Carvana Opens Second Car 'Vending Machine' for the Credulous

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Online used-car dealer Carvana opened its second coin-operated car “vending machine” in Houston, Texas. The four-bay location allows customers either to pick up cars they’ve purchased through the company’s website, or to buy one of the 30 vehicles in stock at the location.

While customers can have their purchase delivered directly, Carvana must think there are enough interested rubes willing to make a pitstop in Houston on their pilgrimage to the world’s biggest ball of twine to make this gargantuan novelty worthwhile. Considering that Las Vegas has remained on the map, there might be something to that way of thinking.

“People responded so positively to our Nashville Vending Machine that we knew we had to bring the experience to additional markets. Houston is a natural fit for a Car Vending Machine, and we are thrilled to be able to offer customers this unique and, we hope, memorable pick-up option in addition to the free, as-soon-as next day delivery services we launched in Houston late last year,” said Ernie Garcia, founder and CEO of Carvana.

The company says the entire process is automated, although videos from the original site in Nashville always show a Carvana representative present — usually standing on a Hovertrax — to help select your vehicle, use the machine, and answer any questions that you might have. According to the company, buyers also have to arrive at a pre-scheduled time before the 7 P.M. closing time.

The giant fake coin and the cosmic-bowling lighting really finish off this futuristically hokey masterpiece. It’s a gimmick and one Carvana seems committed to using to drum up some attention. The company said it will fund customers’ airfare up to $200 and arrange transportation from George Bush Intercontinental Airport to the vehicle dispenser for those who live more than 100 miles outside of the Houston area.

According to VentureBeat, Carvana raised a sizable $160 million last August, bringing the total money raised to just below $500 million. Meanwhile, New York-based used car dealer Vroom took in $218 million over the last three years. There is a clear market for buying and selling cars online and, so long as nobody tells prospective buyers that major cities have had automated parking garages for years, Caravana will have its ace in the hole.

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Madanthony Madanthony on Dec 16, 2016

    I hate when you go to buy a car out of the car vending machine and it gets stuck and is half hanging out. Although if you are lucky, you will get the stuck car that the guy before you left and the next car.

  • Shipping96 Shipping96 on Dec 16, 2016

    There is one under construction in Austin. By I35 next to all the big car dealerships.

  • Vulpine My first pickup truck was a Mitsubishi Sport... able to out-accelerate the French Fuego turbo by Renault at the time. I really liked the brand back then because they built a model for every type of driver, including the rather famous 300/3000GT AWD sports car (a car I really wanted, but couldn't afford.)
  • Vulpine A sedan version of either car makes it no longer that car. We've already seen this with the Mustang Mach-E and almost nobody acknowledges it as a Mustang.
  • Vulpine Not just Chevy, but GM has been shooting itself in the foot for the last three decades. They've already had to be rescued once in that period, and if they keep going as they are, they will need another rescue... assuming the US govt. will willing to lose more money on them.
  • W Conrad Sedans have been fine for me, but I were getting a new car, it would be an SUV. Not only because less sedans available, but I can't see around them in my sedan!
  • Slavuta More hatchbacks