Car 'vending machine' allows consumers to buy online, avoid dealership

HOUSTON – From food and clothes to home electronics and furniture, these days you can buy practically anything online from the luxury of your own home.

Now, thanks to an innovative new car dealer, Carvana, you can even purchase a car.

“Buying things online is nothing new," Carvana customer  Gregory Winslow said. "We do Amazon. I mean, even back in the days of your grandparents: mail order through the catalog -- JCPenney, Sears, whatever, it's nothing new. But cars, it's unique.”

Unique indeed. At Carvana, there are no salespeople, and there is no price haggling or spending hours on a lot trying to make the right deal. It's all done virtually.

“It took me about 13 minutes. It was a glorious experience,” Winslow said.

“It's like the Disney World of car-buying,” Kristin Collins, the manager of the West Houston Carvana, said. “You get your gold coin, you get to put it in the car vending machine slot (and) it actually will vend your car out into your bay.”

The Phoenix-based company recently opened one of its vending-machine lots in Houston.

The company prides itself on creating the ultimate customer-service experience.

“You can literally buy a car from your own home and dictate your own purchase process," Collins said. "Part of the draw of Carvana is the ability to get your own financing, determine your own down payment and be able to determine when you want to pick up the car, or have it delivered to your home. It's really about the customer experience and not about the dealership experience."

Winslow, who purchased a 7-Series BMW, said the process was easy compared to his past experiences at car dealerships.

“It's a painful process when you go to a dealership,” Winslow said.

But his Carvana experience was a completely different story.

“The whole thing (is) you don’t have to leave your home or your office or wherever you’re doing this, and you can be done in under 30 minutes with buying a whole car.”

Here's how it works: Hop on to the Carvana site at, find the vehicle you want in the 7,400-car inventory, enter your financing information -- which can be done through their bank, or yours -- and just like that, the deal is done.

And once you've completed everything online for your purchase, then the fun part starts.

You go to the dealer, get your gold coin and your vehicle vends down to you.

The vending machine is eight stories high, and holds up to as many as 30 vehicles.

Buyers get to interact with a customer advocate at pick up or delivery.

“Since the car, the whole journey is done online, this is the personal touch once we get it here," Collins said. "They're here to make that kind of impersonal experience really personal for you and really comfortable.”

You have up to seven days or 400 miles to test drive the vehicle you purchased. If you don't like it, you can simply return it and start all over again, since the deal isn’t complete until you sign the paperwork in person.
Collins said Carvana wants to help change how customers feel about buying cars -- especially those who are disenchanted with the hard sell of traditional dealerships.

“I think that's really one important piece of the puzzle here. There's no selling when you get here. It's all done online from the comfort of your own home.”

Carvana claims it can offer savings of up to $2,000 off Kelly Blue Book pricing for certain vehicles because there is no sales staff, and because the vehicles on the lot have already been sold, and are awaiting pick-up.

Click here to check out the vehicles they have online.

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