Would you buy a car from a vending machine?

In the age of ride sharing and peer-to-peer car rentals, car buying seems to be stuck in the stone ages. New services are looking to change that. The big question is, would you buy a car from a vending machine?

For car buyers, there is often a sense of dread when it comes to dealerships. Some people find the negotiating process painful. Some people find salespeople sleazy. And other people find that the whole process seems drawn out and archaic. From the dealer’s side, few things are as painful as difficult customers, time wasters and tire kickers.

Like buying a candy bar

Over the last few years, a few companies have fought to change the way people buy their cars. Their aim has been eliminating the haggling, the frustration and the uneasy feeling that someone, in some way, is getting cheated out of something. One of the most novel ventures has been buying your car from car vending machines. Carvana has been the most noted American company offering the service. Buyers can literally put a coin in a larger than life vending machine stocked with used cars or they can get cars delivered to them. A new vending machine recently opened in Tampa Bay.

Exotic vending machines

Not to be outdone, a company in Singapore has taken this idea to another level. Instead of offering customers a chance to buy a used Ford or a used Chevy, customers can now buy Lamborghinis and Ferraris. In an expensive country like Singapore, with its confusing and exorbitant taxes on vehicles, you’d better hope your AMEX has a high limit.

In China, Ford has teamed up with Alibaba to unveil a Ford vending machine. It is an early example of a manufacturer-backed venture, signalling that big car companies are on board with new ways to sell cars.

It’s not just the system

After a house, a car is probably the second biggest investment you’ll make. While the idea is good – fixed prices, no dealer tactics, no dodgy customers – there is so much of the “old way” that seems intrinsically tied to cars themselves. Such examples include checking out the cars in person, getting them inspected, and test driving them.

Are we okay replacing these age-old methods with guarantees and returns? On a used car where your chances of landing a lemon are far greater, I suspect most people may opt for a more traditional, safer approach.

Personally, I like the idea when it comes to new cars. Branded vending machines are a good idea too. I wouldn’t mind buying a new Raptor using pre-paid oversized coins, watching it as it is transported by a lift down to my waiting hands. But I would be more hesitant in buying a Raptor that’s five years old. It’s not because I’m against a car vending machine, I’d just like to know my money had solid guarantees before it disappears. I’m pretty sure I can’t just kick the machine until the goods fall out like a stuck candy bar.

Until those guarantees are set in stone and a certain level of trusted quality can be assured, I think I’ll stick to more grounded methods of car buying for now.

The question then, is would you buy a car from a vending machine?

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