Carvana is a technologically-enabled car dealership on which users can purchase, sell, or trade-in their cars.
The company, which is headquartered in Tempe, Arizona, was founded in 2013 by Ernie Garcia III and Ryan Keeton.
Most of the vehicles that are listed on Carvana are sourced from national used-car auctions or directly purchased from customers. Customers can either directly purchase the car or finance it with a loan from Carvana.
What sets Carvana apart from many other online car listing sites is its vending machines. Buyers can pick up their car directly from the more than 30 vending machines it operates. Carvana itself is available in almost all states.
Alternatively, Carvana cars can also be shipped directly to the customer’s doorstep. The cars themselves can be returned free of charge within seven days of the delivery. Vehicles can, furthermore, be reserved online for up to 30 minutes.
Today, Carvana is one of the leading car dealerships in the United States. Over 75,000 cars are listed for sale on its platform. Its continuous success has enabled Carvana to go public in April 2017, raising $225 million in the process. The firm has raised $1.6 billion in funding on top of that.
In 2021, Carvana managed to sell over 425,000 cars, which led to annual revenues of $12.8 billion (in case you’re curious: I covered how Carvana makes money here). 2021 also became the first fully profitable year for Carvana.
The methodology with which competitors of Carvana are ranked is based on a variety of data points. We mostly take public information into account, namely annual revenues, the number of cars listed or sold, employee counts, and more.
In order to ensure comparability, we only look at competitors that are either car listing sites or purchase and sell vehicles themselves (i.e., technologically enabled dealerships).
As a result, physical car dealerships that mostly operate offline will be excluded. Additionally, car manufacturers and rental companies that sell directly to consumers will not be taken into account either.
Lastly, since Carvana solely operates in the United States as well as Canada, only competitors from these countries will be considered.
It has to be noted that this analysis should not be seen as a purchase recommendation. It is merely a summary of the competition that Carvana faces as of today.
So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the top 15 competitors of Carvana.
Headquarters: Richmond, Virginia Founder(s): Austin Ligon, Mark F. O'Neil, Martin Mindling, Richard Sharp Year Founded: 1993
CarMax claims to have the nation’s largest inventory of used cars. In fact, its share of the nationwide age 0–10-year-old used vehicle market is equal to four percent now.
The firm was created by employees from Circuit City, which funded the initial launch of the first physical store dubbed CarMax: The Auto Superstore. The physical outlet would display over 500 different used car models, which all had a fixed and non-negotiable price attached to them.
The superstore was, furthermore, accompanied by tons of computer-aided information that helped prospective buyers. This, in turn, removed the need for hiring dozens of salespeople and created a less adversarial atmosphere.
Almost a decade after its founding, CarMax finally spun off from Circuit City and became a publicly-traded company not long after. Today, CarMax operates 235 stores across the nation that are managed by the 25,000+ associates it employs.
Thus far, the platform has sold over 9 million cars and appraised another 33 million. In 2021, CarMax generated $31.9 billion in revenue and sold over 343,000 cars.
Headquarters: New York City, New York Founder(s): Kevin Westfall, Marshall Chesrown, Scott Chesrown Year Founded: 2013
Vroom is similar to Carvana in that car owners can either directly sell their vehicles to the platform or trade them in. Those vehicles are then inspected, polished, and ultimately resold by Vroom. Sellers are instantly provided with a price that they can accept within seven days.
Similarly, Vroom delivers a purchased vehicle directly to the customer’s doorstep. Buyers are, furthermore, provided with a 90-day limited warranty and one-year roadside assistance. Customers can also get prequalified for a car loan.
However, unlike Carvana, Vroom only operates one physical dealership in Houston. It previously (2018) shut down its other location in Dallas and laid off around 30 percent of its workforce.
Despite those setbacks, Vroom is now considered one of the biggest (online) dealerships in the country. In 2021, the firm generated $2.4 billion in revenue (up 167 percent YoY) while selling close to 75,000 vehicles. Close to 2,000 people are now employed by Vroom.
Headquarters: Cambridge, Massachusetts Founder(s): Langley Steinert Year Founded: 2006
CarGurus claims to be the leading vehicle listing site in the United States, boasting over 38 million monthly unique visitors. Apart from purchasing or listing a car, users can also get prequalified to find out what models they can afford.
The firm actually started out as a review site on which users could rate various car models and dealerships. This isn’t particularly surprising given that co-founder and long-time CEO Langley Steinert also co-founded travel review site TripAdvisor.
What is surprising is the fact that Steinert has managed to grow the business despite having raised less than $2 million in venture funding. In October 2017, he took the firm public, adding $150 million to its balance sheet.
The site has since expanded to launch dedicated sites in Canada and the United Kingdom. With over five million listings and 30,000 paying dealers, it is certainly a force to be reckoned with. CarGurus, furthermore, generated $951.4 million in revenue for 2021.
Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia Founder(s): Chip Perry, David Lilly Year Founded: 1998
Autotrader is another highly frequented listing site, offering both used as well as new cars for sale. In 1999, a year after it launched, it already boasted over 1.25 million used cars on its platform.
In December 2015, the firm also began to instant cash offers in partnership with Kelley Blue Book (KBB). The two firms go back all the way to Autotrader’s launch when the car value estimates on its site were powered by KBB.
Autotrader itself was acquired by media holding company Cox Enterprises back in January 2014. Two years later, Autotrader even managed to expand into Australia but later (2020) sold the business to eBay.
Its U.S. website currently lists over three million new and used vehicles from more than 40,000 dealers and 250,000 private owners. Autotrader’s website is visited by more than 14 million unique users every month.
Headquarters: San Francisco, California Founder(s): Christian Ohler, George Arison, Joel Washington, Minnie Ingersoll, Morgan Knutson Year Founded: 2013
Shift Technologies is another platform that directly purchases and sells vehicles to customers across the United States. A car, before being listed on its website, goes through more than 150 manual checks to ensure it works properly.
Much like the previously mentioned Carvana and Vroom, customers have seven days (or 200 miles) to test drive any given vehicle, which is directly delivered to their doorstep. When selling a car, it is first evaluated on an in-person basis by one of Shift’s employees.
This is also not the founder’s first rodeo. Many of them had previously started Taxi Magic (now known as Curb), the first on-demand mobile transportation booking technology platform.
They have used their reputation and over $500 million in funding to get the company off the ground. In 2021, Shift generated $637 million in revenue. A year prior, in June 2020, Shift went public on the Nasdaq stock exchange by merging with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) called Insurance Acquisition Corporation.
Headquarters: Santa Monica, California Founder(s): Bernie Brenner, Jim Nguyen, Oded Noy, Scott Painter, Tom Taira Year Founded: 2005
On TrueCar, consumers can sell or trade-in their vehicles as well as browse and purchase new and old cars. The platform works together with 13,000+ dealerships across the nation (equal to 35 percent of all franchised dealers), which in turn provide the seller with an offer.
When selling one’s vehicle, TrueCar is providing the seller with an estimate that is based on the car’s information (such as brand, model, age, mileage, and so forth). Sellers can add additional value-altering characteristics such as the vehicle’s color or equipment.
Its Price Report enables buyers to see what others have paid for similar vehicles in their area. TrueCar, furthermore, purchases cars on behalf of more than 250 leading brands including American Express, Sam’s Club, and others.
The firm went public in May 2014 after previously raising $340 million in venture funding. In 2021, TrueCar, which has over 8.5 million unique monthly visitors, generated $231 million in revenue. 608,000 vehicles were sold via its platform that year.
Headquarters: San Francisco, California Founder(s): Corey Lydstone, John Kobs Year Founded: 2011
Autolist boasts one of the largest databases of vehicles in the United States. Over five million cars are listed on its platform. It is able to do that by scraping the web and retrieving listings from hundreds of other platforms.
The platform’s integration with Carfax enables users to check a vehicle’s ownership history. Additionally, Autolist is able to determine whether a given vehicle is listed for below, above, or right around its market price.
Autolist, after nine years in business, was acquired by CarGurus for an undisclosed amount in January 2020. Its mobile apps have been downloaded more than seven million times. A total of five million cars are listed on the platform.
Headquarters: El Segundo, California Founder(s): Scott Painter Year Founded: 1998
CarsDirect.com, launched at the height of the dot-com bubble, became the first car listing site to sell vehicles online directly to consumers. Traditionally, listing sites and classified ads would refer consumers to other dealerships (and consequently charge a fee for posting a listing).
The firm raised close to $300 million in funding during its heyday. However, due to a cooling of the market, it had to scrap its IPO back in 2000. Five years later, CarsDirect’s parent company rebranded into Internet Brands, which now operates sites in a variety of segments such as automotive, healthcare, legal, and more.
Internet Brands and its associated websites were sold to private equity firm KKR for $1.1 billion back in June 2014.
Today, CarsDirect is primarily known for its extensive reviews of almost every model listed via its website. CarsDirect has, furthermore, developed a tool that allows interested buyers to compare the price and other characteristics of multiple vehicles.
Headquarters: Chicago, Illinois Founder(s): Alex Vetter, Mitch Golub, William Swislow Year Founded: 1998
Cars.com is one of the biggest classifieds sites for cars in the United States. Over 25 million people access the site every month. The firm now operates a variety of other brands including Auto.com, NewCars.com, and Pickuptrucks.com, among others.
The platform has gone through a variety of ownership changes. In August 2014, media company Gannett acquired a controlling stake in the business for $2.5 billion. Three years later, Cars.com spun off from its parent company and began trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
Today, Cars.com works together with close to 20,000 dealerships across the nation while employing over 2,000 people. In 2021, the firm generated $623.7 million in revenue, up 14 percent from the year prior.
10. eBay Motors
Headquarters: San Jose, California Founder(s): Simon Rothman Year Founded: 2000
eBay Motors is the firm’s vehicle classifieds division on which users can list and purchase cars as well as parts for fixing, updating, or maintaining one’s vehicle. By 2006, the platform reached its two millionth vehicle sale.
That same year, eBay rolled out its buyer protection, which made shopping for vehicles substantially more secure. Its app also includes a section dubbed My Garage on which users can include the specs of any given vehicle and find parts associated with that model.
Close to 7.5 million unique visitors access the website and associated apps every month. A total of 18,000 listings are active at any given time.
11. Kelley Blue Book
Headquarters: Los Angeles, California Founder(s): Leslie Kelley Year Founded: 1918
In 1926, eight years after the firm’s founding, Kelley published the company’s first Blue Book. The book, which eventually grew into a series and now includes a price evaluation tool that is accessed millions of times every month, propelled the firm into one of the most trusted sources in the automotive industry.
By the 1960s, KBB pivoted the business from a car dealership (Leslie and his brother Buster were the first to offer colored cars in the 1920s) towards becoming a publisher. The advent of the internet, furthermore, prompted the firm to launch its first website in 1995.
KBB claims that 84 percent of all used vehicle shoppers use its estimate to evaluate a car’s worth. Additionally, its value estimates are used in over 100 countries across the globe (KBB itself operates dedicated sites in Brazil, Canada, as well as the United States).
Its continuous relevance prompted Autotrader to purchase the company, which currently employs over 400 people, in 2010. More than 12 million unique users visit its website every month.
12. Facebook Marketplace
Headquarters: Menlo Park, California Founder(s): Facebook Year Founded: 2016
In 2016, Facebook (now dubbed Meta) launched its Marketplace product, which allows users to purchase and sell a variety of different goods and services. Much like eBay, the classifieds section boasts a considerable amount of car listings as well.
Just five years after launching, in April 2021, Facebook Marketplace recorded its one-billionth user. There are also over one million registered shops on the platform.
Consequently, Facebook works together with car dealerships via its Marketplace for Business offering, which is available in selected countries such as the United States, France, Germany, and Indonesia. Facebook claims that over one million people click on a vehicle listing every month.
Headquarters: Santa Monica, California Founder(s): Ludwig Arons Year Founded: 1966
Edmunds started out as a publisher of printed booklets that provided interested buyers with specifications about certain vehicles. In the early 1990s, it finally went digital by issuing CDs (while also releasing physical books such as Edmunds New Cars & Trucks Buyer’s Guide).
Due to its journalistic background, Edmunds continues to publish dozens of extensive vehicle reviews. In fact, its editorial team reviews over 300 cars every year, totaling more than half a million in driven miles.
In June 1999, it officially rebranded into Edmunds (it was previously known as Edmunds Publications) and unveiled its first-ever website. Part of the firm’s ascend was due to the release of its True Market Value estimate in 2000, which analyses a vehicle’s value based on a variety of provided data points.
Decades later, in April 2021, CarMax announced that it acquired the company for $404 million after it previously invested $50 million in exchange for a minority stake. The year prior, in 2020, Edmunds generated $140 million in revenue.
Headquarters: Boston, Massachusetts Founder(s): Nathan Stretch Year Founded: 2007
AutoTempest aggregates millions of listings from a variety of websites including cars.com, TrueCar, Carvana, CarsDirect, and others.
The site has, furthermore, partnered with Carvana and other platforms to enable users to sell their vehicles.
AutoTempest has partnered with creators such as Tavarish, Throt’l, or SavageGeese to promote its brand across a multitude of channels.
What’s even more impressive is that the firm, to this date, is being led by its founder Nathan Stretch. It also hasn’t taken on any form of outside funding despite competing against firms that are raising hundreds of millions of dollars.
15. Cars & Bids
Headquarters: San Diego, California Founder(s): Blake Machado, Doug DeMuro Year Founded: 2020
Cars & Bids, as the name suggests, is an online vehicle auctioning site founded by YouTube celebrity Doug DeMuro. DeMuro himself has leveraged his more than four million YouTube subscribers to launch the site.
Cars & Bids works just like any other auctioning site in that the highest bidder gets to keep the car. In fact, the first car auctioned off via the platform was DeMuro’s 2012 Mercedes-Benz E 63 AMG Wagon.
Cars & Bids claims it has completed over 7,000 auctions since it has been started in 2020. Those auctioned cars have a combined worth of $130+ million. Lastly, 240,000 members are currently registered on the platform.