I bought a car from CarMax and Carvana to see what the differences are.
For most people, the second biggest purchase they make in life is their car. And for a lot of people, it can be a little intimidating. There are 2 companies, however, whose mission it is to make it easier. And I bought a car from both of them to see what the difference was. This is THE most expensive video I have done.
Before I continue I must state publicly that This video has in no way been sponsored or has any company had involvement in the creation of this video. It’s entirely based on my own personal raw experience.
Mikayla picked out the Fiat 500L from Carvana. I picked out the Fiat 500X from Carmax. Both had a decent selection of cars to choose from, with the option of having certain vehicles ship from other locations nation-wide. Though the further that location is the higher the shipping fee. Though both had our cars shipped from out of state and had free shipping. We live in Atlanta, and my car came from Nashville, and Mikayla's car shipped from Kentucky. So they do allow for a decent distance before they start to charge you. Which I must say is pretty reasonable because of the cost to them. Though If you want to have a car shipped out of your pocket I’d make sure I was fairly certain that is the car I want first.
Let’s get back to the experience for both companies. Carvana being the newer company Has 24 Car vending machines across the nation with at the time of checking had 13,873 cars in its inventory. It’s a much newer company than car max and was founded in 2012 by Earnest Garcia in Tempe Arizona It didn’t take long for it to rise in popularity. Their business model is based on simplicity.
It’s seriously the easiest way to buy a car. My wife sat on the couch, made an account, found the car she loved, and reserved it. It took a couple of days to get shipped from Kentucky and we just drove over to the Atlanta location and picked it up. We opted to drive to the location because it really wasn’t that far. We were living in a more rural area at the time and figured it would be easier to show up for it.
Kinda glad we did. Because when we showed up it was parked in a glorious display case like a piece of candy from heaven. And Man did it look good. So once inside we got to take a closer look at the car and examine its condition. And I gotta say it was impressive. Carvana has a very strict criteria on the condition of the cars they sell; this includes a vigorous internal inspection mechanically as well. And at 63,000 miles it looked next to new. They even mailed us new mats because the originals didn’t meet their standard. Not sure why they didn’t do that originally… but hey. They took care of it.
Once we approved of the car it was time to sign. There was like one dude there to act as basically the gatekeeper. Introverts rejoice! And I don’t exaggerate when I say how simple and quick it was. I think it was about 7 minutes and we were done. Not nearly enough time to second guess it. And they didn’t require 1 cent upfront. They just handed us the keys and that was that. And with that Mikayla had her car. A truly happy ending.
Now for my experience at Carmax. I’m a bit obsessive when it comes to shopping for something let alone a car. I weigh every option you can think of when it comes to buying things. And I try to get the best deal I can find within my options.
I spent many days checking inventory on both Carvana and CarMax. And I found this awesome deal on a Fiat 500X. It was the 2016 lounge model with these really nice brown leather seats. Originally this car went for at least $28,000 and CarMax was selling it for only 13,999. And the kicker was it only had 32,000 miles on it. So it was basically new at half it’s original price. This was the one. So I claimed it online and had it shipped for free from Tennessee in a few days. Once it arrived I drove to the Carmax location in Roswell, GA to go for a test drive.
And this is where the experience differed a little bit. Once I arrived at the location I entered the lot to find hundreds of cars to look at. This is an experience for a different kind of shopper that is a little more traditional. While I waited for a sales rep to let me test drive the car I reserved I was free to roam the Lot and see what else they had on hand in person. And I think there are definitely some people that need that. Seeing the other options reaffirmed my choice with the Fiat, and once I was given the keys for a test drive I took it for a spin as it were and got to see how it felt.
Once I came back I told them I liked it and would come back the next day and finish up the buying process. Once back I had to sign some stuff… a bit more stuff than Carvana that’s for sure. I think in total the signing took anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour total. Which is obviously longer than Carvana. But for such a big purchase as a car, I don’t think that is that big of a deal. The paperwork had to go through a few more hands and there was some waiting in between. But to be fair this was during the beginning of the outbreak of COVID so time had to be added. Everyone was helpful and courteous the whole way through the process. And my sales rep was cool the whole way through.
I think the reason there was more paperwork is due to the age of the company, they have been around since 1993, so they are as old as me. So for that amount of time more stuff has to happen that makes more paperwork necessary. Anyway once signed, It was time to accept the keys and drive off. I went outside with my rep and waited as they gave one final cleaning to it. And around the corner it came with a big ole bow on the hood. Sadly I was not able to keep the bow, it was just for presentation and photo ops or whatever. And man, did it look good.
It was only then that I told my rep about my plans for this video. And he was super cool with it. He was open to any criticism I had in the video because they were always open to improvement. That was pretty cool. Another similarity to Carvana was that there was no money upfront. My first payment was 45 days later. And it was equal payments every month after that just like Carvana with everything included like tax, title and registration.
Now, this might vary a little between states depending on specific laws about how that’s supposed to go. But I’m in GA and that’s how it went down here. Except for Carvana, for some reason, they had to send a check to Mikayla to refund her for the plate and she had to go pick that up herself. Not sure why exactly because both cars were registered in the same county… but whatever.
Now I guess let's make the direct comparison.
Carvana all-in-all was the easiest process and truly felt as automated and direct as possible. Carmax was still simple, but I definitely had to go through more paperwork in the process. Again, I’m guessing that comes with them being the more mature company, they have accumulated more reasons over the years to need more agreements from you.
Carvana has a great selection online, but don’t expect much window shopping In person. If you already know exactly what you want that’s fine, but you only get 3 seven day trials to find a car you like, so maybe not so great for the indecisive. This is where CarMax truly shines, With many more locations and an actual large lot to explore it really gives the more hands-on people a better explorative experience even if it is at the cost of a more “magical experience.
Pricing is very close to each other from all that I have seen. And I think the pricing is pretty good though at first glance it may not seem so. But they are both pretty picky about the stock they and all vehicles undergo a pretty thorough inspection and if needed repairs.
The pricing is also incredibly straightforward on both ends being extremely similar.
What you see is what you pay. No extra surprises or dealer fees. You can choose to pay a down payment or none at all. Though that will affect your APR, speaking of APR, the APR isn’t exactly great. Mine being 8.5% at CarMax, and Mikayla’s being 10.5% at Carvana. So Carmax takes the win for APR from that perspective. But if you think you can do better you can always get your own loan and bring it with you.
If you use either CarMax or Carvana as a lender though the process is simple and you only have to pay 1 monthly bill at the same rate for the remainder of your loan. There was no initial payment except for what I decided to put down as a down payment. Then once leaving with both cars we didn’t even have to make the first payment for 45 days. Pretty cool.
So far we have been enjoying both cars for a few months now with no hiccups.
In the end, I have no problems recommending both companies to anyone. Their no games, straight forward process is a treat. And both my wife and I were Ideal candidates for both companies. Mikayla knew what car she wanted and got it with the least amount of interference. I like to shop around a bit and look at all my options before deciding.
Carvana definitely has a younger feel to it, but at the same time took many ideas from CarMax. But I wouldn’t say one company is necessarily better than the other. Both are great options for different types of buyers. Bring your own loan beforehand for a better APR and still get in on this great service.