Review -- Online car buying for awesome people (and introverts!)

You served me well, Catbutt.

You served me well, Catbutt.

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.

Enter Carvana.

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." 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. 

The Website

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. 

The 360 °  Tour shows the actual car

The 360° Tour shows the actual car

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. 

The Process

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 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) 

The Hiccups

There were a couple issues I encountered during this purchase, which ended up being handled wonderfully.

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 

The Delivery



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.

I hope she's in a better place.

I hope she's in a better place.

The End

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! 

Why is the best print company ever

UPDATE July 2015: This review has been very popular, and since I've been using iprintfromhome for quite a while now I wanted to share a quick update to say that iprintfromhome is still working for me as great as ever! I've been ordering my holiday cards from them every year (I cut them myself) and the quality and service has still been perfect. 

iprintfromhome samples

the giclee print dilemma

I just want to take a (long) moment to gush about my new favorite print company ever. I’ve been agonizing over producing quality prints to feel like a true professional, and finally wanted to try Giclee since: everyone pees their pants over it, it’s archival, it’s lightfast, etc. Well, after checking out a few sites, I was disheartened by what seemed like a poopload of hassle for every Giclee printer: Setup fees, having to ship artwork to scan, minimum orders, etc. My purse is not exactly bulging with money, so that wasn’t going to work. I wanted to be able to offer ALL my artwork as prints, and I certainly couldn’t afford all those fees for each piece!

my order with

Then I found iprintfromhome via. Etsy. It seemed like everyone had a crush on them, so I decided to go see what the ruckus was all about. “iprintfromhome” wasn’t the most professional-sounding name, so at first I was a little cynical. But I must say I had a wonderful experience after all!

Their site is very easy to navigate, and everything is clearly laid out. They have “Photographic” prints, and “Fine Art” (Giclee) prints. The photographic prints are very affordable at $2.00 for an 8×10, while the Giclee are considerably more at $10 for an 8×10. However, there are no set-up fees, no minimum orders or any other bogus fees, and they do have discounts if you order more than one print. All the other Giclee printers I found charged at least $25 for one print, in addition to the setup cost. Even better, First Class shipping is only $3, and from what I can tell that’s for any size order!

Just to test out their quality and compare, I ordered:

  • 4×6 Matte Photographic Print on Kodak Endura paper – $.30
  • 4×6 Lustre Photographic Print on Kodak Endura paper – $.30
  • 4×6 Giclee Art Print on Somerset Velvet paper – $5.00

the service

I was immediately impressed by the fact that a real live person called me just to basically say “Hi” and make sure I didn’t have any questions or concerns. Maybe I’m just unlucky, but nobody ever does that for me! There weren’t even any hidden promotions involved– it seemed they just really wanted to make sure I was all set.

The shipping was also excellent. The site says it can take 3 business days to produce Giclee prints, but mine seemed to be on the way after only a day or two, and though I chose the cheapest shipping option, it took a total of 5 days from clicking “Order” to having them in my hand. The packaging was excellent. Everything was packed in a sturdy envelope with an additional sheet of cardboard backing, and the individial items were in their own protective envelopes with plenty of information about my prints attached. They even added a border to my image so it didn’t sit on the page funny (I had left it up to them to decide when I ordered) and wrote a letter explaining that they noticed I had an art print and they thought it would look nicest with a border. Compare that to Zazzle who apparently couldn’t even look at a calendar and tell what side was up before adding the spiral binding (grrr.. that’s another story!)

In ADDITION to this, they included a free sample pack and monitor calibration kit, to make sure my future prints matched their printers as closely as possible.

the prints

Yes, yes, I know, finally to the important part! Well.. the prints are beautifulHere’s what I thought of each.

Photographic Prints: The photographic prints caught my image’s colors perfectly. They were vibrant, crisp, and had none of that extreme contrast and saturation that laser prints tend to give. However, I really would recommend them for photographs, which is why it is called a “Photographic” print. The back of the paper is printed with the Kodak Endura logo, and it just doesn’t seem very artsy. The prints were lovely, but the photo paper didn’t feel very “natural” at all. Even the matte was fairly glossy, which I imagine would bring out the colors of a photograph beautifully. But I would not make my art prints with their Photographic Print service.

Giclee Prints: Now we’re talking! I have nothing bad to say about the Giclee print I ordered. I find it really hard to tell the different between this print and my original painting, even without using their calibration tool. It is printed on a watercolor-type paper (Somerset Velvet) and touching it feels like you are touching someone’s work of art. The colors are vivid without being overly saturated or contrast-y (heh), and they add a 1 inch border around the piece to either trim it how you like or to have a border for framing. By this I mean that my 4×6 print actually arrived on 6×8 paper. I took advantage of this by hand-tearing the border to give it a deckled watercolor edge, which adds to the artistic quality even more. Awesome!

in conclusion…

I’m hooked! One could argue that those other Giclee printers have drum scanners, setup fees and high costs because it results in a better print, and perhaps they are right. But when I look at a print and can barely even tell the difference between it and my original, then that seems like fine enough quality to me. Any more would be splitting hairs, wouldn’t it? However, since they DON’T scan your image for you, it’s your responsibility to get a quality scan. If your scan sucks, then your print will–most likely–suck.

Since I can order one print at a time with no hassle besides uploading my image, I plan to order prints on demand as people purchase them from my Etsy shop. This way I won’t have to keep any inventory or break the bank, but people can still receive very high quality prints. Hoorah!

If you want to check them out: