[Some up front disclaimers and info: I am not affiliated with any auto company or dealership, directly or indirectly. My employer probably owns some self driving companies somewhere along the way but I don’t deal with any of them day-to-day. This article is just based on my experience buying a car in summer 2021.]
Since the pandemic started I’ve actually bought two vehicles. My first experience was with Carvana in Summer 2020 – we wanted a car to someday tow an RV, and I thought I’d also use it to occasionally visit my family out of state. Overall I’d say our first Carvana experience was very good considering the pandemic was raging; some bumps along the way but overall I really liked the experience. Carvana let me use my own credit union for financing, they delivered the car to my house, I didn’t have to breathe in anyone’s germs, so overall definitely a good experience given how crazy the world was.
Naturally then, when it came time to get something a bit smaller after changing our RV plans, I decided to start again with Carvana. I knew what I wanted (a 2020 or later Kia Soul – yes I know about the engine recall, thanks), acceptable colors and minimum trim level I’d accept. Now it was just a matter of finding something on the Carvana website, getting my Credit Union application ready, and everything would work out as well as the first time, right? Ha, not so much.
Second time was NOT the charm for me with Carvana
The Carvana app has its share of annoyances when you’re starting out. The mobile app on Android is particularly unstable when the app is put to sleep by the OS, and after it’s been in the background for awhile you will inevitably get some kind of crash, weird response, the app will tell you you’re no longer logged in, or something equally frustrating which will necessitate going to the Multitasking view and swiping on the app to force it to close out. I don’t run some bizarre Android ROM, this is pretty much a completely stock Galaxy S20, so I think their app needs work.
Anyway I tolerated the app crashes and nonsense, and eventually found myself a 2020 Kia Soul S in suitably garish yellow paint, and started the purchase process. At first everything went as swimmingly as my original Carvana purchase. The car was ‘locked’ to me while I got my deposit straightened out and I started the application process through my credit union.
Unfortunately it seems a lot of other folks were also buying their cars online, and although I did get approved for my loan, it was difficult getting through to my bank to get the check mailed out to Carvana. The hold time was at one point 2 hours and 45 minutes, and due to cell service my house being less than stellar at times, I was not comfortable using the ‘call me back’ option, so on hold for almost 3 hours I did sit to try and get the check send out to Carvana.
At this point I had to call Carvana customer support to request an ‘extension on my car hold’ – get used to hearing this phrase. This was the first of several of these ‘courtesies’ from the fine Carvana customer service reps. My biggest mistake may have been starting this process toward the end of the week. To my credit union’s…credit, they did end up getting the check out to Carvana’s receiver address on Saturday. Interestingly, Carvana was either not open or otherwise deicded to not even accept the check from FedEx that day, meaning I again had to request another extension on my hold, this time until Monday when the check would actually be in their hot little hands.
Strike 2 (and 2.5)….
I began to near the end of my patience with Carvana when they called me to let me know that they could not confirm that the check that my credit union had diligently worked to get them was valid. I needed to call them and…..do something about this…..And now I had a couple hours before my car lock would expire, again.
Now, I know, there is fraud out in the world, people try to pull fast ones all the time. But my credit union, which is NCUA insured (the credit union of FDIC), which I had used to buy a car from them once before, had sent them a check, and now for some reason this was not a good enough form of money. So lacking any other option, I called my credit union, waited on hold about 90+ minutes, and was told if Carvana wanted to check if the check was valid, they should try and cash it. Makes sense to me! So I called Carvana back, and they gave me one final extension on my car hold (I’m so lucky!) while they apparently tried this one weird old trick to validate check funds.
After verifying that yes, my real credit union had really sent them real money, there was a new wrinkle a few days later: Carvana couldn’t actually deliver my car to me on the date promised. They could do a week later than that, and if I didn’t like it, tough. I could move it back even more than that if I didn’t like the new date. Now the fatigue was beginning to set in.
Last straw, the endless e-signing
Once I confirmed the new date, the Carvana rep texted me to say that everything was indeed looking good. I just needed to e-sign my documents…..for the sixth time. Now I don’t know what the hell is going on with the Carvana system where you have to keep re-singing what seems like the exact same dozen-plus page documents every few days. Maybe the documents get lonely after a couple days; who can say.
What I do know is that I was trying to trade-in my original car that I’d purchased from Carvana. One of the documents that they were repeatedly asking me to re-sign was the odometer disclosure. I was still driving this car occasionally, and now the mileage I had originally stated under penalty of fine or imprisonment as the car’s mileage was no longer accurate, and I couldn’t edit the document. I had just about had enough of Carvana.
In summary, after being lied to about the delivery date, being treated like a criminal who was trying to forge payments for my car, being forced to play phone tag and wait on hold with my credit union and Carvana for literally hours, and Carvana expecting me to not only be excited to call up to grovel at them for one of these 24-hour Sword of Damocles extensions to the time locks on my car order, but be grateful for these ‘favors’ (yes, several of their reps actually used this phrase repeatedly), being asked to perjure myself was the last straw. I’m glad Carvana is having enough success right now that they can treat customers like this, but I won’t be one of them for awhile.