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If you don’t know why the Carvana vehicle vending machines exist, it is a gimmick, but also a giant billboard. Carvana is an online used car dealer network. And the way it works is that when you purchase a car from Carvana, it will deliver it to you, or you can head on over to the vending machine tower. There, you insert a token into the vending machine, and the whole thing comes to life, plucking your car.

Carvana’s vending machine works like a soda machine-sort of

Carvana vending machine
An eight-story car vending machine, operated by the online used car dealer Carvana | Getty

Carvana thinks this offers a unique, fun experience in purchasing used cars. Who are we to argue? Once your car is retrieved, you show proof of ownership and cruise off in your new/used car. No other dealer network does it this way, so buyers get this distinctive and personal experience they’ll remember forever.

But how does Carvana get vehicles into and then out of that tower? How do they get the cars up into the vending machine? While it seems elementary, it was much more complicated than you’d imagine. That’s because we’re talking about vehicles that weight sometimes over 5,000 lbs. 

Who did Carvana find to figure out the tower?

Carvana tower
Carvana tower in Huntington Beach, California | Getty

The brain trust at Carvana had a sound concept. It wanted to create a curiosity about its car buying process. But where do you find a company that can take a concept meant for cans of soda and instead, replace it with actual cars? Carvana says it eventually found Nussbaum Technologies in Kehl, Germany. 

Nussbaum engineers and makes stacking parking structures throughout Europe. But that is a different concept than what Carvana needed. So Nussbaum came up with a tunnel. 

Once the subject vehicle is placed into the tunnel, it needs to be moved vertically to line up with the elevator of the tower. But that took another company to engineer and submit. That company was WFT, also located in Germany. It conceived the Automated Delivery System or ADS. 

“An artistic approach to the arrival experience”

Carvana tower
An eight-story car vending machine, operated by Carvana | Getty

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At the base of the tower is a bay for the ADS to do its thing. The car is cued up before being launched into a slot in the tower. It is also where the customer reception area is located. Carvana calls it “an artistic approach to the everyday retail arrival experience.” OK, then. 

Inside the customer reception area of the Carvana dealership, a video catches the buyer’s experience, which he or she can upload to social media. It records the buyer’s anticipation as their vehicle is retrieved and slowly lowered down through the tower. 

While all of this seems to add additional cost to purchasing a vehicle from Carvana, it says otherwise. Carvana says it spends only 10 percent of what a typical retail auto dealer spends. And it also claims it can push three times as many cars through its system. Carvana says that the total cost of this unique purchasing experience adds only five percent of what a typical dealer charges for its services.