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Carvana drives into Philly

Carvana will deliver used cars as soon as the next after you order them online within a 50-mile radius of Center City.
Carvana will deliver used cars as soon as the next after you order them online within a 50-mile radius of Center City.Read moreCarvana

Car buyers can now pick what they want from Carvana, an eCommerce platform known for its giant car-vending machines, as the company began offering used cars in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

It's part of the company's expansion into the Northeast. Philadelphia becomes the company's 23rd market to offer its free, as-soon-as next-day delivery, and the company estimates that more than eight million consumers living within 50 miles of downtown Philadelphia can now access it.

Philadelphia joined Pittsburgh as the two markets in the state offering Carvana's services.

"We're thrilled to finally be in the City of Brotherly Love. Not only is it a major hub in the Northeast with one of the largest populations in the country, but it has a culture of early tech adoption," Ernie Garcia, founder and CEO of Carvana, said in a statement. "We launched our free, as-soon-as next-day delivery services in Pittsburgh late last year, and now with the expansion into Philadelphia, we will be able to offer those services to many more residents in Southeastern Pennsylvania."

The company boasts that its advanced, proprietary technology allows for a complete and seamless online car-buying experience. By visiting on a mobile phone, tablet, or computer, customers can search for, buy, finance, and trade in a vehicle, all from their desktop or mobile device. They can also obtain financing options and know precise payment terms for all 8,000-plus vehicles in Carvana's online inventory after answering 10 questions.

After completing the online purchase process, customers in Carvana's 23 markets can schedule delivery, or pick up their vehicle from one of Carvana's proprietary automated car-vending machines in Nashville, Houston, or Austin or San Antonio in Texas.

But some retail experts say most consumers will still prefer taking a vehicle for a test drive before making an online purchase.

"While virtually anything you can conceivably buy is eventually going to have a web presence, your local auto mall isn't going anywhere soon," said Garrick Brown, vice president of retail research for the Americas at Cushman & Wakefield. "If anything, existing, actual retail malls, like King of Prussia, are going to be more likely to be the home of tomorrow's auto dealerships than is the internet.

"There will be more of an online presence so people can look," he said. "But this is one investment where consumers are going to be reluctant to buy sight unseen."

Said Christa Hart, senior managing director at FTI Consulting: "Interestingly, I bought a car on eBay already. I don't know if I am ready for a vending machine, but I love 'creating' my ideal car on the manufacturer's website.

"I think that buying a car, without the car buying experience, sounds even better," Hart said.  "So, it's easy to say 'yes' to a new car. The problem is that I need to test drive the car  somewhere."