This is the tale of two very different car buying experiences.
In November (2020), my wife and I decided to buy two cars. Being city people, we did not use our cars too often pre-COVID (mainly drove the kids to school, soccer practice, etc.). I personally got around town with Lyft or Uber. But once COVID hit, we found ourselves in the car much more often (and taking a lot of family road trips). So we thought it was time for an upgrade.
At the time, we had two cars. The workhorse was a 2012 Honda CRV — which is an amazing car and has served our family really well. We got the car right before our first child was born and it is extremely well built (the only issue we had in nine years was having to replace the battery).
We had a second car, an Audi, which we leased and the lease was coming due. So we had some urgency to go car shopping.
We have a very narrow driveway so we determined the max width of a car we can buy is 74 inches. That eliminates a lot of car buying options for us but we were able to find two cars we really liked that worked for us: a Tesla Model 3 and an SUV from a car manufacturer that will be nameless but we will subsequently call CarX.
First, let’s talk about the amazing Tesla buying experience.
There is absolutely no need to talk to a Tesla salesperson if you don’t want to. If you know what you want (and we did a lot of research), you can just go to the web site and buy it. Buying a Tesla is a little confusing and Tesla.com could use a lot of UI work for the buying experience (I had to fill out the same form multiple times) … but it did work (with some minor annoyances).
One of the cool things about buying a Tesla is that you can basically customize everything and then they make the car. It is a lot different from getting the car from a dealer where you have to make compromises of all sorts of features and color of the car.
In early November I was able to order the Tesla directly on the web site without talking to anyone. It was an engineer’s dream.
But then, it got even better.
I got regular updates from Tesla (via a Tesla mobile app and direct SMS) on where our car was in the process — kind of like being able to follow your Doordash order. They estimated it would take 6-8 weeks to get the car made. And in 7 weeks, our car was ready. And then it got even better.
I got a text message from Tesla saying the car was ready and they would drop it off at my house! I texted back that it was cool with me if they came. Two days later I got a text saying the car was in my driveway! I was thinking — waaaaa?
I run to the driveway and there is a gorgeous car sitting there — but no human. Tesla has contactless delivery!
I was able to open the door to the car with my Tesla mobile app and start driving. It was easy and glorious. (I do suggest watching a few videos about how to drive the Tesla).
+100 points for Tesla.
A dark-side tale.
At the same time we bought the Tesla, we also bought CarX (in early November, 2020). The buying experience for CarX was not nearly as good.
I went to the CarX web site to configure the car I wanted (after doing a lot of research). Took a few times for me to configure because it kept not saving my profile. They finally helped me get in touch with a dealer.
CarX salesperson was very nice — all I needed was a quote. But she kept sending me quotes on cars that I did not want. Or on configurations I did not want. We were finally able (after over 20 back-and-forths) to get an arrangement on the right configuration of CarX and was promised the car would be worked on in December and ready by January. I sent them a deposit.
Since then, I have heard from CarX just once … to let me know there was a brief delay. As of this writing (early March 2021), I still have not gotten the car (4 months later). And I have not gotten any updates since January on when the car will be arriving.
(note: after pinging CarX during the process of writing this, they now say the car will arrive in mid-April — which will be over 5 months after putting down a deposit for the car).
-300 points for CarX.
A lot of people love Tesla but they always talk about the car and how great the car is. That’s all true. Their cars are amazing and beautiful and really fun to drive (and my kids love the Caraoke). But one of the reasons I love Tesla is that their buying experience was so much better than anything I have experienced. It was an easy, smooth process where they took speed and ease (and not just price) into account. Most people who buy a Tesla (and CarX) are less price sensitive and care a lot about service.
To really accelerate innovation, how do we get more third+-generation Americans practicing engineer/science?