Sell to Carvana: My Honest Review

Written by Zach Shefska

Zach Shefska is Chief Executive Officer of Your Auto Advocate. Zach co-founded Your Auto Advocate in 2019 after convincing his then retired father (sorry, dad) to join him in an attempt to make the car buying process more confidence-inspiring and consumer friendly.

September 16, 2020

It goes without saying that buying a car is a painful process. What about selling a car? When it comes time to say goodbye to your current set of wheels you have plenty of options; sell to Carvana, sell to CarMax, sell to a private party. The list goes on and on.

Recently, I went through the process of selling my 2017 Volvo S90 to Carvana, and the process was unlike any other car dealership experience I have ever had before. (I mean that in a good way). Going through the “sell to Carvana” process was simple, smooth, and financially, the right choice for me.

We documented the process on our YouTube channel (the video above), but I wanted to go in more detail about the process, what went well, how it works, and more. Let’s dive in!

How much does Carvana pay?

Carvana pays top dollar for their used cars. Why? Because they’re a HUGE publicly traded company that needs to impress investors with constant growth. The only way they can grow is to sell more cars, and the only way they can sell more cars is to buy more inventory. Because of this, Carvana is willing to pay top dollar for used cars.

Obviously Carvana (and all the other digital retailers) buy inventory from wholesale auctions, however, when you buy a car from the auction there are a lot of associated fees (buyers fees, transportation, and more). Because of this, companies like Carvana are happy to pay a premium to people like you and me because they don’t have to worry about all of the other costs associated with buying an auction car.

Why not CarMax or Vroom?

It’s simple … Carvana made the highest offer for my Volvo S90. Your mileage may vary (pun intended). It was very interesting, after we posted the video on YouTube we received a lot of comments from people that told us they received higher offers for their cars from CarMax, Vroom, and AutoLenders (a New Jersey specific company).

Some commenters even shared stories about selling their cars privately and getting thousands of dollars more than what Carvana offered.

What does all this mean?

If you’re looking for the highest offer possible, you’ll need to do some work to get quotes from each of the various companies (Carvana, Vroom, CarMax), as well as test the waters of selling privately. Keep in mind that selling privately requires a lot more work, and part of the benefit of selling to Carvana (or a similar company) is to avoid all that hassle and headache.

Did they change the offer when you got there?

No! It’s important to understand that your Carvana offer is good for seven days and one thousand miles. I took advantage of both of those parameters when I sold my car to Carvana. I actually sold my car to Carvana five days after my offer “expired,” but this was okay because their online scheduling tool only had availability at that time. That was one of the surprising aspects of my sell to Carvana experience, they were so incredibly flexible.

We interviewed the Senior Director of Sell To Carvana on the Auto Insider Podcast: Should You Sell Your Car to Carvana, Automotive Refinance, and More, With Nicholas Hinrichsen

You communicate via text message with your rep and they’re very accommodating to any changes you need to make. For example, I was originally scheduled to have my car picked up by Carvana in New Jersey, I then realized it would be advantageous for me to drive the car back to Maryland (to move some things), and when I asked Carvana if the offer would change if I drove back to Maryland their answer was simple, “as long as the odometer is within 1,000 miles of the photo you took, you’ll be fine.”

Not only did Carvana not change their offer, they were very accommodating to all of the changes I made during the process.

How long does the offer last?

When you sell to Carvana your offer is good for 7 days or 1,000 miles. This is the most generous policy that I am aware of. CarMax offers a 7 day, 500 mile policy, while Vroom offers a 2 day and 250 mile policy.

How long does it take?

Selling a car to Carvana takes less than an hour (and that includes the work you need to do online before you drop your car off, or they pick it up from you). Filling out the online form is quick and easy. Dropping the vehicle off at Carvana takes no more than 20 minutes. Carvana even pays for your Uber/Lyft ride back to a location of your choice.

Did Carvana inspect the car?

Sort of, but not really. I was surprised at the fact that Carvana did not inspect my car when I dropped it off. I thought they would do a slightly more in depth inspection upon my arrival, but the reality was they didn’t.

Their staff person walked around my car with an iPad and took some photos, and that was about it.

Text messages you receive from Carvana repeatedly remind you that your car needs to be in running and driving condition, specifically the battery can’t be dead, nor can the tires be in non working condition. Aside from that, there’s no real inspection or requirements for what condition the vehicle needs to be in.

Thinking of buying a used car? You might enjoy this guide: Buying a Car on Craigslist? Here Are 4 Things You Need to Do First.

How do they handle negative equity?

If you owe more on your car than it is worth, you’ll be asked to get a bank check for the amount of the difference between their offer price and the amount remaining on your loan. You’ll upload an image of this check to Carvana and bring it with you when you ultimately sell the vehicle.

So there you have it. If you’re thinking about selling your car, this is what you need to know about the sell to Carvana experience. Let us know in the comments below where you prefer to sell your vehicles.

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  1. Paul Brobson

    Love the matching black shirts! Maybe you guys could figure out a ring collar vs. V-neck?

    Great video, very informative. Wondering what percentage of Carvana buyers actually have an inspection completed during the seven day exchange period? And, will Carvana reveal the reconditioning work they completed to the new buyer? If I was buying your Volvo – I would be very unhappy to learn about the dashboard issue.

    • Zach Shefska

      Paul, thanks for the comment! That’s a great question, and I wish there was research on it … It is interesting to think what percentage of buyers get their new (to them) vehicle inspected during the return time period. Hopefully most!

  2. Peter Zaremba

    I also sold to Carvana recently and had a similar experience. They paid about $1500 less that what I paid for the truck 2 years ago. The only issue I had was providing the proper payoff letter from the bank. They were very specific in what they wanted to see – had to be on bank letterhead with the full account # and other specific details. So make sure you get that from you bank ahead of time and the process should be pretty smooth.

    • Zach Shefska

      Peter, thanks for this comment! Yes, with used car prices being as high as they are right now (and have been over the past few weeks), it’s been an incredible time to sell a vehicle (if you are able to). Thanks for sharing insights into your experience.

  3. MT Glass

    Yup great experience with them. I had a 2020 corolla that was not being used since we both work remote and was bought as a commuter. Only had 2500 miles after a year. I paid about 20k. The dealership offered me 15k. Carvana gave me $19045. That was no brainer and took 5 minutes. They paid the balance off in a week. Couldn’t have been happier.

    Carvana will be great for people leasing I have a 2020 tacoma with 800 miles after a year. At the end of my lease probably have about 3k miles. I have the option now of Carvana and unlike selling it to an individual buyer there is no sale tax I could sell it now and actually be ahead according to their offer. I’m guessing there will be a lot of leases in the future worth more than the residual since no one is driving.

    • Zach Shefska

      Thanks for this comment! The fact that selling to Carvana takes less than 60 minutes makes it a no-brainer for me as well. Glad you had a positive experience!

  4. Bill Anderson

    Thanks for the great video, I had a 2019 KIA Sedona with 11K on it and found out that I really didn’t need a van anymore. I checked with Carvana, Vroom, & Algo and Carvana gave me the highest price. Both Vroom and Algo gave me a better price when I told them Carvana’s price but I decided to stick with Carvana. When I called back the next day Carvana couldn’t find my quote in the system so they re-ran it and the price was higher than the day before. All of the associates I spoke with were very courteous and professional and the whole process from quote to pick up only took five days. A very positive experience but I would have never known about it until I saw your video’s, thanks for the great service. Also, I live in Ohio and Carvana had the best price, I told my daughter who lives in Virginia and she also had an extra car due to both her and her husband now working from home. She called the same companies and Algo gave her the best price and the fastest service.


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