Buy a Car Like You Buy a Snickers: Carvana Vending Machine Tour

Odometer (ILX):  207,017

It wasn’t long ago (exactly a year, now that I look at it) when I introduced you to Carvana’s headquarters in Tempe, Arizona.  A nice facility it was – complete with a “library” study area that felt like it was plucked out of a 19th century Victorian mansion.  Now, Carvana has upped its game even more in the Tempe area, with a vending machine that dispenses cars.  And this one (the company’s 12th) is the largest in the country.  It’s 9 stories tall and has capacity for 34 vehicles.  But unlike that snack machine in the hallway of your undergrad university, you can’t shake it when your purchase gets stuck, and you’ll need a heck of a lot more than just spare change to buy its contents.

Carvana and other similar, 100% online-based car-buying companies have changed the way we think about purchasing a vehicle.  While many oppose the movement saying, “This is one step closer to making used cars an appliance you can buy on Amazon,” is that such a bad thing?  For the many people who want to cut out the salespeople and the negotiation, maybe the convenience is worth the mystery of buying a car without driving it first?  Here I was sampling a 2011 TSX Sport Wagon with detailed inside & outside, 360-degree views.

That’s one heck of a token.

I’ll be the first to say – the Carvana business model appeals to me in concept, but I’m likely not a target customer for this scenario.  Number one, the cars I’m usually hunting for are far too old (and rare) to be in Carvana inventory – even with 10,550 cars on the list.  And number two, a test drive is an absolute must when it comes time to actually pull the trigger on something.

But I admire the effort, and I can’t argue with the fact that our Carvana tour guide said they’re cycling through inventory in the vending machine every two days.  That’s pretty good volume, and it doesn’t even take into consider the vast majority of people who take delivery via flatbed truck at their homes rather than opting for the novelty of a token-dispensed automobile.  And they do have a 7-day, 400-mile, “no questions asked,” return policy.

It was a lot of fun to get up close and personal with the vending machine, including a demo of its operation from within the tower.  Along with a few other members of the Phoenix Automotive Press Association (PAPA) I was glad to finally get a glimpse of this cool concept that I’d been watching under construction for the last several months along the Loop 202 freeway.

Word to the wise, though:  It is a greenhouse, and it heats up like one.  If that Silverado were a Snickers, it would have melted already.

New car scent – bottled!

Photo booth as part of our media event.

Thumbs up for the cupcakes & refreshments!

Here are a few other news bits:

My friend Hy who recently hit 130,000 miles on his 1993 Honda Accord SE has now passed the 25-year ownership mark.

We took the car up to the dealership where it had been sold new, on the anniversary of the occasion (September 8).  Congrats, Hy!

After owning my 1992 Integra GS for 4 months, I decided to say hello to the prior / original owner.  She was glad I did.

I finally finished putting my display case together, including some very special Ayrton Senna swag.

Thanks to my friend Charles for this:

Couple of articles for you to peruse, including this great one from Eric Weiner on the nostalgia of 1990s Acuras for Hagerty.

And this piece for ClassicCars.com, which is a variation of what I already posted here on the blog regarding JCCS.

Finally, some used cars you will probably want to consider:

My friend Ira is selling his STUNNING 2002 NSX-T with only 35,000 miles on it.  It’s 1 of 13 in the color combination.  He recently upgraded to a Nouvelle Blue 2017 model (as seen in the background), so the gen 1 is up for grabs.  Check out the link to the consignment shop here.

And we have a special TSX Sport Wagon here:  Owned by one of Acura’s senior executives and well-preserved with only 44,000 original miles.  This is a 2012 “Tech” model in Crystal Black Pearl on black leather, with some upgraded 19″ Honda Factory Performance wheels and a Whispbar roof rack system for you cyclists out there.  Any inquiries, contact me directly and I’ll put you in touch.

There were only around 10,000 TSX Sport Wagons produced – around 8% of 2nd gen TSX production.  Very few are out there in this color combination with such low miles and well kept condition.

Have a great week!  I’m off to the Grand Canyon tomorrow for a hiking adventure, so don’t try to reach me!

16 Responses to “Buy a Car Like You Buy a Snickers: Carvana Vending Machine Tour”

  1. That nsx is amazing! I hope the owner gets a matching blue on blue Legend sedan!

  2. Great post, Tys! You had me at Snickers. And that reminds me — do you think I could get some chocolate down that canyon Friday morning? I love that car scent has been bottled…. though I would not likely purchase it for any man of mine. Were you able to keep a token as a token for your visit to the dispensary? Haha.

    See you in mere hours!

    • I won’t be packing any chocolate into the canyon. But I do have some other goodies, like fruit snacks. Definitely feel like I’m over-planning but we can always whittle down the cargo at the trailhead. See you tomorrow night.

  3. That vending machine is one of the coolest, strangest things I’ve ever seen. It almost reminds me of the case I had for my Matchbox cars when I was a little kid growing up in the 80’s. That store is like a giant Hot Wheels set for adults.

    Love the idea for the ‘93 Accord returning “home” for its 25th birthday. Nice job on the article as well! And as someone who followed Senna religiously, that visor decal is absolutely awesome. Great post!

    • I know, what a concept. Honestly I did not think the vending machine thing would catch on but at 12 locations and counting, it’s clear people are buying into this. And I sorta can’t blame them. One of the items we got at the open house was a box of “chill pills” breath mints. I love how everything about the Carvana mantra is chill and laid back. Thanks for reading!

  4. Carvana is really taking the car buying experience to another fun level. To buy a car online and then watch it dispense is kind of cool. However I wish I had some spare change lying around just to buy the TSX Wagon. Ugh.. I want so bad!!!

  5. There’s a lot to like about the way Carvana has set up their business model, especially the return policy. It does make me think of a video I watched a while back though. Bryan from Kies Motorsports talked about his experience buying a car this way, but not necessarily from Carvana specifically.

    • I will be tuning in for this today – thanks for the link! Agree the return policy is pretty robust – 7 days, 400 miles, I think. No questions asked. I wonder how many people leverage that policy and actually do it.

  6. So Carvana’s business model seems like a novel idea I hope they’re successful. Though the vending machine idea may be a bit gimmicky I give them credit for originality. At least they didn’t go with a set of wheel controls that operate a giant claw and let people grab their cars and drop em down a chute it something… 😉

    Thanks again for the hardwork and honorable mention… Have fun in the Canyon

  7. Chris Green Says:

    I never heard of Carvana! Thanks for this nicely written post! Do they have it in LA? Keep me posted on if you get a TSX Wagon — they didn’t have one for sale at Carvana, did they?

    • Yes, as a matter of fact they do have a TSX wagon in inventory at Carvana (and delivery is free!). It looked nice – black/black, like the one I posted about here. Hope you’ve had a great weekend!

  8. I drooled onto my kitchen table over that blue NSX! So, so pretty. Shame I don’t have the capital or the parking space for it…

    Had no idea the TSX wagon was so rare! I had a coworker at my first “big boy” job who had a silver one, and a group of us took it to dinner one night. All I remember is the backseat being cramped with three 6’+ guys in the back. But, they look great!

    Have fun at the Grand Canyon – I’m headed to the beach on Sunday for a week!

    • Have a great time at the beach! I’ll be picking sand out of my clothes and hair for a couple of weeks, but it’s from Grand Canyon sand, not beach sand. You deserve the vacay.

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