Buying a used car through a dealership can be a major headache and that’s not even considering this awful car market we’re in. That’s why my fiancée and I were pleasantly surprised by just how easy it was to buy her next car through Carvana. It was easier than buying through any dealership and the car she received is fine. But there’s a catch or a few.
My future wife has absolutely terrible luck with cars. In the time that we’ve been together she’s had five daily drivers and one project car. All of them have experienced some sort of horrible malady. By now you likely know about the Toyota Camry that rotted out before I raced it, the Chevrolet HHR that cooked in Texas and the Oldsmobile LSS that died drinking its own coolant.
There were some other cars in there, too, like a Ford Bronco that imploded its rear differential and of course, the Dodge Dakota that fried its electrical system. For her next car she decided to hold her nose and dive right into the pandemic car market to get something that will hopefully survive years of her 30,000 miles a year of hard driving.
I’ve helped a number of people find new cars this year and honestly the dealership experience can still be so bad that I’d rather test antifreeze by taste. Earlier this year my parents’ Ford Expedition burned to the ground, prompting a search for a new SUV. Despite their very clear demand that the SUV has to be able to tow 7,000 pounds, salespeople at multiple dealerships tried telling them with a straight face that a new Chevrolet Equinox can handle more than 7,000 pounds.
And these dealership visits often lasted most of the day. In all of those cases, those dealerships had such low stock that they simply didn’t have an SUV that fit, and it still baffles me why they didn’t just say that from the jump. Things were similar with my fiancée, and we quickly grew tired of the runaround.
She then turned to the online used car dealerships. Vroom offered absolutely appalling financing rates, so Carvana it was.
True to the company’s promise, there was none of that dealership crap with haggling with someone who has perfected the art of negotiation. The salesperson also didn’t try shoving her into a car she didn’t want and didn’t try convincing her that some entirely different car was the car she truly needed. Buying a car from Carvana was almost as easy as buying something from Amazon, with the same kind of convenience of not having to get dressed to do it.
She got a 2010 Toyota Prius with 90,000 miles for a listed price of $12,000, slightly cheaper than what local dealerships have their Prii listed for.
I know a bunch of you are firing up your keyboards to talk about how a Prius is a terrible mistake, but it’s actually fine. I’ll even go as far as to say that it’s an enthusiast car, but for a different kind of enthusiast.
It didn’t take me long to change my driving habits to see how long I could keep the Pri’s monitors indicating a charging state for the battery.
It’s not fast and it doesn’t soak up bumps nearly as well as her outgoing Oldsmobile, but it should make for a reliable and economical daily driver. And it’s actually pretty quiet when the engine isn’t racing.
I mean, it didn’t even take 10 minutes of driving the thing for one of us to call it a Shuttlecraft from Star Trek, but for the road. The super nerdy economy menus and graphs only add to that.
Take a look at the energy monitor. It’s silly, but I love it.
But even Carvana isn’t perfect. For starters, we found that the finance rate offered to her wasn’t awful but really wasn’t good either. And since you cannot haggle, there’s no real chance at making the best of that rate. Ideally, you’ll want to secure financing outside of Carvana.
Car selection at the site is also pretty bland. Carvana does get plenty of cool cars, but they seem to sell mere hours after being listed. What’s left behind is an endless sea of Mitsubishi Mirages, Chevrolet Impalas and Smart Fortwos. Even the Prius was hot with Carvana users before she sealed the deal.
The Prius itself was also not really as advertised. The listed damages were just a few scratches. However, the right headlight is full of water, one of the car’s 12V ports doesn’t work and the radio basically stops working whenever you hit the rear defroster. Also, the steering wheel is already falling apart.
Thankfully, there is a short 100-day limited warranty that doesn’t cover everything, but Carvana agrees will cover the repairs for these pieces.
Update: Carvana’s limited warranty is administered by SilverRock, which gave us a choice of just two repair shops. The first, a local Pep Boys, has said that it does not work on Prii and wishes SilverRock would stop sending Carvana customers their way. The second is an independent mechanic. Why the local Toyota dealership isn’t an approved repair facility baffles me.
We’ve also reported about the other hassles that Carvana buyers are dealing with right now, like car registration issues or a person that didn’t get the agreed amount when they sold their car to the site.
Overall, my fiancée said that the process was so easy and so painless that she’d buy from Carvana again. And I do admit, seeing the car show up on that sweet flatbed was pretty cool. So it’s possible to have a great experience from the site, but keep those expectations in check. You’ll probably see this Prius again, and hopefully not because something broke.