Some Carvana buyers have waited months for license plates

Consumer complaints against online auto dealer Carvana have escalated during the pandemic, to the point where some states have slapped the startup with fines and stop-sale orders, citing buyers who have waited months for registration paperwork to be processed and license plates to be delivered.

Buyers in multiple states have reported delays ranging from weeks to months and instances of multiple temporary tags being issued (reportedly even in states where it is not normally legal to do so) with no sign of any permanent registration paperwork or metal tags, according to the Wall Street Journal. There has been a series of reports out of Florida, for example.

CBS Dallas-Fort Worth reported earlier in November that dozens of complaints had been filed against the online dealer in Texas alone.

The outlet pointed to Carvana's Q3 letter to shareholders, which openly acknowledged the challenges the company faces in expanding during the pandemic:

"Our explosive growth in buying cars from customers over the last two quarters created significant operational constraints in our system," it said. "Buying more cars from customers leads to more last mile pickups, more customer care interactions, and more complex title processing requirements, which in turn leads to more complex registration processing. Our teams are responding by enhancing our systems and processes to adapt to this rapid change."

A recent report by Houston's KPRC Channel 2 quoted a woman whose 22-year-old daughter has been waiting 455 days for tags on the 2018 Hyundai Elantra she bought in August 2020. Car dealers in Texas are required to submit registration paperwork within 30-45 days.

“She’s already been told once by a police officer not to be driving the car. It needed to be tagged. She had it for over a year,” Peyton Harden's mom, Jessica Boom, told the station. “They can’t issue any more temporary tags. They can’t. They can’t tag it. What are we doing? Why aren’t you fixing this?”

Carvana did not respond to the Houston station's requests for comment.

Carvana was in the midst of moving into several new markets (anchored by its signature vending-machine-style dealerships) when Covid hit in early 2020. Many state motor vehicle offices were stricken by backlogs of their own when lockdowns became widespread, further compounding what would have already been a difficult task.