Pretty much doing anything during a global pandemic presents a unique set of problems no one could have possibly anticipated, especially when it comes to one of the largest purchases most of us will ever make-a car. Carvana seemed uniquely poised to take advantage of this sudden new world order that was thrust upon us. The question is, are they up to the challenge?
Our story begins with my friend Kristin. Active in dog rescue and adoption services, Kristin needed a car with a lot of cargo space, and preferably a low loading floor. The potential to be able to camp out in the car was also a consideration. The Ford Transit Connect seemed a logical choice, and are popular for good reason. However, after years of driving a Volvo XC90, the Ford comes off as unrefined by comparison. A little digging into other options led her to the Mercedes Benz Metris. After test driving one, Kristin was immediately drawn to the level of comfort and engineering of the Benz. However, finding a good used one immediately proved problematic. Very hard to come by, and when one shows up on the market, it is quickly snatched up.
Carvana seemed a logical choice. Nationwide inventory and the ease of online shopping held enormous appeal. The elusive Metris was on her wish list, and she was notified as soon as one that met her criteria was available. One did finally appear, and after numerous nail biting moments where it seemed someone else had claimed it, the car was hers. We are here in Connecticut; the Benz was all the way out in California.
So, Carvana will transport any car to you, anywhere in the country. Yes, she had to pay a transportation fee, but with these cars being so scarce, she was willing to accept that. As the Metris made its journey to the Nutmeg State, I was a little let down that Carvana didn’t provide tracking like a UPS or FedEx package. But, the Mercedes did arrive, albeit a day later than she was promised.
So. The Benz is now in her driveway. Carvana will let you live with the car for a week-then you decide if you want to keep it, or return it. Remember, this car was just flat bedded 3,000 miles cross country on her dime. In her case through, because she lives about 20 miles from a Carvana center, they would refund her transportation fee in the event she did not want to keep it. This is perfectly fair.
Kristin had wisely scheduled an appointment for a full inspection at the local Mercedes Benz dealership. The car passed with flying colors, and the manager she dealt with assured her this was a solid car. With one exception-the tires had experienced unusually high levels of wear. It was determined the car was out of alignment, and the front tires were nearly shot, with only 15,000 miles on them.
This problem was taken to Carvana. Now, the tires on the car were within what a dealer can legally sell to the public. I was waiting for Carvana to stand behind that, but I was pleasantly surprised they didn’t. Carvana paid for four new tires of her choice, plus an alignment job. A faulty USB port was also replaced, on them. Suffice it to say, I was mightily impressed with the level of service Carvana had provided. In this regard, I still maintain they went above and beyond that they had to do.
But, that Georgia temporary tag had an expiration date that was rapidly approaching. Carvana-like any car dealer-promises to take care of all registration matters, but it didn’t seem like they were taking care of anything. Hours and hours spent on hold proved to be a waste of time. When she finally was able to speak to someone, she was told Connecticut has waived expiration dates on temporary registrations. That’s true! But only for Connecticut registrations. Her Georgia plate was expiring, and Connecticut won’t allow for an expired out of state tag.
And expire it did. Thankfully, Kristin still has her Volvo. But if not for that, she was left with a car that could not be legally driven, and she would have been stranded through no fault of her own, but of Carvana’s negligence. So, it’s fair to ask, what is happening? Carvana uses a third party company to take care of vehicle registrations. Carvana customers are not given the name of this company, and they cannot contact them directly.
A Florida temporary tag has arrived, so the car is again on the road, but again, the clock is ticking, with only vague assurances from Carvana. Carvana did credit her $250 for her trouble, but the level of anxiety to finally settle this matter is beyond the pale. I realize we are living in extraordinary times, but there is just no excuse for the sloppy, lethargic response to what should be a simple matter that should have been resolved weeks ago.
Sadly, Kristin’s case is not unique. There are scores of Carvana customers living in a sort of vehicle registration limbo that is simply unacceptable. I believe the company is well intentioned, and are trying their best, but as of now, I do not feel they are up to the task of a seamless, worry, stress free car buying experience that they purport themselves to be.
*This is a developing story. This is our first look into the online car buying experience. The Garage has reached out to Carvana for comment, and will report back if we are given a response.