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.


Customer Reviews

Start your review of Carvana:
  • 510 Customer Reviews
  • 28% Recommend This Company
2.2 out of 5
5 star: 20% 4 star: 3% 3 star: 6% 2 star: 11% 1 star: 57%

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  • Best experience ever

    • By Anita,
    • Glasgow, KY,
    • Jan 20, 2016
    Overall Experience:

    This is by far the easiest, most hassle free way I have ever purchased a car! From just browsing to find the right one all the way through bringing it home, was so easy I kept thinking there has to be a catch! Everyone that I spoke to was very helpful and friendly and got back to me immediately if I had questions, even on a holiday weekend. I made the choice to pick mine up from the "vending machine" and am so glad that I did! They told me I was just number 5 to ever do it as it had only opened up for business the day before (Nashville location). I am so excited to be driving my dream vehicle, Cadillac SRX, I have been looking for over 2 years! Thank you to everyone (especially Beth) at Carvana for making it such a great experience!

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


  • Believe it

    • By Carole Scott,
    • Houston, Texas,
    • May 21, 2016
    • Verified Reviewer
    Overall Experience:

    If I didn't do it myself, I wouldn't have believed it. When I found the car I liked, I purchased it in less than 20 minutes. My car was scheduled and delivered 30 minutes early. I signed a delivery slip, and was literally handed the keys to my car. I will never buy a car another way again!

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


  • #Neverdealership

    Overall Experience:

    I have been waiting to replace my Civic forever, and with a growing family it was time. I saw a Carvana commercial on TV, and imagined a picture in my mind of what an Amazon for cars would be. Then I went to Carvana's website, and I experienced it first hand. Ridiculously good price, great customer service at every step, then delivery to my door. I had 7 days to return, but didn't need to, I was a happy customer!

    No idea what the other reviewers experienced, but I browsed the 2500+ reviews on Carvana's website and other places and it's quite different from here, so I wanted to share my great experience. Thanks Carvana!

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


  • Great deal on Black Friday

    • By Madao,
    • Dec 16, 2016
    • Verified Reviewer
    Overall Experience:

    So far my experience has been great. Bought a car on Cyber Monday for $1k off an already low price. Car was delivered to my house (for free) and 20 minutes early by a nice delivery driver Matt. He gave me a $25 gift card.

    The car I found was exactly what I was looking for. Great deal.

    But judging from other reviews, Carvana is bad because they won't just give you a car for free if you have crappy credit. Those reviewers have no idea how the world works (and hence their bad credit I assume).

    For the rest of the world with enough credit to buy a used car, Carvana is a potentially disruptive force in an industry that needs some disruption.

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

    • Dec 19, 2016

      Company Response from Carvana

      Thank you so much for your wonderful review! As a growing company, your feedback is greatly appreciated and very important to us. We are so pleased that you enjoyed the Black Friday deal. We aim to provide a stress-free car buying experience, and we are so glad to hear that we exceeded your expectations. If you have any additional feedback that you would like to provide, please feel free to give our Customer Advocates a call at 800-333-4554. Welcome to the higher state of car buying!


  • Incredible

    • By Eli,
    • Dunn, NC,
    • Mar 8, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer
    Overall Experience:

    We bought a 2016 Nissan Rogue and absolutely love the way the whole process was handled. Carvana went above and beyond in every aspect of the process, and we will definitely be buying from them again. I was sick of dealing with dishonest used car salesmen, and Carvana was the solution. The day our car arrived they had a gift package and a $25 gift card for us. Great company!

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

    • Mar 8, 2017

      Company Response from Carvana

      Thank you so much for your wonderful review, Eli! As a growing company, your feedback is greatly appreciated and very important to us. We are so pleased that you enjoyed our unique process. We aim to provide a stress-free car buying experience, and we are so glad to hear that we exceeded your expectations. If you have any additional feedback that you would like to provide, please feel free to give our Customer Advocates a call at 800-333-4554. Welcome to the higher state of car buying!


  • My Carvana experience

    • By MGibbons,
    • Florida,
    • Mar 10, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer
    Overall Experience:

    I just recently purchase a certified pre-owned car from Carvana and would definitely do it again. My credit is not the best (not the worst either, but still) and the only places willing to work with me near where I live wanted large down payments and high APR on older model cars that were sold as is.

    I have utilized these types of dealers in the past. They are friendly and eager to "get you into your new car," but once you sign the papers, they love to give you the line, "once you leave our lot if the car breaks in half, well then, both halves are yours." I swear, over the past 20 years I've heard that same line several times. And you get to pay them a dealer fee for that humor.

    So fast forward to Carvana. I came across it and thought to myself that it seemed somewhat shady, but after a few months of reading reviews and checking out dealers near me, I went ahead and started seriously looking at their inventory (which by the way is HUGE). The cars are viewable, almost if not better than in person. The biggest difference is that you can look without any high-pressure salesmen rushing you around. You can't take as much time as you want to browse from bed while comfy in your pajamas. Which is also how I began the purchase of my Carvana car; in my pajamas.

    I purchased a 2015 GMC Terrain for about $4k less than my local dealership was offering theirs and about 20k fewer miles. And a lower APR translates into much lower monthly payments. And there is no dealer fee. I was smitten with my choice. However, I was still anxious over the whole delivery process. I'm in Florida, and the car was in Atlanta, GA. Carvana offered to pay my airfare (up to $200) to fly in and drive the car home. Yea, no. I don't like planes. So they would have to deliver (for a free).

    Now, buying a car without driving it was the biggest hurdle for me personally, but once they deliver the car, the delivery person waits after delivery so you can test drive it (I mention the seven-day trial below). If you don't like it, then you don't keep it. They simply load it up and take it away. However, all cars are inspected and have to meet a high standard just to be offered for sale. All purchases come with a 100-day bumper to bumper warranty on top of any manufacturer warranty that may still be in place (for me that was a winning point because if it splits in half than they would fix LOL).

    Concerning my purchase, there was a hiccup or two during delivery, but the Carvana representative kept me updated and was so eager to apologize and make it right. They even discounted the price of the car by $250 just for being inconvenienced. Also, keep in mind, they worked hard to make me happy before I even paid a single penny. I'm driving my car today, day one after delivery, and my down payment still hasn't been processed yet. They give you seven days to decide if you still want the car, so it's like a seven-day test drive.

    When the delivery man showed up with my car, I was surprised at not being surprised by the condition of the car. There were no extra little dings or scratches from a delivery that one might expect. It was perfect. It even had a full tank of gas. Nice. To top it off The delivery man gave me a goodie bag that included a Visa gift card and an Amazon Echo.

    I have to say; I am so happy with my experience with this company and I couldn't wait to leave a review.

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

    • Mar 14, 2017

      Company Response from Carvana

      Thank you so much for your wonderful review! As a growing company, your feedback is greatly appreciated and very important to us. We are so pleased that you enjoyed our unique process. We aim to provide a stress-free car buying experience, and we are so glad to hear that we exceeded your expectations. If you have any additional feedback that you would like to provide, please feel free to give our Customer Advocates a call at 800-333-4554. Welcome to the higher state of car buying!


  • Amazing experience from start to finish

    Overall Experience:

    This is was the most simple car buying experience ever!

    The 360-degree tours are the actual images of the car, and it looked even better in person. They have a pretty big selection of vehicles, and you can browse through the inventory with your financing terms applied too. Step by step the process was extremely easy, even up until the vehicle was delivered, with a WONDERFUL customer service experience along the way.

    Major props to those Customer Advocates for all your help. I can't wait until you officially launch in the west coast for free delivery! Thank you Carvana.

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

    • Mar 27, 2017

      Company Response from Carvana

      Thank you for your wonderful review! We are so pleased to hear you enjoyed our online process, customer service, and delivery. If you would like to share any additional feedback, don't hesitate to reach out at 800-333-4554. Thank you for choosing Carvana and the higher state of car buying!


  • Perfect

    • By Connor,
    • Deerfield, FL,
    • Mar 29, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer
    Overall Experience:

    I looked at the review of this place just a little after I order the car. I was scared/nervous because of the rating. But now it is two weeks in and I have no regrets. Everyone is complaining, but honestly, my experience was perfect.

    I found my perfect car (Audi S5 2011 red interior). I was scared from what other were saying that there would be problems. I haven't run into one. The customer service is the best I've ever had. Extremely friendly people. The car came not only two hours early, but they informed me continuously on the status. I got the car and the guy let me take my time at look/inspecting the vehicle. They called me after five days to make sure I was happy with it. The car was, and is, perfect.

    After the seven days, I called about the title. Two days later I got it along with my new plate. They also have a gift card for my next tank of gas, and a little basket full of stuff for the car. Everything was smooth and easy. I work for a car dealership and I have to say that Carvana does it better, and they do it right. I've been telling every one about my experience and finally decided I should write a review to help them out. Great place!

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

    • Mar 30, 2017

      Company Response from Carvana

      Thank you so much for your wonderful review! As a growing company, your feedback is greatly appreciated and very important to us. We are so pleased that you enjoyed our Customer Advocate team and the delivery process. We aim to provide a stress-free car buying experience, and we are so glad to hear that we exceeded your expectations. If you have any additional feedback that you would like to provide, please feel free to give our Customer Advocates a call at 800-333-4554. Welcome to the higher state of car buying.


  • Great experience thus far

    • By Tina Seals,
    • Grand Prairie, Texas,
    • Apr 4, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer
    Overall Experience:

    I would like to say that my experience has been top-notch, and on top of it, I get home today from work, and there's a FedEx package filled with toys for my new baby boy bulldog, and a card congratulating me and wishing me a happy early birthday from my advocate Samantha!

    Thank you so much, I'm very appreciative. Kingston loves the toys; I wanted to attach pictures!

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


  • Best way to buy a car

    Overall Experience:

    A co-worker recommended this company to me, and I decided to check it out. Best decision ever.

    It took me an hour to go through their process online. I had already researched what type of car I wanted. I searched and found one with very low mileage. The process was so simple. The car was delivered a few days later, and the delivery girl was just as excited as I was. She gave me alone time to check out the car and then I took it for a test drive. I am now on day 7 and will not be returning the car.

    What a fantastic experience. My delivery girl Nicole gave me a gift card for gas and also a goodie bag. She even donated paper and ink to my school a few days later. I will never go back to a dealer to buy a car.

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


  • Carvana review

    Overall Experience:

    I bought a 2015 Kia Soul from Carvana last month. The Carfax report was included with the paperwork I received when the car was delivered. The VIN is available online to research on your own before you commit to making the purchase.

    There is absolutely no pressure to make the sale. They can't see you, so there is no setup or con involved in what they are going to sell you or how they are going to bait or pitch to you specifically. You can pick whatever you want. The price is as shown, so there is no bait and switch. If you don't like what is delivered, you can get something else. There is no "catch."

    I always buy used, and my previous car was an Enterprise Car sale. That being said, when I saw my car was part of a fleet car, I was fine with that. My mechanic looked over the car, and I passed my inspection without incident. I think Carvana's success rate is about 4.5 because the company is young and nothing is perfect. I see some complaints about "lemons" here and there, and I know that can happen at a dealership or private sale as well with no recourse. Carvana makes and effort to be accountable and solve problems. That should be commended. I know customers who feel they have been scammed shout the loudest and make the most rounds on various review sites.

    I think the company is great and I would use them again. I hope the company grows and they continue to put the customer first. That should be the key to continued growth and longevity. If Carvana continues to openly admit their mistakes and work on shrinking that negative 5% the sky's the limit, they are the future of car buying. My car's name is Pearl, and I'm happy to have her! Thanks Carvana.

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

    • May 2, 2017

      Company Response from Carvana

      Thank you so much for your wonderful review, Jessica! We are happy to hear you are liking Pearl. As a growing company, your feedback is greatly appreciated and very important to us. We are so pleased that you enjoyed our unique purchase process. We aim to provide a stress-free car buying experience, and we are so glad to hear that we exceeded your expectations. If you have any additional feedback that you would like to provide, please feel free to give our customer advocates a call at 800-333-4554. Welcome to the higher state of car buying!


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