Pandemic aside, I’d driven my old Elantra less than 4,000 miles over the past two years. Insuring it alone has been costing me $1,100 per year — let alone the gas and maintenance. Even someone bad at math can quickly figure out it’s too expensive to own this car. So I decided to sell it.
Two friends told me discouraging stories about their recent car sales to private parties. I sold my previous car to CarMax back in 2012, and the experience was fine. But to be honest, I didn’t want to physically go into a building during the pandemic if I didn’t need to. So I didn’t even consider that option this time around. Then I heard about Carvana, which offers a touchless procedure when they buy your car at your own house.
For starters, I went onto kbb.com — the official website of Kelly Blue Book — to get a feel of what I could get for the car in its current condition. Then I scoured more to see what private parties were asking for the same model car with similar miles and condition. Once I had an idea, I went to Carvana.com and entered my car info. The instant offer was decent and competitive, but I still shopped around for two weeks — making a lot of inquiries at other car-buying services. When I finally returned to Carvana’s website, I re-entered my car info and to my surprise, the new offer was for $700 more than the first. I guess car values go up and down like a stock price. Plus, the offer was about $100 more than I would be able to get from anyone else — even if I sold it to a private party through a want ad online.
I was so dumbstruck, I was sure there was a catch. I called the company, asked the woman who answered if they looked through the car photos I’d texted them — those revealing scratches on the passenger side and a busted sun visor. She assured me they’d seen all of this, and this was still their offer. Sold.
She explained to me the process we’d go through from this point on, and the paperwork I would need to fill out when their rep arrived at the house. I still was sure there would be a catch. So I phoned a local Hyundai dealer and got their finance man on the phone. I explained the situation to him, told him the exact forms I would be filling out, and he assured me it was all correct. In fact, he said those were the exact forms he would have me fill out if his dealership was buying my car. That’s because — as he put it — Carvana, for all intents, is also a car dealer. Carvana is based in Arizona (and I am not), so there was one Arizona form I needed to fill out. But I checked with my local Department of Motor Vehicles, and it was all above board.
When the Carvana rep showed up, she started the car to make sure it ran properly. Then she pulled out the pre-filled-out forms to sign and we were seriously done in three minutes. She handed me a check (they will also pay by instantly transferring money to your debit card account, if you prefer) and told me a tow truck would arrive shortly to remove my plates, hoist the car up onto the rack and drive it away.
It was seriously the fastest, easiest car sale ever. And everyone I dealt with at Carvana was nice and knowledgeable, as well. Would totally use the service again, when it comes time to sell my wife’s car. But for now, my car is an Uber — that is, when my wife’s car is not available and when my destination is beyond my electric bike’s range. Ride-sharing makes a lot more sense for my situation. When friends heard my story, two of them immediately said they were going to run the numbers and see if it made sense for them, too.
Listen, I don’t think personal cars are going away anytime soon. But with the advent of ride-share services and the soaring costs of car ownership, it’s certainly time to re-assess your needs. And thanks to companies like Carvana, pivoting with the times has become a lot easier.