Gigantic vending machine for cars just opened in Gaithersburg

WASHINGTON — If you’re an I-270 commuter who’s been curious about the tall glass structure that dominates the skyline at Shady Grove Road, here’s your answer.

Online used car selling site Carvana has opened a bona fide car vending machine in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The eight-story, all-glass tower holds up to 30 vehicles and is a fully automated “coin-operated” vending machine.

It is the 10th such car vending machine Carvana has opened, with others in Houston; Austin, Texas; San Antonio; Dallas; Nashville, Tennessee; Raleigh, North Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; and Tampa, Florida.

Carvana — whose online platform lets buyers bypass the dealer and offers free, as-soon-as-next-day vehicle delivery to buyers homes’ or offices — first entered the D.C. market in 2016. Carvana also offers financing.

To pick up their vehicle from a Car Vending Machine, customers get a commemorative, oversized Carvana coin on-site which activates the vending process and transports the car to the delivery bay.

“It’s completely automated. It goes up and grabs your car, brings it all the way down and kind of walks it through the system and puts it in one of our bays. At that point, the front doors open, you walk around and you are able to see your car,” Carvana co-founder Ryan Keeton told WTOP.

It may sound like a novelty, and Carvana says in fact part of the idea is the unique experience for buyers, but it actually can increase efficiency for both Carvana and buyers.

“Because we have four bays and it takes about 20 minutes for us to vend a vehicle, we are able to provide a lot more vehicles into that, which indirectly means, in some cases, you can get that vehicle even sooner by picking it up versus getting it delivered,” Keeton said.

And a big, glass box in a high-visibility location isn’t bad publicity either.

The Carvana Car Vending Machine is at 15710 Shady Grove Road in Gaithersburg and is open Monday through Saturday.

For buyers who aren’t in the D.C.-area and who still want the vending machine experience, Carvana will help. It will subsidize $200 in airfare and arrange transportation from Dulles International Airport.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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