Websites like Carmax have made it easier than ever to find the exact vehicle you want, with listings from all over the U.S., and arrange to pick it up or have it shipped (often for a fee, depending on your location). Then there are sites like Carvana that take the experience to the next level by offering delivery right to your door or shipping your vehicle to the nearest Carvana Vending Machine for convenient pickup.
This modern form of car buying certainly has its advantages, but there are downsides, as well. Here are a few of the pros and cons to consider before you buy a car from a vending machine.
Convenient, No-Pressure Browsing and Buying
As with any online shopping experience, the biggest draw of online car buying is convenience. You can take your time browsing from the comfort of home, complete your transaction online, and avoid pushy salespeople trained to pressure you into buying. You can even trade in your old car and put the money toward the purchase of a new vehicle, just as you would with a real-world dealership.
With comprehensive search and finance options all available online, Carvana makes it easy to place your order. Then, you can choose from delivery to a nearby car vending machine for free (they'll even subsidize $200 for a flight from your location to the nearest vending machine), or have it delivered to your front door.
No Test Drive
On the negative side, buying online means you don't have much option to try before you buy. With traditional car buying, you can visit as many car lots as you like and enjoy the tangible experience of exploring the car and test driving to ensure that you're getting the level of comfort and performance you prefer.
You won't have this option when you order online, although Carvana does offer a 7-Day Money Back Guarantee; so if you don't like a car, you can return it. Keep in mind, you probably won't be working with a local dealership, which means you have to trust an unknown dealer, and if you buy a car from out of state, the onus is on you to make sure it meets state regulations (for smog, for example).
Another thing you might miss when you shop for cars online is the option to haggle. If you walk into a dealership with cash and a reasonable offer, you could walk out with a new or used car at significantly less than sticker price. Even with financing, you can sometimes talk down a sales associate trying to meet a quota. With online ordering, the price you see is the price you get.
While online car buying offers a lot in the way of comfort and convenience, and short-term return policies ostensibly allow for the "test drive" experience, paying full price could be a deal-breaker for anyone looking to buy below sticker price.