everything was confirmed my delivery/pickup date was confirmed along with my selected schedule time.

Pickup day

Because my car was being shipped from another market I waited just under a week. I scheduled for that Monday evening to give my husband time to get home from work and to let the traffic die down a bit.

You can’t test out a new vehicle properly in stop and go traffic.

When we arrived at the Carvana store, we walked in and were greeted and told our rep would be out to help us.

coin for the carvana vending machine

Our rep, Tim, came out almost immediately and said the car wasn’t cleaned yet so it would be a few extra minutes. Which was fine. A clean car is worth waiting for.

He went to take my plates off my trade in since I was transferring them. Then we signed paperwork.

This part is normally the part I dread most. But it honestly was not bad, and it only took like ten minutes and everything was as it was supposed to be.

They “detailed” the car and the guy came and told us the car was ready and loaded in the machine.

The Carvana Vending Experience

Yay! Let the fun begin.

carvana coin slot

I inserted my coin into the slot and watched my car vend.

It was cool but a little underwhelming.

The set up led me to believe it would be sent into one of the three bays in front of the vending machine.


It came down and then my rep hopped in and drove it around.

Done and over with.  

I should have gone outside to get a view.  But because I thought it would be more I stayed inside as to not miss any of the excitement.

Receiving my new vehicle

Once Tim pulled it around I met him out front to check it out. He advised I could take it for a test drive or head home since I had the seven-day guarantee.

When I checked the vehicle out I was a little disappointed because it did not look like it did online. There were more scratches than shown on the website and the interior color was way lighter than in the images.

My husband gave it a look over, incuding checking the top of the car,  which had been untouched.  Tim had advised he would make sure that they reimbursed us if we had it fully detailed.

I could immediately tell my husband was not on it. But he was willing to entertain it for me.


We got in buckled up adjusted the radio and got ready to pull off. Put the car in gear tapped the gas and heard a clunk.

We never left the Carvana parking lot.

We went back and let Tim know it wasn’t going to work. After we explained, he got in to try it himself.

He was super nice, but this is where he gets a side eye from me. He drove this thing from the front of the building to the back.

There is no way, NO WAY, not any damn way, he did not hear and feel that damn clunk. None!

He got out of the car and popped the hood. Even though the defect was clearly in the wheel area. Even I could tell that.  And as if I was not already disappointed, it got worse.

Under the hood looked like it has been off-roading.

This was not a Jeep. And even still, if you are selling it and supposedly just cleaned it up, it is beyond me why it looked this way.

I was so disappointed I didn’t even get pictures.

This is a luxury SUV. Yes, it was used. But this was not okay.  There was no reason it should have looked like this.

If our minds were not made up yet, at this point, they were.

Tim just looked at us and apologized. He advised that you get three refunds and that this one would not count against us because we never left with it.

Unhappy was an understatement.

What Happened After My Deal Went  Bust With Carvana?

I waited until the next day thinking they would at least call and apologize and try to make it right.

Up until this point, their service had been great. The Carvana customer service experience was exceptional.

But at this point, I never heard a peep.

I called and advised that I had found another but it was just under 1k more. It had higher miles. Was the same year, but it had another feature I honestly didn’t care about, navigation.

The lady on the phone said it was not part of their business model to negotiate. Even in these circumstances.

I thanked her and hung up. To say I was done does not accurately describe what I felt.  And at that point I probably should have been done.

But after one of my twitter peeps inquired and tagged them they reached out via Twitter.

After explaining the situation they said the best they could do was a 250 dollar credit.

I declined.

I searched for another day or so but decided it was not for me.  As for my husband he had already moved on.  He found another car at another place.  And being the dude that he is, he removed me from the process cause I was too emotionally invested.

How Does The Seven Day Money Back Guarantee Work?

The return policy gives 7 days and 500 miles.  If you go over the miles, you the pay per mile, similarly to how an auto lease works.

What If You Return  The Car And Had A Trade?

I was advised that depending on when you return the car, your trade-in vehicle may have been shipped off already.  If that is the case, you would have to wait for it to be shipped back and then traded.

Getting MY New Car

The old man went after work one day, worked the deal, called me and told me to come.  He said to take it for a spin if you like it, it’s yours the numbers have been worked out, just need your okay.  

This is why I love him!

carvana information booklet

My Personal Opinion Of The Carvana Online Buying Experience

The concept is amazing.  The Carvana Vending Machine sounds cooler than it actually is.

The service, up until delivery, was awesome as well.  And Tim was nice, professional, and not sale-sy at all.  But I feel it could have been handled a little different.

They clearly do not do as thorough of an inspection as their website leads you to believe.  They readily provide the Carfax report.  But the downside to that is that does not actually mean the vehicle has never been involved in an accident.  It just means there has never been a reported accident.

I loved the fact that it was not pushy, time-consuming, or even stressful.  But if the end result is to get a car that you love, it is a 50/50 gamble.

I also did not love that the car was not ready when I arrived.  And honestly, two other people that arrived after me had to wait for their cars to be cleaned as well.

It would have been worth the wait IF the car was actually clean, AND the car was actually everything it was portrayed to be.

I think the business model is a great one.  Another opportunity for people to avoid something that can be dreaded and unpleasant, but necessary.

They have a way to grow.

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