Carvana Business Model In A Nutshell

Carvana is online-based used car retailer known for its collection of  24 used car vending machines.  Carvana makes money when the company can sell a car for more than it paid, thus making a profit. Carvana also makes money by charging interest on their car finance options.

Used Car SalesCarvana primarily generates revenue through used car sales. The company acquires used vehicles, either through auctions, trade-ins, or directly from sellers. These vehicles are then listed for sale on the Carvana website and mobile app. Customers can browse the inventory, select a car, and complete the purchase entirely online. Carvana earns revenue from the sale of these vehicles, often at competitive prices compared to traditional dealerships.
Delivery and Pickup FeesCarvana offers a unique service where it delivers purchased vehicles directly to customers’ homes. The company charges delivery and pickup fees for this service, which can vary based on the distance and location. Customers who prefer not to have the car delivered can also choose to pick it up from a Carvana vending machine or local hub. These fees contribute to Carvana’s revenue.
Vehicle FinancingCarvana provides vehicle financing options to customers, allowing them to secure loans or leases for their purchases. Carvana partners with financial institutions to offer financing solutions. When customers choose to finance their vehicle purchases through Carvana, the company earns revenue from interest payments and fees associated with these financial services.
Extended Warranty and Protection PlansCarvana offers customers the option to purchase extended warranty and protection plans for their vehicles. These plans provide additional coverage and peace of mind beyond the manufacturer’s warranty. Customers pay extra for these plans, and Carvana earns revenue from the sale of these extended warranty and protection packages.
Trade-InsCarvana accepts trade-ins from customers who want to sell their existing vehicles when purchasing a new one through Carvana. The company appraises the trade-in vehicles and offers customers a value for them. Carvana then resells these trade-in vehicles, earning revenue from their resale.
Vehicle Maintenance and RepairsCarvana may generate revenue through vehicle maintenance and repairs. While Carvana aims to sell high-quality used cars, customers may still require maintenance or repairs. Carvana can earn revenue by offering these services through its network of service centers or by partnering with third-party providers.
Challenges and CompetitionCarvana operates in a competitive market, facing competition from traditional dealerships, other online used car marketplaces, and local sellers. Maintaining a seamless online buying experience, ensuring vehicle quality, addressing customer concerns, and expanding its market presence are ongoing challenges.
Future Growth StrategiesCarvana’s future growth strategies may involve: – Market Expansion: Entering new markets and regions to reach more customers. – Enhanced Technology: Investing in technology to improve the online car buying experience. – Service Network Expansion: Expanding its network of service centers for vehicle maintenance and repairs. – Inventory Growth: Increasing the variety and quantity of vehicles available for sale. – Customer Engagement: Fostering customer loyalty and repeat business through exceptional service.

Origin story

Carvana is an online-based used car retailer. The service allows customers to browse a range of used cars through the Carvana website. Those who want to sell, trade-in, or finance a car are also well catered for.

The company is perhaps most well-known for its collection of 24 used car vending machines. Using one of these vending machines, the customer can easily collect their new car while dropping off the old one.

Alternatively, Carvana will deliver purchased vehicles to the consumer directly. Each vehicle comes with a seven-day return policy.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company is well placed to use its contactless system to take advantage of the $840 billion used car market.

Carvana revenue model

Carvana makes money in much the same way that a traditional car dealership does. When the company can sell a car for more than it paid, it makes a profit.

While the used car industry is unpredictable and prone to very small margins, Carvana executives believe the company does have an advantage over a bricks-and-mortar dealership. Management believes they can offer an average cost saving of $1,000 per car to the consumer.

Carvana hopes to be able to leverage its online platform and economies of scale to become cash-flow positive soon.

Here are some of the ways Carvana aims to reduce costs and in the process, increase profits:

Price transparency

Customers can easily compare the price and mileage of a range of Carvana vehicles from the comfort of their homes.

Free from the hassle of dealing with pushy salespeople, consumers are more likely to make a purchase.

Carvana also saves money on having to employ sales and finance managers.

Inventory centralization

By concentrating its inventory in low-cost areas, the company can reduce costs further.

Occupancy costs are estimated at $150 per vehicle – significantly lower than the cost traditional retailers incur.

Dealership costs

Without established dealerships, Carvana saves money on associated dealership infrastructure and maintenance.

Streamlined buying process

Regardless of which location the consumer uses, the purchasing experience is the same.

Again, this creates extra confidence for the buyer while minimizing transaction costs for the company.

Carvana also makes money by charging interest on their car finance options.

But to make this revenue stream more significant, the company needs to focus on selling more cars.

Carvana is the third-largest used car retailer in the United States with only 1.8% of the total market share.

Is Carvana going out of business?

Carvana is an American online used car retailer headquartered in Tempe, Arizona. The company – which sells cars in unique vending machines – was the fastest-growing used vehicle retailer in the United States, with revenue of $3.94 billion in 2019. Yet by 2022, on $12.8 billion in revenue, the company reported almost $2.9 billion in net losses.

Carvana is not going through a good period, for sure. Indeed, its fall started in 2021. The stock peaked in August 2021, falling badly in 2022.


Source: Google

For some context, the company reached a peak market cap of over $62 billion by mid-2021 and fell to a $720 million market cap by December 2022!

While the company has been growing its top-line revenue, unfortunately losses have been mounting as well.


Key takeaways

  • Carvana is an online used-car retailer. The company allows consumers to buy, sell, trade-in, or finance a car with a minimum of hassle.
  • Carvana makes money by buying low and selling high. Although the company operates in an industry with notoriously small margins, executives believe the online business model delivers important cost savings in several areas.
  • Collecting interest from consumer car loans is also an important revenue stream for Carvana. However, the company must focus on increasing its very small market share before this stream becomes a significant money maker.
  • While the company peaked in valuation, in 2021, at over $62 billion, deteriorating market conditions highly affected it so that the company would be valued at less than a billion by the end of 2022!

Key Highlights

  • Core Focus: Carvana is an online-based used car retailer that offers customers the ability to browse, buy, sell, trade-in, or finance used cars through its platform.
  • Vending Machines and Delivery: Carvana is known for its unique approach to delivering cars, including using vending machines. Customers can pick up their cars from these vending machines or have their purchased vehicles delivered to them. The company offers a seven-day return policy.
  • Revenue Generation: Carvana’s primary revenue source is from selling used cars for more than it paid, thereby making a profit. The company also generates revenue by charging interest on car finance options.
  • Cost Saving Strategies: Carvana focuses on reducing costs and increasing profits through various strategies:
    • Price Transparency: The online platform allows customers to easily compare prices and mileage, reducing the need for pushy salespeople and saving on sales and finance manager salaries.
    • Inventory Centralization: Concentrating inventory in low-cost areas helps reduce occupancy costs per vehicle.
    • No Dealership Costs: Carvana avoids the costs associated with traditional dealerships, including infrastructure and maintenance.
    • Streamlined Buying Process: A consistent buying experience across locations boosts consumer confidence and minimizes transaction costs.
  • Interest on Car Finance: Carvana earns revenue by charging interest on car finance options, but this revenue stream’s significance depends on the company’s ability to sell more cars.
  • Market Share and Performance: Carvana is the third-largest used car retailer in the United States, holding a small market share (1.8%). While it experienced rapid growth and revenue ($3.94 billion in 2019), it reported substantial net losses ($2.9 billion on $12.8 billion in revenue) by 2022.
  • Financial Performance: Carvana’s stock peaked in August 2021 and experienced a significant decline in 2022, resulting in a decrease in market capitalization from over $62 billion to around $720 million by the end of 2022.
  • Challenges: Despite its growth in revenue, Carvana faced mounting losses, which affected its valuation and financial performance negatively.

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