Five Things You Need To Know About CarMax

When it comes right down to it, CarMax is just like any other used car dealer

A few weeks ago, I headed out to my local CarMax to test drive a 2012 Nissan Leaf. I chose CarMax because of its low-hassle test drive policy and supposed low-pressure sales/business model.I was even thinking of buying from them when the time came. Now, not so much.  Here are a few things I found out during my visit.

Carmax, home of no-haggle pricing


If you place a car on hold via their website, they assume you’re going to buy it no matter what you tell them. Not a huge hassle in the long run, but I no sooner finished reserving the car online than I received a call from a “sales associate” who agreed to meet me the next day.

I emphasized to him that I was in no position to buy, just heading out there to test drive and to either add or delete the Leaf from my short list. Period. “Got it.” he said. “No worries.”

They assumed I was going to buy it anyway, as evidenced by the sales associate’s upbeat attitude and the giant “hold for sale” pricetag on the windshield, and the sales song and dance I got.


Their CA salespeople are on commission, so if you’re a CA shopper and are expecting low-pressure tactics, think again. While the price of the vehicle is in fact their no-haggle take-it-or-leave it price, they will still try to chase a higher commission, which can get old quickly.

Gods know the sales associate tried to talk me out of the Leaf. He tried, he really did. He cited battery life statistics that were inaccurate, downplayed the overall awesomeness of the car, and really pushed the CarMax extended warranty and service plans.

I did my homework in advance and knew he was full of shit.

All in pursuit of a higher commission, no doubt.

They will sell you on their on their MaxCare program. Hard. My opinion? Think long and carefully about this one. You’ll be limited to CarMax service facilities. Based on the local user reviews, I’d run like hell.

If you already have a reliable automotive tech lined up, stick with them.  If you don’t yet have one, get recommendations from friends or by checking on Yelp.

Don’t take CarmMax’s word for it on their “125-point inspection.” CarMax, like any other dealer, is in the sales business, not the servicing business. It’s their goal to move inventory–lots of it–quickly.

The second you sign for your car, take it to an automotive shop that is familiar with the make and model of your car, just like you would with any other used car.

You may end up having to shell out for an outside inspection, but it could save you thousands of dollars if your new-to-you car is a potential money pit. By getting the inspection done soon after buying the car, you have the opportunity to return it within the 5-day trial period.

Despite their no-haggle pricing model, Carmax is in business for the same reason other dealerships are in business: to make money.  Think twice about add-ons such as their MaxCare plan. Obtain your own outside financing or come in with cash. Have your car inspected by your own mechanic during the trial period (5 days in CA).

I’m not sure what all the hype is about since CarMax really is no different from any other used car dealer.

Do your research, know what to expect, think twice about add-ons, and you could drive away in a great car that will be your sidekick for years to come.


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