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CarMax Experience and Survival Guide

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My Experience With CarMax

I had heard about CarMax from a business associate. He told me that his sister had purchased three cars from them and was very happy with the whole process. So as I started out on the trail of looking for my daughter’s first car, we headed for the local CarMax to see what it was like.

I started noticing the attention to details from the very first moment at the dealership. The parking spaces were actually wide enough to park in and open the car doors without having to pull in my gut. It also means that cars are not as likely to get door dings in the parking lot.

We entered the dealership, and I was prepared to tell the hoard of used car salespeople that “no I am just looking for now and will call you if I need you,” but it was free sailing out to the lot where the rows upon rows of cars were parked. We walked up and down the aisles and saw that they were arranged by type and brands. It was far better than looking at pictures on the internet. My daughter truly could get a feel for what we were looking at. And the prices were in big numbers right on the window.

Having my new iPhone with me, I decided this was a great opportunity to check out the prices. So I went on the web and found that the prices were closer to wholesale than they were to retail in just about all the cases. I was surprised, to say the least. Pleasantly surprised. And all of these cars seemed to be in much better than average condition. I later found out that is because of a 125 point inspection that every car is put through and the policy of only putting the best cars on their lot. If they don’t meet their standards, they are sent to auction.

So we sat in cars, poked around, compared prices to the internet and still were not “bothered” by a salesperson. Now I had some questions. I went into the showroom and up to the centrally located reception desk and asked to speak with someone about a couple of cars. The receptionist was most pleasant and asked for my name and said she would have someone with me in a moment.

A couple of minutes later a clean-cut young man introduced himself to me, and I was reminded of the training THe FIrst Tee gives all of its students in how to “meet and greet” someone. You remove your cap and glasses, make eye contact, speak clearly and give your name. Then you make a nice comment about something to the person you are greeting. Well, this young man obviously knew what to do. He looked me straight in the eye, told me his name was Kamal, shook my hand firmly, and after I gave him my name he introduced himself to each of my children in turn. Then he complimented me on my family and asked how he might be of assistance — a very unassuming and refreshing introduction.

We asked to go for a test drive in a car. With a quick photocopy of my driver's license, we were ready to go. Now it so happened the car I was interested in was on the showroom floor. Without even a moment of hesitation, he opened the double doors that were designed to allow for a car to be driven in and out of the showroom easily and got the car out to the street for us.\

While we were driving, he had the opportunity to tell me of some of the policies and features of CarMax. Okay, I am thinking it is part of the sales pitch and we will see if it is true or not.

When we were done with the test drive he asked if there were any questions he could answer or other cars I would like to drive. As I had some about the inventory and other cars that were available he sat with me at one of their computer stations for my next surprise. CarMax will show you the inventory on all of their lots around the country! Maybe you want the car you drove in a different color and it is in the next town over. They will find it in their inventory. If it is close by they will arrange to have it transferred to your local dealership at no cost or obligation. If it is a bit further away then they will have a transfer charge to pay for the cost of moving the vehicle. I am in central California and the vehicle I was interested in was in Las Vegas. For $149.00 they would transfer the car and when it arrived let me have three days to come look at it and evaluate it. No obligation other than paying the $149 to transfer the car. Heck this is my daughters first car and I said why not. But wait, before the request is put in to transfer the car we looked at everything on the vehicle - a report that is more extensive than Car Fax had ever hoped to be. THen we sent an email to the Las Vegas showroom asking questions about the car and its condition - even down to “is there any hint of cigarette smoke in the car?” Passing muster online the car is on the way for us to evaluate in person. My daughter is happy, I am happy everything is good.

Except

There was a car I liked on the lot as well. I knew I was going to be selling my miles challenged truck in the next month or two and looking for something for myself. So I thought I would test their advertisements of them willing to give you a price they would buy your car for. While they were looking over and appraising my car, Kamal and I went through the car I was interested in detail. He also went thorough a presentation on his computer that was thorough and complete about the process that CarMax goes through on every vehicle.

Now I had done some research on my truck before and knew what I could see it for at auction, and what others like it were selling for on Craig’s List. When the price came back, I have to say I was surprised. It was a few hundred dollars above what I thought it might get at auction and only about $500 less than I would get for it if I went through all of the aggravation of selling it myself. Sold.

Sign me up. And he did. I drove home in my new, used car.

However

I realized the next day as I was driving in the new car that it was not what I really wanted. It didn’t have some of the bells and whistles that I wanted on a car. Including navigation. Kamal was off, but the supervisor on duty took my call. When I explained that I wanted to return the car, she said “Fine.” I was taken back. No argument, no hassles, just a happy voice saying would I like to drive it until the transferred car came in or return it now. She was going to let me drive it around with no obligation to keep it or buy the transferred car when it came in! I was amazed. I asked to come down and return it that day. When I arrived at the business office, they were already apprised that I was coming in. One person took the keys and did a quick inspection of the car to be sure it wasn’t damaged while I signed a couple of pieces of paper to undue the buy. THen as they had not deposited my check yet, they gave me my check for the purchase back and another check for the sale of my truck to them. I was out of there in 5 minutes! No hard sell, no fuss, just happy helpful people following through on the Car Max policies.

Everyone I encountered at CarMax was pleasant, courteous, professional and just a joy to do business with. I know when the car arrives from Las Vegas I will have no qualms about buying it if it what my daughter wants.

Survival Hints

Go to CarMax.com before you go to the showroom. It is amazing how easy they have made it to navigate their nationwide inventory. Read up on their policies - they are true to their word on all of them.

Don’t go to a CarMax location expecting to be “sold” a car - you won’t be. You will, however, be given as much information as you need to make your own decision.

Do go to CarMax when you are ready to buy a car - not before. You will be like a kid in a candy store, and you will want to drive away with something!

Know what your trade-in is worth to you before you go in and what price you really would be willing to accept for it. They will give you a price, and it has nothing to do with your needs or expectations, but rather what they are willing to buy the car for. It is up to you if you sell it to them or not.

If you are going to get financing, they will help. Ask them to qualify you first so that you are not looking for cars out of your price range.

Give yourself enough time to enjoy the experience and the making of some new friends.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2010 vntmktdad

Comments

Scott on August 11, 2019:

Ive used Carmax and enjoy being able to track prices on their website as well as do research. It is easy, but Im afraid Jay is somewhat correct- prices can be higher than other dealers (who may also be willing to negotiate) and they offer munimum dollar for your trade. At our last purchase they offered $1000 for our trade. I knew what it was worth and that was a small fraction. We drove both vehicles home. I sold our old vehicle for $4000 within a month. I like Carmax, but sometimes they arent the best option. They do seem to offer better condition vehicles.

Bob Garing on July 24, 2019:

Is this an ad?

wayne A on June 25, 2019:

What kind of fees does carmax try to charge you? doc fees, dealer prep, cleaning, etc? All I want to see is the price, sales tax, minor fees to get title and plates transferred - no detaling, additional fees of any kind, tinted windows, VIN etching etc. Thanks!

Nick on June 05, 2019:

I suspect Jay is actually a threatened employee at a used car lot. Carmax has been awesome. The cost of transferring a car is much less than what you would pay elsewhere and their haggle free prices are generally a good deal.

Max on October 24, 2018:

Do they let you apply the transfer fee to the purchase price if you do buy the car?

vntmktdad (author) on March 26, 2018:

Jay, I am definitely not employed in any way shape or form by Carnax. Read the whole article. I tell you to do your own research on prices before you go in. I recently used them again and found the prices they will pay you slightly better than KELLY Blue Book and in line with wholesale bluebook. Obviously you can get more from a private party. And take the risk when you buy a car from a private party. You can’t take it back to a private party in the first week for a full refund. Many of us are not mechanics to know how to get a solid car from a private party

Jay on March 26, 2018:

This article was likely written by someone in the CarMax corporate office. Its full of misleading information. Their prices are way above what you can get at another dealership. They want to overcharge you for a car and low ball you on your trade. Don't recommend them at all.

sqt on June 02, 2014:

I'm glad to see someone put their honest opinion of CarMax online. I see so many negative reviews that I'm thinking there are a lot car dealers that are feeling threatened by CarMax. We have purchased two cars from them and I have nothing but positive things to say. I have no desire to go back to a regular car dealer and jump through all of their hoops just to buy a car.

El Ray on May 27, 2010:

I've purchased 2 luxury vehicles from CarMax and will more than likely buy another vehicle there.

To get the best deal for yourself ... do your homework online before you go to CarMax. Use the CarMax website to check out the available inventory. Thoroughly research the car you want. Stick with cars that are still under Mfg. warranty.

Katie McMurray from Westerville on May 27, 2010:

Great topic, I enjoyed reading your hub. Bravo! Thanks and Peace :)

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