When the passenger door handle snapped off my trusty Matrix, I knew it was time. As my first car, Catbutt held a special place in my heart. But after 3 years in Atlanta with a secure, grown-up job I thought wistfully about all those luxuries I’d been missing out on. Anti-lock brakes? Cruise control? If only.
Unfortunately, buying a car is the absolute worst, and gnawing on tin foil sounds better than sparring with a salesperson at a dealership.
I’m not sure how I heard about Carvana, but I was probably googling something like “How to buy car while wearing footies and never leaving house or speaking to human beings." Carvana.com is a company based in Atlanta (yay!) catering to neurotic people like me who want nothing to do with the traditional dealership experience. Their goal is to make the car buying experience less like having your soul forcibly ripped from your body and more like shopping online for a pair of nice boots. ...Or a bag of chips, because they literally have a car vending machine. For real.
You'll find a pretty good selection of cars, but since they're pre-owned it helps to be open to a variety of models. The sidebar lets you filter by body type, color, year, mileage etc., so narrowing down to your needs is pretty easy. The pricing is set and includes a KBB comparison and itemized calculations of the taxes and title. No dealer fees, no doc fees, no soul-sucking fees. Each listing offers an Experian AutoCheck report to see what previous hell the car went through, if any (I don't think they list cars with major report issues). My favorite part is the 360° online tour showing the actual car, highlighting the relevant features and specifically calling out imperfections.
After researching obsessively for a week, I had my heart set on a 2012+ Mazda3 hatchback in white, black or gray, so I waited a couple months for one to pop up. When they finally listed a black 2013 Mazda3 I jumped on it, since the cars can go pretty quickly.
When I landed on my new Catbutt-to-be, I made sure everything looked good on the Autocheck report, then hyperventilated and hovered terrified over the "Start Purchase" button for 20 minutes before taking the dive. I was nervous about buying a car sight-unseen, but the 360° tour and their 7 day money-back "test drive" won me over. Once I finally got the nerve to buy, the payment options popped up-- allowing me to view Carvana's financing options, pay with cash, or use my own financing.
I had lined up my financing through Lightstream, but I also checked Carvana's options which were good but not quite as amazing as mine. After inputting my financing information, it led me through a really simple checkout portal where I set up down payment, picked a delivery date for the nearest Saturday, and signed the contract online. Carvana brags that you can complete this process in 15 minutes, and it's not an exaggeration...as long as you aren't freaking out and triple-checking every word like I was. ;)
(A note about Trade-Ins)
I'm writing this post a few months after my purchase, and can't recall at what point I did my trade in, because it was so freaking easy. But I traded in my old car during this purchase, and the entire trade-in is calculated completely online! You literally visit their trade in page, input the details about your car, and they come back with a price which they will honor at pickup, unless you lied and your car actually has no engine or wheels or something. They offered me more than the KBB listing for a private party sale, and they were not at all fazed when I told them it was missing a passenger door handle. (Yeah, Catbutt was in rough shape)
There were a couple issues I encountered during this purchase, which ended up being handled wonderfully.
- I discovered that Lightstream, unlike some other financing options that work directly with the dealer, deposits the money directly into your bank account. This threw the financing choice I picked during checkout for a loop, because it looked like I was buying with cash instead of financing. I grudgingly called Carvana to figure out the issue, and the communication was quick, friendly and easy with no pressure at all to do anything besides fix the issue.
- I continued browsing Carvana's listings, just to torture myself and see if I missed a better deal that would ruin my life forever (this is the anxiety speaking, guys). A couple days later, I saw a silver 2013 Mazda3 with less miles!!! for $500 cheaper than my car! I called Carvana to ask about the price difference. Surprisingly, without any suggesting on my part, they immediately matched the price of the silver Mazda and refunded me $500, explaining that they lower prices on a weekly basis and I had bought right before the new week. This is the moment I fell in love.
When Saturday finalllly came, the Carvana truck showed up right on time. I'm pretty sure the clouds parted above my new Mazda and heavenly light shined down upon it. It was beautiful. The salesman was laid back and professional (shoutout to Christopher Kummer!) and the delivery took all of 20 minutes. He talked about the 7 day test drive, had me sign some final paperwork, and handed me the keys to take it around the block. The passenger seat held a Carvana gift bag full of goodies including a Moon Pie, which was weird and amazing.
Then, he loaded my trade-in--ol' Catbutt Senior-- onto the Carvana truck and drove off into the sunset.
It's been a few months since I bought my new car on Carvana, and I'm still thrilled. The car arrived in even better condition than I was expecting from the online tour, and I haven't had any issues. It came with one key, and Carvana foot the $200+ bill for getting another remote key made at a local Mazda dealership. I've started decorating my Catbutt 3, and even made her a new logo.
All in all, I highly recommend Carvana for anyone looking for an easier way to buy a car. Living in Atlanta is easiest, but they deliver all over the country. Included in my gift bag were some coupon cards for $500 off a car purchase, so if anyone reading this knows me feel free to get in touch and I'll pass one along!