Carvana Review: How It Works, Warranty, Financing, Returns

By Zina Kumok
Updated on: Feb 11, 2020

What Is Carvana?

Carvana is one of those ideas that sounds truly futuristic. If the writers of Back to the Future wanted to show Marty McFly buying a car in 2020, they probably would have cooked up something like this.

But like early touch screen devices that barely worked and cheap Bluetooth speakers that never seem to connect, “futuristic” doesn’t always mean “better.” So how exactly does Carvana work, and how does it stack up against the traditional car-buying process?

How It Works

The idea behind Carvana is relatively simple: you see a car, buy it, and receive it. Customers scroll through a selection of vehicles on a phone, choose the one they want, pay for it and choose a pickup option. They can either opt for home delivery or go to one of Carvana’s giant “vending machines”.

The main difference between Carvana and the traditional car-buying process is that you don’t have to go to a dealership and spend hours talking to a salesperson. There’s no negotiating, and most of the important steps happen online.

HighYa staff member J.R. Duren recently used Carvana to buy a car. He said Carvana had reasonable prices, and it was a much easier transaction than going to a dealership.

Car Selection

Like other major car-buying sites, Carvana has a wide selection ranging from the classic Toyota Camry to the impressive Tesla Model X. One significant difference between a car dealership and Carvana is that the latter doesn’t stock new cars. There are many lightly-used vehicles with a few hundred miles or so, but you can’t find a brand new car with only a handful of test-driving miles.

Carvana has gas, hybrid and electric models. Their search system includes filters such as total price, monthly payment, year, mileage, body type, engine and drivetrain.

Additional filters include features like:

  • Rear view camera
  • Blind spot sensors
  • Park assist
  • Keyless ignition
  • Leather interior

When you search for a car, Carvana will ask for your location. Some cars won’t be available near you and will have to be delivered. There may be a delivery fee associated with this. Some cars are available at a vending machine, so you can drive to pick it up without paying a delivery fee.

Because consumers have to pick a car without looking at it in person, Carvana offers a 360-degree view of both the car’s exterior and interior, as well as photos of imperfections such as scratches and dings. Every car that the company sells is accident-free and has gone through a 150-point inspection.

Cost and Financing

Carvana has its own financing department, so you can buy a car and get an auto loan at the same time. Potential customers can pre-qualify to see their interest rate before looking for a vehicle. This only counts as a soft inquiry on a credit report and won’t damage their credit score.

To pre-qualify, Carvana will ask for your name, date of birth, address and annual income. Then you’ll have to provide an email address and password to create an account. By signing up for an account, you agree to receive texts or phone calls from Carvana reps and their financing subsidiaries. Unlike traditional car dealerships, they don’t seem to be overly aggressive in reaching out.

You’ll get an email when the qualification terms are available, which can be found in your account settings under “Financing.” Terms will include the interest rate range, minimum down payment, and maximum loan term. There’s no basic range of interest rates on the Carvana website, so your best bet is to get pre-qualified.

Pre-qualifying may be useful as a baseline to compare to other banks, credit unions, and lenders. You can use the Carvana information to negotiate interest rates with other lenders.

Carvana has no credit score requirement for borrowers, but there is a minimum annual salary of $10,000. They claim to work with all types of credit scores, except for borrowers with bankruptcies on their records.

Carvana does not allow co-signers on auto loans that it initiates. If you use a third-party lender on a Carvana car, you may have a co-signer for that.

If you’re interested in buying a car and want to use outside financing, Carvana recommends that you already be pre-approved or fully approved before choosing a vehicle. They’ll ask for the lender’s information when you select a car, so you’ll need to know how much you were approved for.

What sets Carvana apart is the fixed price on every car. There’s no haggling or going back and forth with a shady salesman. This is a huge advantage for people who hate negotiating, but it’s a drawback for those who love the thrill of getting a good deal.

Trade-Ins

Like most car dealerships, Carvana accepts trade-ins and applies that value toward the final price. Even if you’re not buying a car, you can still sell your vehicle to Carvana.

First, you’ll input some basic information about the car and get a quote. Like their car-buying process, Carvana does not allow customers to negotiate the trade-in value. If they say your car is worth $2,000, you’ll only get $2,000.

To sell a trade-in, you must live within a local delivery zone. You can find a list of Carvana's locations here.

If you live outside of a local delivery zone, you won’t be eligible to trade your car in. Carvana outsources its long-distance deliveries to a third-party which is not authorized to pick up your vehicle, so all trade-ins must be local. Your only other option is to sell it on Craigslist or at a local dealership.

If you trade in your old car and change your mind about the vehicle purchased through Carvana, you can get the old one back within the seven-day return policy window.

If you have a current loan on a trade-in vehicle, you could run into trouble if the amount you’re getting from Carvana is less than the remaining balance. This is known as being underwater on your loan. You’ll have to pay off the remainder before trading the car in. Paying off your loan may be similar to what most dealerships would require.

Warranty

Carvana offers a complimentary warranty that’s good for 100 days or 4,189 miles, whichever comes first. This warranty includes roadside assistance and covers basic and powertrain parts. A small copay is due when opening a warranty claim.

The Carvana warranty is much lower than what you can find if you’re buying directly from a dealership, especially on a certified pre-owned vehicle. This is one of the major downsides to the service. Customers can purchase an extended warranty directly from Carvana, as well as gap insurance coverage.

Pick Up and Delivery

Carvana provides free delivery for customers who live in one of Carvana’s local markets, which are located in more than 25 states. Carvana is located all across the country from California to Massachusetts.

They’re also willing to meet in the middle if you live near one of their local markets, but you have to call them directly to arrange this service. It’s not clear from the website how far you would have to travel to pick up the car.

If you can’t meet them halfway, you can also choose to have the car delivered. The delivery fee varies, but is generally between $199 and $1,000 depending on where you live and where the car is coming from.

A third option is to buy a one-way plane ticket to a city with a Carvana vending machine, pick up the car and drive it back. Carvana will reimburse up to $200 for the flight and transport you from the airport to the vending machine. The reimbursement will be sent via check after the seven-day return policy window has closed.

Another major Carvana perk is that they take care of registering the car for you, as long as your state allows it. This can save the buyer a lot of time and hassle, especially if their local DMV branch is poorly-run.

Returning Your Vehicle

Carvana’s return policy allows customers to return a car within seven days. Any down payment will be refunded, but the delivery fee is always non-refundable.

Customers may drive up to 400 miles within the seven-day period, after which they’ll be charged $1 per mile. Carvana won’t accept a vehicle if it’s been modified, damaged, or changed in any way. Any accidents will also negate the return policy.

Shoppers can return the car and exchange it for another, which will also come with a seven-day return policy. Carvana allows customers to return a car up to three times, but the third vehicle will not come with a return policy.

The Bottom Line

Carvana’s appeal is simple: you can buy a car without talking to a salesperson. Anyone who doesn’t have hours to spend at the dealership or who feels uncomfortable talking to salesmen may prefer this remote car-buying experience.

It’s wise to get your own financing offers at a bank or credit union instead of blindly accepting Carvana’s terms. You never know what kind of interest rate a different lender may offer, and the difference could save you hundreds.

If you’re the type of person who loves negotiating and doesn’t mind spending hours shopping for a better price, you’re likely to get a lower price by looking at local dealerships and making them compete for your business.


Read 485 Carvana Customer Reviews and Complaints

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Average Customer Rating: 2.2
Rating Snapshot:
5 star: 104 4 star: 19 3 star: 32 2 star: 55 1 star:  275
Bottom Line: 29% would recommend it to a friend
Showing 1-11 of 485
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  • Avoid

    • By Stephen R.,
    • New Jersey,
    • Mar 31, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    Absolute disaster. Don't trust the reviews on the Carvana site. There is no method to leave a negative review on there. Found the car we wanted and went through the credit check, financing details, insurance, etc. Everything started out great...then...delivery delayed (flat tire). Then...delivery delayed (couldn't fix flat tire). Then...delivery delayed (need to order tires). Then delivery delayed (who knows). Then..delivery delayed (would not have known but luckily I called to confirm delivery for next day). Nope...delivery delayed again. Cancelled purchase. Cost me a month's worth of car insurance and having to borrow a car for a month waiting. Avoid the headaches. Not worth it, especially with the $400 delivery fee.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

    • Apr 1, 2020

      Company Response from Carvana

      Thank you for taking the time to reach out with feedback on your purchase. Here at Carvana, we strive to transport and deliver our vehicles as quickly as possible, while making sure that we are completing our pre-delivery inspections to ensure our vehicles meet both yours and our vehicle standards. We can’t foresee these delays, but we completely understand the frustration, and for that, we sincerely apologize. While we are disappointed that our process did not work out for you, should you have any further questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to give us a call at (800) 333-4554.


  • An amazing experience with Carvana

    • By Kathryn W.,
    • Milwaukee, WI,
    • Mar 20, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    I had my first car buying experience in November/December with the Carvana Milwaukee team, and it was so effortless and designed to help me. I had very limited knowledge on car buying/cars in general going into this process, and I was so intrigued about how Carvana operates mostly virtually. What really made the experience was Adie, the member of the Carvana Milwaukee team that I met with. At the time of picking up my 2015 Chevy Trax, I was within a week of Black Friday, and Adie was so helpful in describing the promotion that Carvana was running for Black Friday and how I could take advantage of it. That conversation stuck in my mind for the next few days, so I decided to look on Carvana’s website at other options; I didn’t completely love my Chevy Trax, initially. I found my 2016 Ford Fusion and I set an alarm to wake up early on Black Friday to call Carvana, and just as Adie had described, the process was surprisingly simple and effortless. I’m so thankful and appreciative for Adie’s guidance, because I am completely in love with my new car. It’s perfectly suited for all of my needs, it’s an amazing deal and I have had nothing but amazing customer service from Carvana. I don’t doubt that I will continue to have amazing experiences with Carvana Milwaukee and I’m so thankful for Adie and her guidance.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend


  • Post car delivery issues

    • By John D.,
    • Philadelphia, PA,
    • Mar 1, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    The entire process was very seamless in the beginning. Found the car. Completed financing with Carvana that was comparable to other options. Completed the underwriting process and chose a delivery date with ease. Car was delivered as promised. Delivery person was awesome. The car looked great and was in the condition we were told and expected. We did our part, Carvana didn’t. We continued to follow the process after to see that we got our state's permanent registration. We had to upload documents several times but eventually saw the documents were accepted. Fast forward to a few days before the temporary out of state registration was about to expire. Opened a chat with a Carvana agent. The person was fine. After a long wait time, she told us there was no timeline for the permanent registration and Carvana would provide a rental. Went to pick up said rental and it’s a small sedan. My car is a mid-size SUV with a third row. Can’t fit the three kids in this rental safely with the car seats we own. Now, stuck with a car with no registration or timeline as to when we will get it and a rental car I can’t drive as needed. Overall, Carvana needs to address the registration problems that are plaguing customers. I would have bought from them again, but not after the registration problem. Losing out on repeat customers due to mismanagement will eventually lead to their demise.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

    • Mar 10, 2020

      Company Response from Carvana

      Thank you for taking the time to provide your feedback on your Carvana purchase. We are glad to hear the beginning of your purchase was seamless but disheartened to hear about the experience after receiving the vehicle was less than satisfactory. At Carvana, we try to make your registration process easy and stress-free but we apologize the process was not completed on time as we understand this is a large inconvenience. After reviewing your account we do see your registration has successfully been completed. Please don’t hesitate to reach out at (800) 333-4554 and we would be happy to assist.


  • It was a pleasure purchasing my 2014 Camry!

    • By Cindy H.,
    • North Carolina,
    • Feb 28, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    At first I thought someone was playing a hoax because the whole buying experience was too good to be true. It has been 3 years since my purchase and I'm truly pleased with the staff and the financing of my beautiful car.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend


  • Great experience

    • By Lisa M.,
    • Alabama,
    • Feb 28, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    I was a little concerned because I had read some negative reviews, but took a chance and I'm so glad I did! Full disclosure, my first delivery date was delayed for 2 days and I was worried. But it came on the second delivery day, within 15 minutes of the time given, as confirmed by the driver when he called to give me his location. It got here, and it was beautiful! I've been driving it for a week now and love it! The whole process was unbelievably easy and I'm a very happy and satisfied customer!

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend


  • Carvana cancelled pick up 1 hour before pick-up...1 hour!

    • By Ron M.,
    • Florida,
    • Feb 25, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    Bad customer service. I received a call this am, saying the car arrived at their location with a cracked windshield from "weather issues." Huh? I had specifically rearranged my work schedule and changed over insurance from old to new to pick up today, was told they could only use safelight for windshield and they are closed today. I suggested they find another company to do the replacement today, was advised they could not. This should have been done. It's costing me money to wait for this to be fixed.

    Here is a suggestion for Carvana...inspect the vehicle a day prior so this doesn't happen.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

    • Feb 28, 2020

      Company Response from Carvana

      We are disheartened to see the delivery of your vehicle was delayed due to cosmetic issues. At Carvana, we want to ensure our customers are getting a vehicle that meets their standards as well as ours, and unfortunately, there may be some unforeseen issues that arise prior to delivery. We understand how this is an inconvenience and we apologize for that. After reviewing your account, we see your vehicle has since been delivered and we hope you are loving your new ride. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please give us a call at (800) 333-4554.


  • Estimate based on fraudulent KBB value

    • By Michael N.,
    • Charlotte, NC,
    • Feb 19, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    KBB value I just checked last week and this shows about $2000 less than what the details show on the KBB website itself. Very low offer compared to what the vehicle value states. This is called fraud.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

    • Feb 20, 2020

      Company Response from Carvana

      Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with us. Carvana prides itself on providing our customers with an easy and stress-free car selling service. We offer a personalized trade value which is generated from our algorithm based on the information you provide about your vehicle and the VIN number. When we use the VIN for your vehicle it allows us to pull up the vehicle history and that is how we generate the actual value of your vehicle. We apologize if this was not communicated to you and that the value was not what you were looking for. Thank you for taking the time to provide us with your feedback. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you have any further questions or concerns.


  • Love love...did I say love?

    • By Lauran S.,
    • Dallas, TX,
    • Feb 10, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    I can’t say enough good things about my experience with Carvana. This would be my second purchase through Carvana. The first car I bought was totaled not even two months after I purchased it. I was T-boned by another driver and I didn’t know what I was going to do. Injured and with no vehicle, Carvana helped to get me in another car sooner than I could’ve ever expected and I absolutely love my second vehicle from Carvana! The process is so simple and easy. The hardest part is deciding what car you want. I don’t think I’ll buy any other way again.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend


  • Awesome

    • By James K.,
    • Memphis, TN,
    • Feb 6, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    This was my first purchase. Took 30 minutes compared to 4 hours at a dealer. The entire staff in Memphis, especially Erica, were professional and very helpful. Got the car we wanted for a great price. Delivery was so amazing at the tower. (Surprise for my wife.) Follow up calls to answer questions. Paid the full bill to have the car looked over and a minor repair made!

    LOVED THE EXPERIENCE. Will never buy a car anywhere else!

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend


  • Good buying experience, terrible post-sale experience

    • By Ryan J.,
    • Kansas City, MO,
    • Feb 4, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    Everything with the initial purchase and delivery went amazing. The woman that delivered the car was fantastic and the sales agents were super helpful! However, I am now dealing with registration issues. My previous car was totaled and I’m waiting for some forms for insurance that are needed to register the car and get a refund on the sales tax.

    I have communicated with Carvana a number of times on the phone and through chat. The other day I got an email threatening repossession because I have not uploaded the forms yet dispute the fact that multiple agents said to take the time I need. I immediately called and the agent on the phone sort of said "too bad so sad". She didn’t really say that, she was trying to be helpful but was not clear and didn’t seem to have the ability to transfer me to anyone that could help.

    I am working on the insurance company and trying to get a couple more weeks to figure all this out but I can’t get in touch with any supervisors or anyone that can help.

    I'm really unsure what to do and frustrated at their customer support. I’m hoping I can get someone that can help next time I call.

    Overall I loved the buying experience and support. I loathe the post-sale support.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

    • Feb 5, 2020

      Company Response from Carvana

      Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with us. We’re thrilled that you enjoyed our order and delivery process. However, we want to ensure each of our customers has a great experience from beginning to end. We understand that this wasn’t the case for you, and for that, we are sorry. Carvana works tirelessly to prevent any possible delays with registration, and we understand that sometimes issues can arise. We do see that you have been in contact with our inside team to resolve your concerns. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us at (800) 333-4554 should you need further assistance.


  • Maintenance past due prior to sale of vehicle

    • By Jennifer H.,
    • Westminster, CA,
    • Feb 4, 2020
    • Verified Reviewer

    Hello. We purchased a vehicle today however some concerns and the sale persons advised the items would be handled and paid by Carvana.

    1. BMW Idrive shows the vehicle is PAST DUE on an oil change.

    2. BMW Idrive shows the brake flush is PAST DUE.

    3. BMW Idrive shows the front brakes are PAST DUE on both the rotors and pads as we spoke to the local BMW dealership service department too.

    4. Front fender paint damage was not notated in the photos by Carvana.

    5. Interior display screen glass is damaged, breakage internal requiring replacement.

    The 150-point inspection allegedly is false, fabricated, and none of the above notated. False advertising by Carvana, and in our opinion fraud. Salesperson assures us Carvana will pay to have these maintenance repairs handled as the vehicle should NOT be for sale with past due maintenance items. Even the BMW dealership service department tells us the same, shows within their computer past due maintenance.

    As for the warranty, this does NOT address maintenance items that were not handled at the time of inspection by Carvana. As of the moment, awaiting to hear specifically how Carvana will address their internal mistakes. If they handle it, impressive and simple errors by the inspection team. And if not, obvious fraudulent advertising by the company and misled by the Carvana representative whom assisted us at the time of delivery. Uncertain whether the vehicle will be returned back to Carvana within a couple days OR repairs paid by Carvana. May indeed be more wise to purchase a CPO, certified preowned vehicle from the dealership as many maintenance items certainly not past due!

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

    • Feb 5, 2020

      Company Response from Carvana

      Thank you for providing your feedback regarding your overall experience with Carvana. As a growing company, we want to improve every aspect of our business and in the moments where we fall short, we look for how these mistakes occurred, then proactively work to perfect the areas of growth. Carvana wants to sincerely apologize for the issues you’ve encountered. This is not the type of experience we want our customers to have. After reviewing your account, we see you are working directly with our third-party warranty company to resolve your mechanical concerns. Once again, we truly appreciate your patience through this process. Please do not hesitate to reach out to (800) 333-4554 if you have any further questions or concerns.


Showing 1-11 of 485

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