Doing The Unthinkable: Buying A Car From A Website Without Seeing It Or Test-Driving It First

Have I seriously lost my mind? Spending tens of dollars on a heavily depreciated AMG without looking at it or test-driving it first? Would I forever be stuck in hell dealing with a car that will soon be worth 25 cents yet cost me thousands of dollars to just replace the alternator?

These were questions burning in my mind including the most important one them all: when will the next House of Cards episodes be available on Netflix?


If you read this, then you know that I recently sold my car and some of you were outraged that I owned it for only three months.

Three months? How dare you? That doesn’t qualify you as owning a car even though you paid for it and your name was on the title! You’re a loser!

But selling the car quickly comes with many advantages – like being able to get into a different car immediately. Life is too short to drive the same car for too many months in a row – and by too many months, I mean more than three months. Of course, I’m just joking…I mean more like a month and a half.

And this time I’ve decided that instead of buying a used car from a questionable person on Craigslist which I usually do, I would check out one of these online sites that are apparently trying to change the way people buy cars.


I appreciate their efforts, but I wondered – what would it be like to buy a car online the same way you buy laptops or your 13th chapstick? Will someone please invent something to remind me that I must take my chapstick out of my pocket the next time I throw my pants into the wash?

Buying cars from a website can be a risky proposition inevitably raising the question: what happens if you click on a car to buy and then what actually shows up at your door is a total piece of junk?


Given the need to satisfy my curiosity, it was time for me to find out what online car-buying actually entailed. I mean, if I can buy a car without ever having to leave my computer and have “Hoarders” playing in the background while shoving Mac’N Cheese n’ peas into my mouth, then isn’t that really the American dream?

Seems like it was too good to be true – like the time when I thought I received a free Redbox code, only to realize later on that it was one of those lame “rent one, get one free”codes. But I don’t want to watch two movies – I just want one free one. I hate Redbox.


Look at everything these online car-buying sites are promising you when you buy a car from them.

  1. You can get financing directly through them.
  2. Their cars fully certified and some of them offer warranties.
  3. The cars are delivered to you, so you don’t have to worry about the additional costs for shipping.
  4. And you can return the car within a week or so and get your money back if you don’t like it. Really?

Financially, how is this even feasible? Well, it’s not like I really care about that, so why don’t I dive right into how it all worked out for me.

The biggest problem I encountered initially was that there wasn’t enough of a variety of cars on these sites. I was mainly looking for something fun like an M3 or an S5, but there wasn’t much that I came across. The site that seemed to carry specific models that I was interested in was Vroom and so I immediately started taking a closer look at them.


Unfortunately for me, all the S5s on Vroom were all automatics (I wanted a manual), and the M3s were convertibles. Nooo…I hate convertibles!

After a while, I knew I couldn’t be that picky if I was going to use one of these sites since it might take forever to find something I really wanted. But my desire to buy something with a mouse click overwhelmed my desire to get the perfect car and so I started broadening my search.


I started casually browsing in the Mercedes category and randomly came across this AMG that I found intriguing.


I’ve never contemplated owning an AMG since I can’t imagine owning an automatic that comes with frequent and horrendously expensive maintenance costs. But having owned a car that I wasn’t particularly enthused about when it came to its looks, the beautiful CLS55 AMG immediately grabbed my attention. I’ve always thought this was one of the best looking AMGs ever created. This one for sale, had dark grey wheels that fit in nicely with the silver exterior and the price was attractive at 23.7K.

What sealed the deal for me was that the Vroom CL55 AMG came with a 90 day, 6000 mile warranty which was the perfect length for a warranty since that’s about as long as I would probably own the car. And I would never own an AMG without a warranty. Deliberately owning an AMG without a warranty is the same as running a marathon. You know it’s a terrible idea, but you do it anyway.


Vroom has an extensive refurbishing process and so I hoped that the CL55 AMG I bought would be similar to what I saw in the pictures which looked pretty good. Admittedly, I was a bit nervous about buying a car without looking at it in person first. What was I really signing up for here?

I had financing figured out through my local credit union and so I made a $500 deposit and placed it on hold. As soon as I made the deposit, I got an email with a follow-up phone call from their finance manager. That’s when he tried really hard to sell me an extended warranty.


Vroom: But sir, you should get it. It’s really the right way to go.

Me: No it’s ok, I won’t be keeping the car for that long.

Vroom: Oohhh – kaaay.

The tone of his voice indicated that what he really meant to say was “you are so screwed.”


He was probably right if I was going to keep the car for longer than 90 days, but I wasn’t.

Since it was no-haggle pricing, there wasn’t much else to sell me on other than extended warranties. I’m so glad that the AMG came with some kind of a warranty, at least. I’ve had a couple friends that have owned used AMGs and have spent upwards of $5K a year on maintenance. In fact, one of them got so sick of the repair bills on his E55 AMG, that he sold it for a Camry. Now, think about that for a moment. You have to reach a certain level of despair to even think about doing that. It’s like one step away from totally giving up on life.


So the next day, I got the paperwork FedExed to me. I signed it all immediately and sent it back to Vroom along with the wire transfer. I did this all while eating chicken wings and drinking beer, never once leaving my desk. It was awesome.


I should’ve called up Vroom to apologize: “I’m sorry – but you may have gotten a bunch of paperwork with wing-finger stains on them.”

As soon as I mailed the documents in, my harassment of Vroom began. I have no patience so I called right away and reached out to Vroom through every channel possible. Chat window, phone calls, emails – I probably talked to everyone at Vroom that was in customer service.


Me: Hey, where’s my car? I want it now! I wanted it yesterday!

Vroom: Hold on…calm down!

It sounded like things were moving along but I couldn’t help myself. So I made another ten phone calls to Vroom before the day was over. I’m sure that by the end of the day I was referred to as the “asshole soon-to-be AMG owner who thinks he is so rich by driving around in a 10 year old AMG that costs only as much as a slightly used Accord.


Meanwhile, Vroom told me things like “the car is in final prep”, and that “the delivery manager would contact me”.

“Final prep” – ooh, this better be good.

The car would arrive at my doorstep in roughly 7-10 days although I didn’t get a specific date or time. I would say that the more time that went by, the more I started wondering if I had made the right decision. Doubt crept in. What if the car is a piece of crap? What if I don’t like it and they don’t want to take their car back? What if the latest House of Cards season is worse than I could’ve ever imagined? That would be a shocking blow.


And so the anxiety continued until a couple days later I checked and I still came across no updates on House of Cards’ next season – I mean the car.

Then out of the blue, I got an email that the car was going to be shipped. Because I’m in Austin, I was going to receive the car that exact same day which was exciting news!


Not long after that email about shipment, I got another email from the person who would be towing the car down to Austin and along with it I received the tracking information. It was cool to be able to watch the car being moved from Dallas to Austin with an ETA so I could plan for its arrival.


It was like Christmas in the month of November. A CLS55 AMG showing up at my doorstep? What could be better? Agghh….the anticipation was killing me.

When the car finally showed up, it was better than I could have imagined – and here’s why. When you buy a used car…let’s be honest, unless it’s a garage queen or never driven, it’s far from flawless. You would expect the car to have scratched up seats, dog hair on the carpet and a stain or two or three. What do people do inside their cars?? It’s probably best not to dig too deep into this one.


Occasionally, you are also overwhelmed by an incredible amount of air freshener when you open up the car door clearly indicating that the owner is trying to mask the stench of someone who died in the car a few days ago.

This certainly takes away from the excitement of buying a “new to you” vehicle. If you spend many thousands of dollars on a car, as used as it might be, you still wouldn’t want to see something worn out with dents and scratches.


When the Vroom truck showed up with the car, it felt like I got a brand new car. The 2006 CLS55 AMG was so clean that I could hardly believe that it was almost 10 years old with 61k miles on it. I was also surprised at how much the guy who towed the car down from Dallas knew about it. He mentioned how they touched up the paint and fixed a bunch of rock chips. The interior was so well cleaned that even if someone did die in the car, it certainly didn’t smell like it.

This wasn’t bad at all for $25.5. A car that originally cost $100K was now a 4th of the original retail price and it came with a warranty!


As the CLS55 AMG rolled down the trailer, it was quite a sight to behold. A beast of a machine with a supercharged 5.4L V8 is one hell of a car; it sounded great and had a menacing presence.


I wasn’t sure what to expect with this whole car buying process but if this is how it all works, then I’ll definitely do this again. Not having to deal with negotiating or people trying to screw you over when buying cars makes it all worth it – especially for me, who is on a car buying-and-selling spree.

Craigslist – it’s been fun but this isn’t working out. I’ve found someone else.

Torque Affair is about exploring my fascination with cars; I’m always on the lookout for things that interest me in the car world.


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