Would you buy a car from a vending machine?
“Hey, can I borrow some change for the vending machine? I could really go for a car right now.”
Car vending machines are a thing, you see. And the latest, greatest iteration opened its doors (Its slot? Its little pushy flap thing?) last December in everyone’s favorite city-state, Singapore. I say “greatest” simply because this one happens to dispense Porsches, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and all the other unobtanium exotics we so often dream of purchasing from a vending machine. Pack of Camel Lights and a Bentley Continental, please.
The 15-story glass-and-metal structure houses up to 60 cars for Autobahn Motors. I’m pretty sure there’s more to it than simply inserting a few coins (there’s always a catch, isn’t there?), but once a car has been purchased, the nifty machine does its thing and delivers the buyer’s selection in about two minutes.
Because I never carry spare change, I’ve not actually had the pleasure of seeing the machine at work with my own eyes, but I’m really hoping it doesn’t use one of those metal spiral delivery mechanisms that simply corkscrews your $200,000 exotic from its perch. From 15 stories up, that’s a lot of smashed cars, no? Such a tumble is hard enough on fragile Cheetos and over-carbonated Coke—and in that instance we’re only talking a drop of about two feet.
The machine in Singapore is not the first car vending machine. There are also car vending machines in Japan and, rumor has it, Europe. Phoenix-based used car dealer Carvana has been installing them across America over the last two years, with 21 locations to date. The contents, however, aren’t nearly as sexy as Aston Martins or Funions. No, we’re talking run-of-the-mill stuff like Scion TCs, Hyundai Velosters, and Chevy Malibus. I’ll take a stale Whatchamacallit and an RC cola, thanks.
Other than the “build up, not out” ethos that helps alleviate sprawl in cities and, in this specific instance, allows a car dealership to place its stock in a much smaller footprint, there’s really no practical purpose to these things. I mean, they sure do look cool. But don’t the maintenance costs alone outweigh the low overhead associated with, I don’t know, a big asphalt lot? Heck, a big gravel lot.
I turned to the Internet for some guidance on the costs associated with vending machines, and here’s what I found on the site vendingsolutions.com:
“If you are looking to purchase a soda vending machine and stock it yourself, they generally start around $3,600 for a quality unit. Snack machines start at around $3,000.” That seems pretty reasonable, especially for a quality unit, but you’ve got to figure those numbers go up astronomically if you want something the size of a large apartment building that holds a zillion dollars in cars.
“Most soda vending machines run on 115 volts at about 10.5 amps. Most commercial grade three-prong outlets will be acceptable to power a vending machine. Power consumption tends to run about 3.1–4.4 kWh/day for the lighting and 3.5–4 kWh/day for the refrigeration. The power consumption can vary depending on if the machine is placed outside or in other extreme environments.” Singapore is a tropic place with a yearly average temperature of 86 degrees and all the sticky humidity to match. I’d call that an extreme environment. Assuming you don’t want to melt your cars in that big glass tower, I’ve got to assume you’re running a/c up in that vending machine 24/7/365. That’s a costly proposition.
I’ve obviously lost the plot here, because the real point is this: People are selling cars out of vending machines now. And if CarMax, Craigslist, or the old-fashioned dealer down the street with the pennants and inflatable wacky waving tubeman just won’t cut it, dig out the spare change and make your selection.