Upsetting the Car Sales Industry Applecart

The average person spends 187 minutes at a car dealership before completing their purchase. And if the approval rating of car dealers is any indication, that time spent is less than pleasant.

According to a Gallup poll on trust in professions, car salespeople come in just ahead of members of Congress with a whopping 8% of people saying they have high or very high trust in them. Even lawyers put car salespeople to shame with a relatively sparkling 21% trust rating.

Fair or not, traditional car dealers have a serious public image problem that isn’t going away anytime soon. As for used car dealers? They can pretty much forget about ever changing the status of “used car salesman” being a synonym for “con artist”.

Yet an exciting new startup out of Phoenix, Arizona is hoping to at least partially rehabilitate the tarnished image of used car sales. One way to do that? Eliminate the used car salesman. 

Click, click, vroom

Carvana is a 100% online used car sales and finance company that allows you to shave as many as 176 minutes off the average time to purchase a car the traditional way. That’s right, the current record for completing a vehicle purchase on carvana.com from start to finish is 11 minutes.

By visiting the Carvana website, you can take a look at their entire inventory of vehicles which have all been meticulously photographed from every angle you could possibly want to see, both inside and out. When you find one that piques your interest, take it for a “spin” of sorts by adding the vehicle to your Carvana virtual garage and using the 360 degree rotation feature.

No shirt, no shoes, no problem

If saving a couple hours and avoiding the awkward back-and-forth negotiations isn’t incentive enough, Carvana allows you to take ownership of your vehicle without ever having to step foot on a dealership. That’s because Carvana will deliver your vehicle to the location of your choosing—for free within a given radius of a Carvana facility.

For less reclusive types, Carvana invites you to come retrieve your car at one of their vending machine locations (currently only in Atlanta, Georgia). Don’t worry, though, you won’t have to speak to anyone if you don’t want to, because Carvana’s vending machine is entirely automatic. An access code will allow you to enter the platform housing your car in order to drive it home.

Carvana also believes they can save you money compared to what you’d pay at an actual dealership. By reducing or eliminating many of the costs of a traditional dealership, Carvana suggests potential savings of between $1,500 and $2,000.

The Carvana model doesn’t come without its share of obstacles to growth, though. As in any long-established industry, many of the regulatory structures in place have been designed to protect traditional dealers against competitive upstarts.

Like Uber, Tesla, and other edgy newcomers to the transportation industry, Carvana is sure to ruffle a few feathers along the way.

And while most of us have become comfortable with the idea of purchasing a variety of things online and trusting that they’ll be delivered as promised, a vehicle is not yet one of them. Time will tell if Carvana can push the boundaries for products consumers feel comfortable purchasing online.

Until then, keep an eye out for car-dispensing vending machines of the future coming to a city near you.

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