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Vroom vs Carvana vs Carmax: Comparing Online Car Buying Platforms

vroom vs carvana vs carmax

vroom vs carvana vs carmaxShopping for used cars online has many advantages, like allowing you to search for a larger area to find exactly what you're looking for. But there are many different options for buying and selling cars online, three of the most common being Vroom, Carvana, and CarMax.

Here's my honest comparison of Vroom vs Carvana vs CarMax. In this post, we'll review each service in detail.

Vroom vs Carvana vs CarMax: Introduction

Vroom, Carvana, and CarMax are three of the top online car-buying platforms available. Each platform is user-friendly and has some great offerings. However, there are some key differences to note about each platform.

So, when it comes time to buy your used car online, which is best?

Today, we'll break down each service, digging into how they work and what they offer. Find out which platform may be best for you and what you should consider before using them.

What is Vroom?

On Vroom, you can search (or post) used cars and trucks with ease. You can sell, buy, or trade-in using a very simple process, and enjoy home delivery right to your doorstep. The majority of Vroom's inventory is comprised of low-mileage, pre-owned vehicles under 3 years old. All of their cars have clean titles, and they source them from dealers, auctions, and private sellers.

Buying on Vroom

The Vroom buying process is quite simple. You begin by searching for vehicles by make, model, or body type. You can also filter searches by qualities like mileage and price.

Find the car you love, then place your order. Vroom will approve your contract and book the car for transport through one of its network carriers. You can expect an email with an estimated delivery date within five days of the fund receipt.

You can choose to finance with Vroom. If you opt for Vroom financing, they'll handle the registration and plates for you. You also get a week or 250 miles to decide if you want to keep the vehicle, but you won't get the $599 delivery fee back.

vroom buy

Selling to Vroom

Vroom isn't just a place where you can buy a car online, you can also sell or trade-in your car to Vroom with contact-free pickup.

To sell or trade-in your car, you'll need to complete the free appraisal form online. You have to provide the mileage, features, and VIN or license plate.

Then, Vroom sends you an offer that's good for 250 additional miles or 2 days. The offer does not allow negotiation, you must accept or decline it. If you accept Vroom's offer, then you complete the paperwork to transfer the title to Vroom. Once the paperwork is finalized, Vroom will schedule your free pick-up.

When it's time for pickup, they'll inspect the vehicle and then sign a bill of landing. The driver will notify Vroom of the pickup, and Vroom will process the payment once they receive the car.vroom sell

What is Carvana?

Carvana is a completely online used-car dealership, and they also offer direct financing for the vehicles they sell. Carvana prides itself on offering a streamlined, haggle-free digital car-buying and selling experience, and they sell a wide variety of vehicles.

Buying on Carvana

Start your Carvana car-buying process by searching on the side. You can filter your search based on features, keywords, price, model, make, etc. When a vehicle catches your interest, head to the listing page. You can view all of the details and examine the 360-degree views.

Once you choose a vehicle, you simply click "Get Started" and create an account. You may pay in cash, through financing, or via trade-in. Carvana offers in-house financing, and you can apply for pre-qualification on their site.

Next, you'll choose delivery or pickup, and complete the rest of the paperwork. If you choose delivery, you can expect the vehicle within a few days, and if you opt for pick-up then you'll need to find the closest Carvana Vehicle Vending Machine.carvana buy

Selling on Carvana

Select "Get My Offer" and then input your vehicle's details including condition, accident history, features, color, mileage, VIN, etc. If your car qualifies, Carvana will give you an instant cash offer that's valid for 7 days.

If you decide to accept the offer, then you'll schedule an appointment for a Carvana representative to inspect your vehicle. As long as your vehicle passes inspection, Carvana will give you your check right on the spot and take the car for pick-up.carvana sell

What is CarMax?

Browse a huge selection of new and used cars at fixed prices on CarMax. You can see cars that are not trade-ins, and cars in many locations. Choose from a curbside pickup option or home delivery when shopping via CarMax. Since CarMax has physical locations, you can also go to a dealership to test-drive the cars if you want to make your car-buying experience offline.

Buying on CarMax

Start your car buying process by searching for a vehicle based on the model, make, or keyword. Apply filters for price, year, brand, or type to simplify your search. Easily compare the different vehicles with CarMax's detailed listings, and get a free car history report through AutoCheck.

View the vehicles' interactive 360-degree profiles, along with several interior photos. You'll also get the VIN.

Once you decide on a vehicle, you actually have two options. You can buy it online and have it shipped to your nearest CarMax location for pickup. If you do qualify for home delivery, CarMax will show it as an option on the listing. Otherwise, you can actually schedule a test drive at the vehicle's location and purchase it in-person for the sticker price if you choose to buy it.

Should you choose to finance, you can get preapproval from CarMax. However, beware that you cannot make your down payment via credit card, you must use a personal check or debit card.carmax buy

Selling on CarMax

You can also sell your car to CarMax. Start by completing the form on their website, where you'll need to enter the details about its make, model, year, and mileage. If they're interested, they will send you a message to schedule an inspection.

Bring your car to a CarMax location near you for inspection. If it passes their inspection and meets their specifications, you'll get an instant cash offer that's valid for 7 days. Even if you decide to sell your car to CarMax, you are not required to buy a car in return.carmax sell

Pricing Comparison

  • pricing comparisonVroom: Vroom offers vehicles at many different price levels. You can expect car prices to start around $7,500 for Chevrolet or Toyota type models, and go up to $70,000+ for high-end vehicles like Teslas and Audis. You'll also have to pay a $599 non-refundable delivery fee and can choose to upgrade to an enclosed trailer for a total of $999. Vroom also takes a $500 refundable deposit to complete your transaction.
  • Carvana: Like Vroom, Carvana is a "haggle-free" zone and does not negotiate on pricing. Typically, 2010 models of Ford and Mitsubishi will start at around $8,000. You can also find high-end vehicles like Land Rovers and Teslas starting at $70,000. A calculator tool is available to determine your approximate monthly payments.
  • CarMax: CarMax prices vary significantly based on the specific car, much like on Vroom and Carvana. Prices tend to start around $6,599, but go as high as $90,000+ for high-end makes like BMW, Porsche, and Mercedes.

Financing Comparison

  • financing comparisonVroom: Apply for financing and compare rates online with Vroom. Vroom has several financing partners to choose from, but beware that you may need additional paperwork (like a preapproval letter) if you decide to go with a different finance option. Vroom does NOT require a minimum credit score, but you must make at least $21,600 per year to qualify.
  • Carvana: Carvana offers non-negotiable financing. There's no minimum credit score required, but you must be 18+, make at least $10,000 a year, and be free of active bankruptcies.
  • CarMax: CarMax offers in-house financing. The loan rates range from 3.5% to 20% APR and 36 to 72 months in length. People with most credit profiles can qualify for financing, as you can also have a co-borrower on the preapproval applications. Typically, you'll receive your financing decisions within 20 minutes or less. CarMax also offers a three-day payoff program if you're able to find a better loan later.

Delivery Fees Comparison

Delivery can get expensive, and it's not something you want to pay an arm and a leg for when buying your car. Here are the delivery prices for each platform:

  • delivery comparisonVroom: $599 home delivery fee.
  • Carvana: $0 if within the local market, with the option to pick up locally. If you are not in the local market, you can choose a mutual meeting spot or pay the non-refundable transport charge which ranges from $250 to $1,000 depending on your distance.
  • CarMax: The delivery fee will depend on the distance. CarMax will disclose your transport costs.

Warranty Comparison

Since you usually cannot test drive when buying a car online, it's important to choose one with a strong warranty.

  • warranty comparisonVroom: Limited warranty with options to purchase additional coverage. The free limited warranty policy lasts up to 90 days or 6,000 miles, with one year of roadside assistance.
  • Carvana: 100-day or 4,189-mile limited warranty with an option to purchase the extended warranty, CarvanaCare.
  • CarMax: Limited warranty that covers all of your vehicle's major systems for up to 4,000 miles or 90 days.

Return Policies Comparison

Buying a car online can be a frightening process, but a great return policy can make a huge difference.

  • return comparisonVroom: You can return a vehicle from Vroom within the first 250 miles, or 7 days, whichever comes first. If you had the car delivered, it will be picked up for free. However, if you picked it up, you'll have to drop it off and pay a $599 restocking fee.
  • Carvana: 7-day money-back guarantee. Return or exchange your vehicle by 5:00 pm EST on the 7th calendar day after receiving the vehicle. The vehicle must be free of damage, alterations, or lien. If you drove the vehicle over 400 miles, you must pay $1.00 for each additional mile.
  • CarMax: 7-day return policy. If you do not find the vehicle is a fit, then bring it back within 7 days for a full refund.

Vroom Review

RELATED: Check out our full review and analysis of Vroom here. 

There are a lot of great qualities about Vroom that customers love. Some of Vroom's key strong points include:

Vroom Pros

  • Vroom prosSet prices. No need for haggling or drawn-out negotiations, because the prices on Vroom are set. This can alleviate some pressure and stress from buyers and sellers because they know exactly what to expect.
  • Wide selection. Vroom has a large vehicle selection available at many different price levels, making it a great option for many different types of shoppers.
  • Vehicle inspections. Vroom does detailed inspections of each vehicle it sells. All vehicles on Vroom have clean titles and passed the extensive inspection process.
  • Simple process. Many customers site Vroom's fast and easy process as a major plus. It's convenient and simple to buy a car online at Vroom and save yourself the time and hassle you'd deal with at an in-person dealership.
  • Sell or Trade-in. You can also sell or trade-in your car to Vroom using the simple process explained above.

Vroom Cons

While Vroom has many benefits, there are also some drawbacks to consider. Some of the most commonly mentioned complaints include:

  • vroom consDeceptive warranty. Vroom includes a warranty, but several customer reviews suggest that users did not find the warranty as helpful as they imagined. Like with all warranties, there are a lot of ways that Vroom can maneuver out of paying for issues that arise, and this has left many customers upset.
  • Return policy. Vroom does have a return policy, but it's not so forgiving. You get 250 miles, or up to 7 days, to make a return. However, Vroom's return policy is not too far off the mark from its competitors.
  • No negotiation. No haggling can be nice, but no negotiation means there's no way to get a better deal than what's being offered. While it can be good to know what you'll pay upfront, you may be able to find a better deal elsewhere.
  • Customer service. Some customers have excellent service experiences with Vroom, but many others felt Vroom was slow to respond and did not resolve the issues.
  • Low overall satisfaction. On Consumer Affairs, Vroom has very low satisfaction ratings. Additionally, they've had accreditation revoked from the Better Business Bureau. The low satisfaction ratings suggest critical issues with the company.

Carvana Review

RELATED: Check out our full review and analysis of Carvana here. 

Carvana Pros

There's a lot to like about Carvana. Here are some of its top qualities:

  • carvana prosComplete your purchase online. You can browse their expansive inventory and complete your entire purchase online, allowing you to expand your search nationwide.
  • Detailed inspection. All vehicles sold on Carvana must pass its rigorous 150-point inspection and have a clean title. Each Carvana vehicle includes a free CarFax report so you can see its history.
  • Large car selection. There's a wide range of car makes and models available.
  • Sell and trade-in options. You can do more than buy on Carvana, you can also sell your vehicle or trade it in.
  • Strong Return Policy. If you don't like the vehicle for any reason, you can return it "No Questions Asked" within 7 days for a full refund.
  • Detailed Listings. The car listings include 360-degree photos which can help you better assess the vehicle's condition and be confident when purchasing online.

Carvana Cons

As great as Carvana is, there are some downsides to consider such as:

  • carvana consLimited free delivery. Free delivery is a huge perk, but you only get it if you live within 75 miles of their physical location. Otherwise, it'll cost you $199 for up to 250 miles and up to $1,000 for coast to coast shipping.
  • Prices could be higher. You may be able to snag a great deal on Carvana, but prices could also be higher than a private sale. You may still be able to get a better deal at a local dealership if you're willing to haggle.
  • Less for your sale. Carvana makes you an instant cash offer that can speed up your sale, but you may also be able to get more in a private sale.
  • Poor support after your purchase. Many dissatisfied Carvana customers complain about the lack of support after the purchase. While they offer a good warranty, many people are frustrated about how difficult it is to get in touch with SilverRock, their warranty provider.

CarMax Review

CarMax Pros

CarMax makes buying a car a breeze. Here's how:

  • carmax prosTest-Drive Option. Unlike Vroom or Carvana, you can have the option to test-drive first if the vehicle is at a nearby CarMax location. It's a huge advantage to be able to search online and test drive if you choose, but you can still complete the process completely online.
  • Detailed inspection. CarMax ensures all cars it sells have clean titles and passed an inspection. They also thoroughly clean and refurbish the vehicles so they have a more "new car" feel.
  • Great customer service. Customer service is a huge complaint about Vroom and Carvana, but it's quite strong for CarMax. When it comes to buying a car online, good customer service can go a long way in making sure you have a smooth experience and proper warranty coverage.

CarMax Cons

CarMax is great, but it's not perfect. Here are some of the cons of CarMax:

  • carmax consHigher prices. While CarMax has competitive prices, they also tend to be a bit higher. Compared to Vroom and Carvana, CarMax has more overhead with the numerous physical locations, and it's reflected in their pricing.
  • Get less when you sell. CarMax clearly states that they will buy your car for less than the retail value since they will need to resell it. This is in alignment with what typical online and in-person dealers must do, but you'll still want to know the Kelley Blue Book value and consider checking offers from other dealers.

Vroom, Carvana, or CarMax? What's the Best?

If you're looking for an easy process...

If simplicity is the name of your car buying game, then Vroom is a top choice. Many customers praise Vroom for its easy car-buying experience. Their site is incredibly user-friendly, and they offer more flexible payment options than alternative sites.

If you're looking for a simple experience that includes in-house financing...

Carvana may be for you. Similar to Vroom, they offer a pretty streamlined online shopping experience that's fairly simple. Carvana also provides financing, which is very helpful for used-car buyers. It's a good choice for many used-car shoppers.

If you're looking for all-around quality...

For the best service and the ability to test-drive, you'll want to use CarMax. Just like Vroom and Carvana, you can buy entirely online, but you may also have the option to test-drive, which is a major plus for used car shoppers. CarMax is a top-rated online car buying site with many positive reviews that praise their great deals, ease of use, and helpful customer service.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that all three sites have their advantages and disadvantages. CarMax has the highest-ratings, with many satisfied customers, but there are reasons to consider all three.

Since we recommend comparing 6-8 dealers (online and local) for the best pricing and experience, it's a good idea to consider using all three sites. There's no sign up fee to browse for cars, and checking on all three sites can help you snag the best deal. On each site, make sure to read the fine print and take your time with any purchases.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best online car-buying platform?

Vroom, Carvana, and Carmax are some of the top online-car buying platforms available. Each offers a user-friendly experience with some great offerings. Vroom is the most simple and straightforward, and CarMax is the most highly-rated platform out of the three.

Do online car-buying platforms offer financing?

Vroom, Carvana, and CarMax all offer some form of financing. Vroom has several financing partners to choose from, Carvana offers non-negotiable financing, and CarMax offers loan rates that range from 3.5% to 20%.

Can I return a car I bought through Vroom, Carvana, or CarMax?

Each site has a different return policy, but you should be able to with some possible fees. Vroom gives you 250 miles or 7 days to return, Carvana offers a 7-day money-back guarantee, and CarMax also has a 7-day return policy.

What is Vroom?

On Vroom, you can search (or post) used cars and trucks with ease. You can sell, buy, or trade-in using a very simple process, and enjoy home delivery right to your doorstep. The majority of Vroom's inventory is comprised of low-mileage, pre-owned vehicles under 3 years old. All of their cars have clean titles, and they source them from dealers, auctions, and private sellers. Check out our full review on Vroom here.

What is Carvana?

Carvana is a completely online used-car dealership, and they also offer direct financing for the vehicles they sell. Carvana prides itself on offering a streamlined, haggle-free digital car-buying and selling experience, and they sell a wide variety of vehicles. Check out our full review on Carvana here.

What is CarMax?

Browse a huge selection of new and used cars at fixed prices on CarMax. You can see cars that are not trade-ins, and cars in many locations. Choose from a curbside pickup option or home delivery when shopping via CarMax. Since CarMax has physical locations, you can also go to a dealership to test-drive the cars if you want to make your car-buying experience offline.