AUTO INDUSTRY

Carvana debuts 5-story car-vending operation in Austin

Posted February 7th, 2017

Stick a coin into a newly unveiled vending machine at one South Austin business and you’ll wind up with a lot more than a can of cola or a handful of candy.

Instead, expect a new car to pop out.

The five-story contraption – one of just three in existence in the United States – debuted Tuesday at Carvana, 6014 S. Interstate 35, just south of East Stassney Lane.

A filing with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation indicates the structure cost about $1.5 million to build.

The Phoenix-based company’s other two vending machines are in Houston and Nashville, Tenn.

Carvana’s location near Austin’s Motor Mile puts it in close proximity to many well-known car dealers, but its business model is much, much different.

The company allows car buyers to shop for a vehicle online at carvana.com, without ever setting foot in a dealership. Once a car is selected, it’s either delivered to the owner’s home or it can be loaded up in one of the vending machines for pickup. Trade-ins can be sold and financing can be arranged through the site, as well.

CarvanaCarvana, a company that lets you buy a car online, has built a five-story car vending machine in South Austin, along the Motor Mile. This is an interior photo of the Austin location.

The five-story Austin and Nashville vending machines can hold up to 20 cars, while the eight-story model that opened about two months ago in Houston has space for up to 30.

The automated devices kick into action when a special, oversized Carvana coin is inserted, with a lift in the center of the glass-walled machine sliding up and under the desired vehicle, then lowering it to one of three ground-floor delivery bays.

A team of “customer advocates” is on hand to assist with the process.

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Carvana founder and CEO Ernie Garcia says Austin has been a strong market for the website, so expanding its presence here made sense.

“We launched our free car delivery service in Austin in late 2015, and we’ve received positive feedback from customers in the area since then,” he said in a written statement. “The demand has been so great that it made sense for us to deepen our service in Austin with a car vending machine.

“Our mission is to remove the stress and anxiety from the car-buying experience and make the process fun and exciting. Plus, Austin has an incredibly vibrant tech and innovation scene that aligns with Carvana’s mission, so we couldn’t be more excited to bring the next car vending machine to the city.”

For customers who live more than 100 miles outside the Austin metro area, the company says it will offer up to $200 towards airfare. It’s also providing a complementary airport pickup service.

If customers change their mind, vehicles can be returned within seven days of pickup or delivery, Carvana said.

The Austin location is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

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