CarMax Experience and Survival Guide
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 sales people 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 sales person. 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 complemented 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 drivers 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.
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 aggrevation of selling it myself. Sold.
Sign me up. And he did. I drove home in my new used car.
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 form Las Vegas I will have no quams about buying it if it what my daughter wants.
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.