GREENSBORO — It’s sort of like a lifesize Hot Wheels playset.
Except these cars are real. And you can buy them.
Introducing Carvana, an Arizona company which has built, essentially, a vending machine for automobiles — an eight-story, steel-and-glass tower that holds 27 cars and dispenses them with the drop of an oversize coin.
Need a new ride? Want to cut out the middle man?
Here’s how it works: Carvana’s shopping experience is completely online and as transparent as the tower. Each vehicle’s price is posted. There is no haggling and no additional fees. Cars are photographed inside and out. The process, financing and all, can take as little as 10 minutes.
After that, just head to your local tower. You get the coin on arrival from an attendant.
Inside the lobby, you slip a silver metal token into the slot of a futuristic-looking kiosk. A lift rises, grabs the car, brings it down and deposits it into one of two delivery bays. Then you drive away.
“It’s all about putting the control in the customer’s hands,” explained Amy O’Hara, Carvana’s associate director of communications.
And customers seem to enjoy the experience.
“They bring family in or stream it live on social media,” O’Hara said. “It’s really an event.”
The tower, at 4830 Koger Blvd., can be seen best when traveling west on I-40 as you approach the Wendover Avenue exit. At night, you can’t miss it: The tower is lit, almost like an invitation.
“We don’t want to be just another dealership,” said David Coulter, whose job is to make sure the machinations that make up Carvana towers run smoothly.
Coulter said each tower site takes up no more than an acre and costs around $5 million to build.
He added that the engineering for the towers is done in the United States. The lift and pallets for each tower are built at a facility just outside of Gastonia.
The view from the top is impressive, but customers will only get to experience the retrieval of their car from the comfort of the ground-floor lobby. But what a thrill that can be.
“There’s a concert-quality audio and lighting system in here,” Coulter said. “So when you drop your coin, you get a show.”
All vehicles are pre-owned, but O’Hara said each car is put through a 150-point inspection. She said about 1 out of 20 cars meet Carvana’s standards.
If purchasing a car without a test drive seems risky, Carvana offers a seven-day return policy.
Carvana has 20 towers across the country. Greensboro is the third in North Carolina.
Coulter said no additional towers are planned for North Carolina anytime soon, but “we’re always looking for new sites.”