• One year ago, CarMax ($NYSE:KMX) listed more than 50,000 vehicles for sale on its website. Today, it lists less than 32,000. 
  • One year ago, Carvana ($NYSE:CVNA) listed 10,000 vehicles for sale on its website. Today, it lists more than 21,000.
  • In the past year, CarMax's online inventory dropped 36% while Carvana's increased 110%.

Is Carvana about to surpass CarMax as the largest online car dealership, at least in terms of inventory? The numbers certainly appear to reflect this. Here's what we're seeing.

CarMax closed at least half of its physical locations, which have historically served as the company's main vehicle acquisition method: bring a car in, get a quote, get a check. But with the locations closures, CarMax's inventory has dwindled.

Meanwhile, Carvana has been more bullish, forcing staff to return to work despite its e-commerce and digital-first model. Meanwhile, the company has been running more TV ads than ever as it leans into a contact-free environment with messages promising to "change the way people buy cars". 

When we look at inventory numbers compared on the same graph, one begins to wonder if Carvana, in its e-commerce and contact-free swagger is about to surpass CarMax as the largest used-car dealership. 

Of course, inventory is just one of many ways to measure the success — or failure — of a dealership, but shrinking inventory at CarMax while the same grows at Carvana likely reflects the different approaches the two companies have taken to physical locations and e-commerce, respectively.

When it comes to how much chatter each brand gets on Facebook, CarMax still leads, with 12,000 mentions per day to Carvana's 5,000. That wasn't always the case, though — in April, daily mentions were virtually the same after both tumbled in March as the pandemic shut down car shopping in general.

About the Data:

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.