Dealership vs. Carvana: Which Offers the Better Shopping Experience?

Car buyers have purchased from dealerships since shortly after cars were invented. Despite some rare hassles or occasional negative media attention, dealerships have thrived for over a hundred years. Over the past decade, internet solutions have popped up in an attempt to “optimize” the car buying process. Let’s take a look at that “optimized” car buying experience through popular startup Carvana vs. a traditional car dealer.

The shopping process:

Carvana made a name for itself by letting the consumer perform almost the entire buying process online. However, there are plenty of reasons that trekking down to the local dealership is a smarter bet.

Carvana claims to show pictures of what the car you’re purchasing looks like, scratches and all. But nothing beats seeing the car in person to examine it. There’s no way to tell if the online pictures are just flattering camera angles. But going to a dealership in person, kicking the tires (figuratively), and actually seeing what the car feels like can’t be beat.

Online dealers like Carvana ostensibly offer a wider range of cars—but if you’re shopping online you already have access to the entire world. Additionally, dealerships network with each other and can easily transport a vehicle to another location for you to check it out. In fact, when you buy a car from our Blue Springs Hyundai dealership, we’ll gladly deliver the vehicle to your location for free. Talk about easy.

The ease that Carvana claims doesn’t really hold up under scrutiny. That leads us to the second big flaw in Carvana’s shopping process: actually checking the car out.

At the dealership:

Carvana’s ad campaigns claim that you can avoid the hassle of going to a dealership. But what’s “dealership hassle” in the year 2020, anyway?

A good dealership can match most of the “buying” process from Carvana online. More business than ever is being done online, and you can complete most of your transactions by working with an internet specialist from the dealership.

The major distinction is that, when you’re buying from a dealership, you actually get to go there and meet people, to shake hands with the sales team and the managers. You get to really understand the people who are there to serve you throughout the life of the car and possibly your next one. With Carvana, you’re not really dealing with humans until you pick up the phone to finalize things and get your financing. It’s impersonal from start to finish. (Dealerships have connections that generally allow for lower financing rates, as well.)

After the buy:

After you purchase the car at a dealership, you get in it and drive home. You’ll usually get a call five or six months later to schedule your (often complementary) first service. The remainder of your car’s life will be a tight partnership with the dealership.

On the other side, a purchase from Carvana may mean the process is just beginning. Purchasing a car over the internet means that you don’t have any control over when you’ll actually possess it. The delivery schedule can shift based on order volume and location. And if you’re out of Carvana’s designated delivery zones, there’s an additional fee attached. Some Carvana customers have even reported waiting over 2 months to receive their registration and tags! Online customers are stuck waiting for Carvana to process their transaction and registration, with no updates. If the car were purchased at a dealership, you could simply return to the dealership and have them handle it.

The bottom line:

Carvana is experiencing growing pains and doesn’t really compete with the personal relationship you get at a dealership. Between the reliability of in-person communication and the assurance that you’ll immediately receive the car, auto dealerships still win every time. 


Browse our selection of new and used cars for sale online or call our Blue Springs Hyundai dealership at 816-224-7500 to request more information about our free vehicle delivery service. Be sure to also check out our service specials we are currently offering! We’re located at 3000 Northwest South Outer Road and serve shoppers in Lee’s Summit and Kansas City.