Carvana and its competitors may be seen by some as being better than going into a dealership. With its technology allowing an easy purchasing process, conversation-starting car vending machines, and home delivery it’s all appealing. Our own Mercedes Streeter recently showed exactly that. But according to one Carvana customer I spoke with, the whole experience can sometimes be terrible, and it’s all because of a missed vehicle inspection.
The person in question is Reddit user u/beep41 who posted his whole story on the site. He finally got a job making the kind of money that allowed him to upgrade his car. Needing $3,000 down, he had heard about all the great cash and trade-in offers Carvana was giving people. He initially got an offer, but it expired after a few weeks, so he went back on to get another and was surprised by how high it was.
So a few weeks ago I log on to Carvana and a pop up tells me my trade-in appraisal has expired and I can get a new one. I check it out not expecting much, but they ended up offering me pretty much what I paid for my car. That left me with a down-payment of over $3,000.
He then went out and found his next car: a 2017 Honda Civic Si. Something that you could commute in and have fun while doing so. And like everyone has pointed out, the process online went easy. All that was left was to head down to the local car vending machine, take a quick drive in the car, sign some paperwork and be off. Except it wasn’t that easy.
The funny thing about those car vending machines is that they actually give you a giant coin to put in the machine to retrieve your car. Once the car is retrieved, they do a quick walk around with you and a Carvana rep to make sure everything is fine. Beep41 admits he messed up in this regard, letting the excitement of the car keep him from giving the car a thorough lookover.
In the excitement of the moment I did not do a thorough look over of the car. I should have looked more closely, but in the moment I was not thinking about that.
After getting past the quick inspection, he took it for a test drive. Well, if you want to call it a test drive. Beep41 claims the Carvana rep led him to believe that he could only do the test drive in the parking lot of the vending machine facility.
He said he thought it was strange but didn’t think about it further. Including the parking lot test drive, inspection, and signing of paperwork, he was done in about 45 minutes. Not bad considering that the same process would’ve taken probably multiple hours at a dealership.
But things took a turn for the worse only a few hours later.
I noticed a slight flapping sound as I was getting to speed. I figured it was wind noise (I’ve mostly driven Subaru’s, so wind noise is nothing new to me). A couple hours later I leave home to visit my girlfriend. About halfway to her house I notice the car is pulling to the right too, something that wasn’t apparent at low speeds. I figured maybe it needed an alignment. No big deal, I was planning to get one anyway. I’m also driving with the windows down and that flapping sound begins to sound more like a dragging sound. I live in a city, so I figured I ran over something and it’s stuck underneath the car.
After stopping at his girlfriend’s house to see what the sound was, he noticed what looked to be paint splatter on the passenger front wheel along with some damage to the plastic in the wheel well.
Now, when looking at cars on the Carvana site, cosmetic damage like scratches and worn items are pointed out in the vehicle’s 360-degree view. But remember, Beep41 said he didn’t give the car a proper look-over. I asked him if Carvana acknowledged the damage he found. They didn’t. He said he doesn’t think they properly inspect their vehicles.
They didn’t acknowledge the damage I mentioned in my post, but they did acknowledge “imperfections” online. I’m not sure they look cars over when they arrive at the facility because that should’ve been caught before I even got there IMO.
After finding the damage, he contacted Carvana who put him in touch with their warranty company SilverRock. An annoying game of back and forth communication ensued, with SilverRock telling him to call Carvana and vice versa. Ultimately they agree to the fix. But by the next week, Beep41 was over it and decided not to have the vehicle fixed. He approached Carvana for a vehicle swap, which it agreed to.
This “new” car had its own issues that he encountered on his way to work. The tire pressure monitoring system light wouldn’t turn off even though the tires looked full. The tires then went flat while he was at work.
Shortly into my drive, the TPMS light comes on. Whatever, it’s cold out, it’ll probably go away. However as the day goes on I start to wonder if there’s a leak on the damaged wheel. I check it out on my lunch break and it’s fine. I check the other three tires out and the driver rear tire is fully flat now. I run out and fill it back up with air, and check as best as I can for leaks. I heard no leaks, and saw no immediate punctures.
At that point, he was over the whole process. He just wanted to return his car and get a check for his trade-in so he could go to an actual dealership. If only it had been that simple. Carvana told him that it would be a month before he saw any kind of money. Not liking that answer he contacted Carvana support again and was told that the initial information was incorrect.
“After a couple hours on the phone I was assured that waiting a month was not the case, and I could see my money as soon as early next week,” he said.
With that news, he quickly found a car he wanted at another dealership and let them know the situation. He also let Carvana know he wanted to return the vehicle and trade his in for a check.
At that point, Carvana seemed to be outright bullshitting him. Suddenly, that early next week timeframe for his check turned into 20-to-40 days because they needed to “rebuild the contracts.”
I can tell you now that that means absolutely nothing. At most, Carvana would need to just cancel the contract. What contract would need rebuilding if it’s being canceled? I reached out to Carvana and got no answer from them on this, only a comment reiterating their seven-day risk-free return policy.
At this point, Beep41 says feels that he’s “in too deep” with Carvana to buy a car from somewhere else. He’s caved and agreed to swap his vehicle yet again. Carvana has agreed to pay for a rental until his vehicle can be swapped, as the company has informed him he won’t be able to swap it for a couple of weeks.
While Carvana has been inconsistent with a number of things, all of this could’ve been avoided had he simply inspected the car properly. And although he owns up to the mistake of not looking it over thoroughly, it’s unfortunate that the mistake caused so many headaches. But it also shows that Carvana has some real room to improve its inspection and return processes.
This story was originally published on November 4, 2021.