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Buying A New Car Online: Our Carvana Experience

We bought Ben a car a few weeks after we got back to Ohio. Between school starting soon (with no busing) and him having to go physically into work, we needed two cars. I drove the truck as my vehicle. However, with diesel prices high and the truck not having the greatest fuel mileage for short distances/city driving, we decided to sell it. We were on the lookout for larger sized car that we could still take road trips in comfortably. We were leaning towards an SUV and narrowed it down between a Jeep Grand Cherokee and a Subaru Ascent. We looked on Facebook, Autotrader, and Carvana for our new (to us) car. I am sure everyone has heard by now but used car prices are inflated and there is a chip shortage for new cars, so cars were going fast and for higher-than-normal used car prices. However, after spending over $200 in one month for diesel with just local driving, we wanted to get a more fuel efficient car.


  • SEARCHING FOR YOUR CAR: We had never bought a car online, much less sight unseen. Carvana’s site allows you to search for your car by price, make/model, type, year/mileage, and features. Some cars have free delivery, while others have a delivery fee. There are several pictures of the cars, including any chips or “imperfections”. A detailed list of the car’s features and a Carfax report are provided as well. After searching for a while, we finally found a car that we both liked, a blue Subaru Ascent. There were a couple paint chips and a scratch listed, but they didn’t look too bad. We placed the order and were eagerly awaiting our delivery.
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  • PURCHASING: After you find a car you like, you can then start the process of buying the car by clicking the green “Get Started” button. This will hold your car for 30 minutes while you complete the account registration, trade-in options, payment information (cash/Carvana financing/3rd party financing), delivery/pickup (date/time), driver’s license information, and optional items (gap insurance, etc.). After those steps are completed, there are a few more things that need to be done. If you pay with cash, your bank has to verify the funds either through a 3-way call between you/Carvana/bank, or thorough a third-party called PLAID. To use the third-party verification, you need to give them your account information, including password. We picked the 3-way call, as I was not comfortable giving someone my bank log-in information. Your bank funds will be verified, but will not be withdrawn until you accept delivery of the car. There were a few online forms to complete before delivery as well. Buying a car unseen was a little worrisome; however, there is a 7 day return period for a full refund with Carvana, if you decide not to keep the car.
Purchase Example: Click To Enlarge


The day of delivery, we received a phone call that they were finishing detailing the car and should be there by our appointment time. We had to send (via text) a selfie with our driver’s license, the back of the driver’s license, and proof that the car had been added to our insurance. Your insurance information has to say the name/VIN of the new car in order for them to release the car to you! Even though I had always been told that any car we bought was covered as long as our insurance was up to date, I called and let our insurance know to start it on the date of delivery. Because delivery was on a Saturday, my insurance agent also sent a confirmation letter in case there was a delay of any kind with the electronic card updating.

The car ended up being about a half hour late, but the driver did communicate delays through text message. It was fun to watch the car being unloaded. (VIDEO link here) Once the car was unloaded, we had the opportunity to take it for a test drive. We drove down a few exits on the highway and then stopped in a parking lot to look it over. There were a few more paint chips than were disclosed on the listing, as well as scratches to the interior roof material (which were not disclosed at all). The car drove really well and was comfortable, so we decided to accept delivery. The car came with 1 key fob and a Carvana key chain.

Just like buying a car at a dealer, there was some paperwork involved but there were only a few forms that we had to sign. The car came with temporary tags and Carvana will mail you the permanent plates so you do not have to go to the DMV. I have to say, not dealing with a car salesman and the DMV was really nice. Once we accepted the delivery, we were also given the Temporary Tag application, a Limited Power of Attorney for Vehicle Registration, and an Application for Dealer Assessment that needed to be signed, notarized, and mailed back in the provided FedEx envelope. Our driver was not a notary and we had not been told ahead of time that we would need one to finish the car’s paperwork. We hurried over to my bank with 10 minutes to spare. Unfortunately, she would not notarize the paperwork. She claimed it was because she couldn’t notarize something that gave someone else power of attorney to take out a loan in our name. We read it carefully and the paperwork stated clearly that it was for the purpose of “applying for a certificate of title, to register, transfer title”, so I am not sure why the bank teller would not notarize it. We then rushed over to the UPS store near us that had a notary on staff. It only cost $5 for the notary service. I still would have liked to have known about needing a notary ahead of time. We probably would have moved the delivery time up so that we would have been able to contact the bank(s) and make sure they were available and could/would notarize it.


Because the car only came with one key fob, I wanted to buy another one so that we would each have one. Batteries Plus will cut and program car keys for you. When we stopped in to get a new key fob, it was going to be over $200 for the fob and programing if we bought the key through them. It was cheaper to buy the fob on eBay and then take it to Batteries Plus to program it. Some Ace Hardware stores will also program car keys. Your car does have to be present to program the new key fob. It was $85 for the key fob on ebay and $60 for Batteries Plus to cut/program it. (Check for coupons, Batteries Plus runs anywhere from $60-$70 for programming.)

The key fob that came with the car started dying after 3 days. It seems like the battery was just getting low, but it wasn’t something I would necessarily expect after only having the car for 3 days.

I did send some feedback to Carvana about the missed “imperfections”, the key fob, and the lack of knowledge about needing a notary. They were nice and gave back a standard “we’ll pass it on” message and told me we could always return the car if we were unhappy since our 7 day window was not over yet.

My temp tags were set to expire on 11/23/21. On 11/10, we got an email saying processing had been delayed and that new temp tags were available in my online Post Sale Dashboard. I had to print out the new tags, as they were active beginning 11/10/21 and were a different plate number. The reason given was “Covid”. It seems to be a reoccurring theme; as Ben likes to say, “Covid did it”. At this point, I could have made an appointment with our local DMV faster. On 11/16/21, I received a text saying that the registration was complete and the plates were on the way. It also stated that the plates required a signature from FedEx. I contacted Carvana on 11/17, as the app and online post-sale dashboard did not have a tracking number. I’m glad I contacted them, because they were due to arrive on 11/17. Although it stated I needed to sign for them, and I was home, FedEx just rang the doorbell and left the package on the porch.

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CARVANA, The Pluses:

  • No negotiating. The listed price is the price (plus any delivery fees/taxes, which are disclosed pretty clearly during the process). There is no sitting for hours negotiating over the price or if the floor mats are included. Not dealing with a car dealership was great.
  • Getting the car delivered on our time table. Granted, they ran late and we had to change a few things around, but it was still amazing to get it delivered right to us.
  • Not dealing with the DMV/BMV. No long lines for us! Carvana takes care of getting the permanent plates mailed to you.
  • Updates. We got several updates during the process via text messages (from online forms needing to be completed to the status of our plates).

CARVANA, The Negatives:

  • Lack of communication. Some things Carvana was great at with communication: the driver letting us know the schedule changes, online paperwork needing to be signed. However, not knowing that we would have to find and pay for a notary was a big miss in my mind. It would be simple enough to add that to the information given to you during the online buying/closing process. Not being provided a tracking number for the new plates would also be an easy fix. Although customer service told me it should be online, I could not find the tracking number in my account.
  • Accuracy. The car was in good shape, but there were more chips and scratches than advertised. The interior roof scratches are hard to miss if anyone had actually cared to look. We would have potentially looked at another Ascent, but this one was already here and we did need a car.
  • Third Party DMV/BMV delays.
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Comment (1) on "Buying A New Car Online: Our Carvana Experience"

  1. Thank you for walking through these steps….very very helpful, very detailed and well explained. The video of the delivery was great! The Carvana truck was very cool
    and I like how smooth the exit of the car was executed!!! Congrats on a beautiful car.

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