Apr 24, 2017

Want to Get a Car From a Vending Machine? Here’s How

Reporting Texas


Carvana’s used-car vending machine in Austin. David Lopez/Reporting Texas

Chewing gum, soft drinks, snacks, condoms and now used cars—all things you can get from a vending machine in Austin.

Among the dealerships along Interstate 35’s “motor mile” sits a five-story building that dispenses pre-owned cars. People buy them online, and the company loads the machine, which can hold 20 cars. An attendant gives buyers large, coin-shaped tokens. Inserting them into a slot on the ground floor sends an elevator to the right floor of the sleek, transparent building and retrieves the appropriate car.

David Lopez/Reporting Texas

The vending machine, opened in February, is the third built by Phoenix-based Carvana Group LLC, an online used-car dealer. Carvana has tried to distinguish itself from traditional dealers and other online sellers like Carmax by delivering most of its cars directly to customers. The stylish, mainly glass vending machines have also been installed in Nashville, Houston, Austin and San Antonio, where a machine opened in March.

“Austin loves this kind of stuff,” said Carvana’s Austin vending machine manager in an interview, which was part of the reason the company installed a machine in the tech-savvy city.

The manager said fewer than 100 customers had chosen to pick up their cars at the machine. The manager asked that his name not be used, citing company guidelines. Carvana spokesperson Caitlin Wiig confirmed the policy in an email.

John Jasper, 44, an Austin personal trainer who had his car delivered, said it took him 40 minutes on his home computer to buy from Carvana. When he bought previous autos, he said he spent most of a day at dealerships.

“I never really left my house up until the point the car [was delivered],” Jasper said in an interview, “and everything came in just like they said it would.”

Tom Ditzig, general manager at Audi South Austin dealership, said in an interview that the Carvana contraption will have trouble competing with traditional dealers’ service departments and other amenities.

“I’ve been told for 20 years that the internet is going to take over the car business,” he said.