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The Carvana Odyssey: Part III – The Difference Is Detailed

They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. When it comes to the remarkable journey your Carvana vehicle takes from the moment it is acquired by us, to the moment it is delivered to your door, the points that plot its incredible course are both numerous and meticulously executed. At Carvana, transparency lies at the heart of everything we do, and we believe you deserve an up close and personal view of the important steps that lead to the completion of a Carvana purchase.

Our multi-part series called “The Carvana Odyssey” serves to reveal just how much energy, effort, and passion goes in to providing you with your Carvana purchase by offering an in-depth and behind-the-scenes look at the processes and people that make the new way to buy a car possible. The Carvana Odyssey continues with us taking a look at the process of making sure that what you see online is what you receive when you purchase a vehicle from us. This process starts with our Annotation team, who ensures every feature, spec, and imperfection is correctly notated once a vehicle is finished at a Carvana Inspection Center. To help bring clarity to this process, we spoke with Nick Webb, one of our Vehicle Merchandising Specialists, to shine a light on Carvana’s approach to assuring that every vehicle is accurately showcased online.


From practically the moment a Carvana vehicle finishes inspection and is photographed in Carvana’s 360-degree photo studio, the vehicle is handed off to Carvana’s Annotation team. In short, the Annotation team is responsible for accurately detailing and displaying the vehicles you see in Carvana’s inventory when you begin browsing the site. The process, however, is one that requires supreme attention to detail, as well as a tolerance for work that can be tedious at times.

To begin, the Annotation team is provided with a set of vehicle details for a specific vehicle from members of Carvana’s car buying team. For the most part, these details derive from three different data sources – General Tab, DataOne, and KBB (Kelley Blue Book) Decode. This is in addition to vAuto, which is a dealership management tool that provides comprehensive used car market data for the Annotation team. Along with this critical information, the Annotation team also uses vehicle photos as a guide to help verify certain vehicle features, characteristics, and qualities.

Once all these different data points have been gathered, the annotators take this information – plus window sticker data from the vehicle itself – and go to work determining which information is applicable to a specific vehicle, and which information is not.

“Every imperfection, detail, spec, and feature that we display as a ‘hotspot’ during the user’s 360-degree virtual tour is put together by using all of the data that was given to the annotation team,” says Webb. “In addition to some information that was pre-populated by a VIN decoder.

“During this process, annotators are also responsible for spotting imperfections or any vehicle description errors that weren’t originally called out. In certain scenarios, the annotators will request for a vehicle to be re-inspected or re-photographed depending on the level of imperfection or error.”

Carvana’s Nick Webb demonstrates part of the annotation process.


To more effectively combat vehicle description errors that find their way to the site, Carvana’s Annotation team uses the aforementioned window sticker data directly obtained from the vehicle’s manufacturer. According to Webb, it’s the most authoritative data source at the annotators’ disposal.

“It’s truly the most accurate and useful data covering the most coveted details about a vehicle,” says Webb. “We’re constantly trying to streamline the number of sources of data that we receive, and having that window sticker data allows us to do just that.

“Instead of having all this room for error from all these different sources, the window sticker data not only affords us more authoritative data, but as a result, also provides us with more time to review whether certain features work or whether certain features exist on a car. If an error occurs, we know it’s coming from a singular, streamlined source instead of multiple that we’ll have to sift through in order to pinpoint the inaccuracy.”

Without the window sticker data, Webb says it on average take an annotator 20 to 25 minutes to complete their assessment of a vehicle. With the window sticker data however, Webb says the time necessary to annotate a vehicle is decreased by roughly 30 percent. Over time, this has enabled the Annotation team to greatly increase the number of vehicles they “publish” to the site per day.

“As of now, we publish approximately 150 vehicles to the site per day and we expect that number to only increase as we continue expanding operations across the country.”

The act of publishing a vehicle to Carvana’s online inventory isn’t as cut and dry as pressing a button, however. In order for a vehicle to be publish, the vehicle must meet certain requirements, such as having a title and fully passing the inspection and perfection process.

“We have certain functions in place to ensure that only approved vehicles make their way to the site,” says Webb. “Once all those requirements are met in our system, it’s only then that a car can actually be published to the site. Without meeting these requirements, the car won’t hit the site even if someone hits publish.”


While Carvana’s Annotation team is able to churn through a significant number of vehicles per day, there is a great deal of reporting that takes place even after a vehicle lands on the site. According to Webb, this “post-annotation” reporting aims to find vehicle description errors that somehow slipped through the cracks during initial annotation phase.

“We don’t stop assuming there aren’t any errors just because it went through the annotation process,” says Webb. “We’re always looking for odometer errors, if there items that don’t matchup from all the inputs we’ve had entered into the system, check for trim errors, etc.

“Even when a car is listed on the site, we’re constantly looking at these reports and other reports trying to figure out if we have any major issues that we need to look into.”

Click to read Part I of The Carvana Odyssey [2]

Click to read Part II of The Carvana Odyssey [3]

Ready to begin your own car buying quest? Search our inventory of thousands! [4]