Carvana’s arrival in 2012 brought a whole new dimension to online car buying, offering a national online sales portal for vehicles. If you’re shopping for a car online Carvana will be a top choice, but it’s not the only choice. Look at these Carvana alternatives before making a decision.
Why Look For Carvana Alternatives?
From Teslas to Toyotas and a broad variety of other makes and models, Carvana kept shoppers happy and middlemen out of business by drastically streamlining the e-buying process. Carvana’s platform seeks to “drive you happy” by offering you a price for your trade-in vehicle in two minutes, getting you pre-qualified for an auto loan and letting you see your monthly payments in advance, and empowering you to search far and wide, right from your smartphone or another device, among 60,000 cars to find your next ride.
However, even while Carvana earned brand-name recognition as a first mover in this emerging field, and provided a seemingly all-in-one platform for automotive buyers and sellers, alternatives were bound to appear on the scene. That’s fine, as competition is what makes the free market beneficial for consumers.
In 2023, there are plenty of online platforms where vehicle buyers can bypass traditional dealers and not only buy a car but oftentimes also get financing. After all, buyers have come to expect a one-stop-shop experience.
5 Best Carvana Alternatives
Like the cars themselves, not all Carvana alternatives are built the same. So, as always, let the buyer beware and don’t be afraid to test-drive these four (or, as we’ll see, perhaps five) vehicle e-buying platforms in pursuit of your dream vehicle.
Undoubtedly Carvana’s biggest rival in the United States, CarMax touts itself as “the nation’s largest retailer of used autos” with “more than 220 locations around the country to meet customers wherever they are.” CarMax’s online portal features extensive research and rankings on new and used cars, electric vehicles, sports cars, best-sellers, and more.
Some folks might hesitate to purchase a vehicle online, but CarMax can help quell their anxiety with its “Love it or return it” 30-day money-back policy (with a limitation of up to 1,500 miles). Plus, CarMax combines its digital experience with real-life, try-before-you-buy, 24-hour take-home test drives.
For cost-conscious shoppers, CarMax’s big yellow “Shop with Budget” button signals the platform’s ability to work within one’s established price range. Beyond that, CarMax helps shoppers discover multiple financing sources right on the website.
We checked TrustPilot for reviews on CarMax. CarMax has a rating of 1.8 out of 5 stars on CarMax, which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. Recent reviews were either raves or rants, 1 star or 5, demonstrating CarMax’s apparently polarizing impact on its users (or at least, its reviewers).
Negative reviews involve consistent complaints of low offers for cars that CarMax is buying and unreported problems with purchased vehicles. Reviews of in-store purchases seemed slightly better, possibly because potential buyers were able to inspect vehicles directly.
One advantage CarMax has is that the Company does have a network of physical lots nationwide, something Carvana and the other online-only options don’t offer.
So, perhaps CarMax is a love-it-or-hate-it type of business, but there’s no denying that it has left an impression on people. If you do buy online from CarMax, it might be a good idea to have an independent mechanic inspect the vehicle and use that money-back return policy if it’s not up to expectations.
With a mission to help people “find their drive,” Vroom claims to provide “an extensive selection of vehicles, transparent pricing, competitive financing, and contact-free, at-home pick-up and delivery.” Vroom’s online portal isn’t as fancy or flashy as CarMax’s, but it does offer essential features like browsing by vehicle type and/or model. Plus, visitors can get an “instant” (or at least, within two minutes) appraisal for their trade-in vehicle.
Buying a vehicle entirely online requires a certain measure of faith, but Vroom takes measures to make the transaction as trustless as possible. In particular, Vroom allows potential buyers to “Spend a week (or 250 miles) getting to know your vehicle… If it’s not right, we’ll take it back.” There’s also a limited warranty included with all Vroom vehicles, good for 90 days or 6,000 miles; additional coverage will come at a cost, however.
Vroom, unlike some other e-dealers, seems to emphasize vehicle selling as much as buying.
Selling on Vroom is relatively pain-free: Enter your used vehicle’s basic stats, get a price quickly, and Vroom will “schedule a time to come pick up your vehicle, free of charge, anywhere in the lower 48 states.” Then, once Vroom has your car, they’ll send you your payment. So, perhaps Vroom’s selling point is quick-and-easy selling as the company’s portal seems to emphasize its “see what your ride is worth” functionality.
Turning to TrustPilot, Vroom only received an average rating of 1.5 out of 5 stars. Much of the criticism seemed to revolve not around the cars purchased through Vroom, but around the buying experience generally. You might want to decide whether the vehicle itself or the process of getting it is your main priority.
Shift provides some peace of mind with the assurance that “Every car must pass our 150+ point inspection, or we won’t sell it.” Shift also strives to provide frustration-free financing and less worry about paperwork as Shift will handle the requisite DMV forms, title, transfer, and registration.
Shift reviews on TrustPilot were overwhelmingly positive at 4.3 out of 5 stars. Buyers and sellers alike seemed to generally appreciate the speedy, courteous service they received through Shift.
CarLotz has a unique-looking website where viewers can browse through such vehicle categories as “Hard Working” (mainly trucks), “Adventure Ready” (SUVs), and “Environmentally Conscious” (electric vehicles, of course).
Visitors are invited to “buy with confidence” as CarLotz offers 133-point inspections and 30-day warranties on its vehicles. Plus, like Shift, CarLotz facilitates fast-and-ready quotes for trade-ins.
CarLotz has an average rating of 3.3 out of 5 stars on TrustPilot, which is decent but the small number of reviews made it difficult to draw meaningful conclusions.
Shift just announced a definitive agreement to merge with CarLotz. Both Shift and CarLotz were already well-established vehicle dealers in their own right, so the merger could result in a true powerhouse in the online car-buying market.
It’s difficult to know what the new Shift/CarLotz might look like, but for the time being, shoppers can access either or both of these popular marketplaces.
Now, for something completely different. AutoTempest is not a car dealer per se, but rather a portal that aggregates “millions of listings from dealers and private sellers, showing all the results for your search” from each of their listing partners.
There’s no need to browse through a half-dozen websites separately when AutoTempest will “capture all the results in a single search.” They’ll even provide comparison links for some large e-dealer sites that AutoTempest doesn’t (yet) have partnerships with.
After visitors enter basic search criteria for new or used vehicles, AutoTempest will serve up results from major used car sites – yes, including Carvana – but also from more generalist marketplaces like eBay and CraigsList. Furthermore, AutoTempest can scour the ‘net and provide results for personal-vehicle sellers, or visitors can simply browse through car reviews. And here’s a nice touch: AutoTempest has a handy guide on getting the most when selling a used vehicle online.
Navigating an aggregator like AutoTemptest may take some getting used to. Just the sheer number of results one will get from a simple search might be overwhelming. Also, AutoTemptest won’t necessarily hold your hand through financing and other parts of the automotive e-buying process, like other companies on this list. Still, if you’re a more savvy, advanced e-shopper and want to see what multiple sites offer in one fell swoop, AutoTempest will indeed provide you with a tempest of results so you can hopefully pick out the best and bypass the rest.
As of August 15, 2022, AutoTempest was listed on TrustPilot but didn’t have any reviews yet. So, as is the case with all online portals that involve the buying and selling of products, exercise due caution and check twice – or better yet, thrice – before you buy once.
How Do the Carvana Alternatives Stack Up?
Carvana remains the original online car shopping option, and it’s still a solid choice. Carvana will deliver your selected car to your doorstep and send a representative to pick up your trade-in or a car that you’re selling. There are no physical lots.
Carvana will buy your used car, but you will probably get a better deal from a private sale. The same is true of most online dealers.
Carvana also gets mixed reviews. The Company has an average of 3.6 stars from 5,616 reviews on Trustpilot. Most users either loved the service (53% 5-star reviews) or hated it (27% 1-star reviews). That’s still a better average than many of the Carvana alternatives.
The mixed reviews may simply stem from the complications of buying and selling used cars online, and from unrealistic expectations from some buyers. It’s still worth looking over reviews just so you can see what other users reported and reach your own conclusions. Reviews are a useful tool but may not be an absolutely accurate representation of a company.
Should you use Carvana or one of these Carvana alternatives? The choice is yours. Different companies will suit different buyers. What’s important is that you look closely at the alternatives and make a decision based on your needs!