Car Industry

No humans, no hassle: Three online car-buying sites

While you can't buy a new car without some sort of human interaction, Prazo lets you lease one, while Carvana and Beepi take unwanted mystery out of buying a used car.

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Ordering delivery food on Seamless and everything else on Amazon, you never need to engage with a person, except when it comes to buying a car. And you ask yourself, when will the Internet finally crush car dealerships? How can I avoid facing up to a high-pressure car dealer, or some rando with a used car on Craigslist?

Given dealer franchise laws in many states, which prohibit direct sales from manufacturers, you generally can't buy a new car online. Manufacturer sites, which let you option and price a specific model, still direct you to a local dealer. Tesla Motors is the only outlier here.

Third-party sites also direct you to a dealer. For example, I configured and priced a Jaguar XE on Cars Direct, then filled in a form offering a price quote. Within two hours I got a call from a local Jaguar dealership and had to, shiver, talk to a real person.

There are a few car-shopping services, however, that cater to modern antisocial commerce trends. The following services draw on technology to take as much of the hassle, and personal interaction, from buying a car as possible.

Prazo logo

PrazoCars

Launching this summer, PrazoCars focuses on getting customers a new car with minimal hassle, either using its Web site or, in the near future, an app. However, don't expect to find your dream car with PrazoCars, unless you're dreaming of a Ford C-Max Energi. At launch, the company will offer customers a single-spec vehicle available on a two-year lease.

From a traditional car ownership model, PrazoCars sounds very limiting, but imagine the simplicity of going online and signing up for a monthly lease payment, then having the car delivered to your home.

And while the C-Max Energi may not be the most stylish car around, it works as extremely economical transportation for a variety of uses, such as grocery getting, daily commutes, family trips and outdoor recreation. Along with versatile interior space, it uses a plug-in hybrid drivetrain getting an estimated 88 mpg equivalent, when considering a mix of plug-in and gasoline usage. PrazoCars plans to offer a greater variety of cars in the future.

Beyond its leasing model, PrazoCars will offer a variety of services for its customers. Founder Jon Alain Guzik points out that, if a customer needs a bicycle rack for a weekend, he or she can order it on the app, and PrazoCars will send someone out to install it on the vehicle. PrazoCars boasts partnerships with GetOutfitted, offering recreational gear rentals; luggage company Incase; and Parking Panda, among others.

Beepi logo

Beepi

Taking unwanted mystery out of buying a used car, Beepi's technicians inspect any car before it is offered on its site. The company acts as a middleman between prospective buyers and sellers, not only arranging financing but also delivering cars to buyers for an additional charge.

Buyers search for used cars on the Beepi site, choose one, pay for it online and never meet the original owner.

Beepi's listings let you click to see photos of cosmetic imperfections on a used car.

Beepi

Before Beepi certifies a used car, it goes through a 240-point inspection covering everything from appearance to drive quality. Because of this process, the majority of cars on the site appear to be recent model years. While they're certified to be mechanically sound, Beepi notes what it refers to as "dimples" -- scuffs, dings and scratches that it documents on each car listing with detailed photos.

Each listing shows Beepi's price, along with an average price for that year and model car from Edmunds, and an estimated price of what it might cost on a used car lot. Each car comes with a three-month/3,000-mile warranty from Beepi, with additional time/miles available at a cost. Along with offering financing, Beepi also considers trade-ins. Buyers can also pay with up to five credit cards.

After a purchase, a buyer has a 10-day grace period to decide whether to keep the vehicle.

Carvana

Carvana logo

Much like Beepi, Carvana curates a selection of used cars, acting as a middleman between seller and buyer. The company inspects all cars on its site and includes detailed photos. It smooths the buying process by taking care of financing and offering delivery.

Carvana's detailed search options let you choose a specific make and model, or search on specific details such as body style, manual transmission, color and third-row seating.

To earn Carvana certification, cars listed on its site go through a 150-point inspection. Each listing includes a draggable 360-degree photo of the car, with hotspots calling out imperfections, such as scratches. The listing pages also show a review of that model from Edmunds, along with as-new specifications.

Carvana shows its price for each car compared with the Kelly Blue Book average price for the same model in comparable condition. On its site, Carvana emphasizes its own financing, with tools letting you instantly calculate a monthly payment based on a 2.9 percent APR, down payment and length of the loan. Of course, buyers can also pay with cash or arrange a third-party loan.

Carvana lets you adjust parameters of financing to optimize your monthly payment.

Buyers living within 100 miles of Atlanta, Nashville, Charlotte, Raleigh, Birmingham, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio or Austin get free delivery. Carvana reimburses buyers up to $200 on a plane ticket if they choose to pick up their cars from Atlanta or Nashville, where the company maintains what it calls a "Car Vending Machine."

Carvana offers buyers a seven-day grace period on vehicle returns.