Buying a used car from CarMax - tell me your stories (good or bad)

My stepdaughter’s car broke down on her last week, so my wife and I are heading out with her today to do some used car shopping. We are planning on heading up to Kansas City where there is a CarMax dealer. My wife has done some searching on their website and found a few vehicles that she is interested in looking at.

Has anyone here bought a used car through CarMax? What are the positives or negatives about getting a used car through them as opposed to any other used car dealer?

It appears they have a “no haggle” pricing policy, which is fine with me because I’m not much of a haggler, but I realize that also translates into paying a higher price than you otherwise might.

I assume all the cars have a limited warranty/guarantee so that if something craps out in the first week or so, we can bring it back. But I also assume that their selection of cars is less likely to include “junkers” that are more prone to having issues once you drive off the lot. Is that a safe assumption?

Anything else I should be aware of?

I do not have first-hand experience in buying a car from CarMax, but I asked about them when I was looking for a used vehicle, and most people made those points: you pay a higher price in exchange for the convenience of no haggle and the peace of mind of not having significant problems. I can certainly attest to first part–their normal prices are definitely higher than other outlets. The upside is that they often have some vehicles on sale that are more competitively priced.

If you are in a hurry to get a good, used car, and you need financing to swing it, then CarMax is for you.

I sympathize with the OP - my adult daughter recently moved east to live here near us and I had to help her buy a car. I haven’t bought a low-end used car in decades and what with the special conditions here (limited range of acceptable vehicles plus candidates being scattered over a 50-mile radius of 2-lane roads) it took me almost a month.

If you don’t have a decent “used car row” to search and don’t want to do a lot of homework on each candidate car, I’d say CarMax is a better choice than any new-car dealer’s used department. The tradeoff will likely be a 20-25% premium paid for the convenience.

I have bought two cars through CarMax. They provide good financing options for anyone, their warranties are excellent, and all the cars are very thoroughly checked. I drove the first car 60,000 miles before had any trouble, and then the warranty covered all but $100. This one is holding strong after 20,000+ miles.

I negotiate large deals for a living, but no amount of haggling can get the truth about the car’s state of repair from most local dealerships.


CarFax plus a mechanical survey from a third party. This $100 or so is a better insurance policy than anything that can be written on paper or offered by a seller. In a bad run, you might do this to two vehicles that don’t work out before you get to one that does. Buying a used car is ALWAYS a gamble; this small amount lets you insure your bet.

In my case, I had complete dealer paperwork for the major 100k service ($2200 worth) as well as some minor mechanical work done by the mechanic/dealer before I took it home. You can’t always be that lucky, so CF+survey is your best bet on cars that you’re willing to buy… “if.”

I last bought a car from them in 2006, but I really appreciated that they had an exchange policy. I had to buy a car quickly and ended up with a car I really disliked driving. I took it back and got the truck I’m still driving.

No haggling. The salespeople are motivated for you to buy something, but they aren’t motivated to sell you anything in particular. It was very low-pressure. The cars are used, so there are no options. What you see is what you get. The only hardsell I got was on a warranty, and they didn’t push hard at all. More of a softsell. I didn’t get one and wouldn’t have needed it if I did. Bought an 06 Ford sedan back in 09 and no regrets!

Huh? Like you can get the truth about the cars state of repair from Car Max? They know just as little (or in some cases less) about a given car’s condition than A local dealership does. Example I helped my sister but a car from my dealership’s used car lot. We had sold the car to a local businessman who had done all the services with us exactly on time. Our used car dept. had access to the complete history of the car from day one. Had this car gone to CM their sales dept would have no access to this information.

Pros to CM:
Large selection
No haggle pricing
Exchange program
Decent extended warranties available

Price premium
No history on car other than car fax
After sales service not as good

One the whole I would say CM is several steps above a local used car lot, but not as good as shopping at a quality dealership. Two reasons

  1. No factory certified used cars.
  2. Quality of base product. My dealership takes in about 250 used cars a month. We keep roughly 125 of those for our used car dept. we do our best to choose the best cars for our own lot, the rest we wholesale where they are sold to used car lots.

My current car is from Carmax and I couldn’t have been happier with the experience. Less than 3 hours from drive-on-lot to drive-off-with-car. I test drove several - tempting myself with a year old Charger with more than 400hp - and got one that I liked, was affordable and could handle.

They took my 120K old econobox as a trade for $2500 and swapped out my custom radio as a part of the deal. It was a good experience all around.

I imagine this varies somewhat based on what your local used car market is like, but when I was last shopping for a newish used car, the prices at CarMax were absurdly high. There’s not much point to the “no haggle” gimmick if their prices are higher than the asking prices at any used car lot. Even the dealer used car lots’ asking prices were somewhat lower.

Bottom line, CarMax is for people who want to pretend they can buy a used car like they buy a refrigerator. IMHO, it just isn’t so, and so unless you’ve got some sort of complete and utter phobia about traditional dealerships, they’re not worth it. If you don’t like haggling, just don’t haggle at a traditional dealership and you’ll almost certainly still end up paying less and getting just as nice of a car.

As a bit of an aside, one situation where CarMax may be worth it is with some notoriously unreliable high-end cars. As part of their whole scheme to commodify used car buying, their extended warranties cost the same regardless of what kind of car you buy. For example this guy got a 6 year/67k mile warranty from CarMax on a Land Rover for $3k. That same warranty would be total ripoff for something like a Honda Accord, but on the Rover it’s pretty much guaranteed to pay for itself and then some.

I wouldn’t argue that lease returns and certified pre-owned are fabulous buys… if you’re in that price bracket. I wouldn’t buy anything else these days for a regular driver.

The problem with shopping at “quality” dealerships is that they rarely have anything under the $10k mark, sometimes little under the $20-25k floor. If you’re shopping in the $4-6k range, you won’t find much at new-car dealerships.

You are shopping at the wrong dealerships. My dealership has lots of cars in the sub 10k range. A few as low as 4k.
Word of warning. The market has moved and a 4k used car from anyone is pretty much a bottom feeder. Super high miles and rough around the edges. ( At least here in So Cal)
Get up around 8-10k and you start to find lots of good cars.
At about 12k you will start to find factory certified cars.

Some larger dealerships will maintain a lower-cost used inventory, as much as a come-on as anything else. There sure isn’t much profit in the under-$10k market unless you specialize in it.

Not everyone can get into five figures for a car, no matter how good the reasons (mostly, longer-term value for the money). I simply didn’t want to spend more than about $5k for a third car to be driven for a few years by my daughter, so I did my shopping in that range. Came away with a 120k-mile Subaru with all the heavy 100k maintenance done; looks new, good for the next 100k. But I know cars (although you may disagree on some points :slight_smile: ), and do my homework… and the latter is what any car buyer, new or used, any level, needs to do before even looking through the want ads. Too many people bumble out into the shark tank unprepared.

CarMax is a pretty good middle option. A little more money, a lot more safety net for the unskilled or hasty buyer, and pricing options below what most quality dealers can offer.

We bought our car at carmax and we couldn’t be happier with it. We paid about $1000 more than we probably would have if we had gone to a standard dealer and negotiated it but we were moving to another state (and going from an area where having a car is completely unnecessary to an area where having a car is pretty much a must) and needed a vehicle immediately. It was worth it to be able to walk onto the lot and drive away an hour later knowing that if the car turned out to be crap we could exchange it without a problem. And honestly it was worth it not to have to negotiate with a car salesman. I’ve done that before and found it to be an incredibly unpleasant experience so it was well worth it to me not to have to sit and haggle with someone.

I haven’t haggled on a car in 25+ years - another advantage of doing all the homework. I walk in, name a reasonable price and terms, and they have five minutes to nod. I have a good idea of what their minimum acceptable profit is and give them a little padding over that. But once they nod, there is no un-nod… one of my terms is “no dealer fees for anything at all over price+destination”… and I walked out on a $65k purchase awaiting only signature because they included, and would not waive, a “documentation fee.”

But yep, I’d agree that a simple no-haggle policy makes CM worth a little more.

I LOVED my CarMax experience. I had about $20,000 to play with, and had spent weeks going from dealer to dealer trying to get a decent price on a new car. After having a dealer actually refuse to tell me their price on a car (seriously, it was like an absurd comedy routine), I’d had enough. I went to CarMax, tried out a bunch of cars they had on the lot, looked at their website and found a car within their ‘we’ll transport it to our lot so you can try it out’ distance, and ended up buying that the day it came in. I never felt pressured, I never felt like I was wasting the salesman’s time (a trick the dealers should learn), and I got a great one-owner car with a clean history for $3000 under Kelly Blue Book value, and that included the add-on warranty. I’ve had to take it in twice for simple little things, and their service center has been great as well.

I’ve been telling folks for the past three years how awesome CarMax is- very highly recommend them.

I bought my current car at CarMax a few months ago. I had a search on the web site active, looking for particular features. Once came available, and I was able to have it moved to my local dealer for $100. (It was only a few hours away…it would cost more if the vehicle was further.)
It showed up, I test drove it, and bought it. There was a 5 day return policy, and a three day refinance option. So I technically financed it through CarMax, but immediately turned around and used my credit union. The salesman knew this was happening, and didn’t even try to fill out the paperwork for the loan fully. He just went through the motions.

The only thing that I wasn’t prepared for was deciding if I wanted the CarMax extended warranty. They will only offer it to you at the moment of sale. But you can take it off the bill of sale when you refinance (or presumably just return it) if you decide that you don’t want it.

I chose not to buy a car through CarMax for two reasons: first, the person I was talking to there about selling my old car to them was telling me that they’d repaint it, and such to cover up the cosmetic issues (fine, and understandable - they want to get the highest price possible). But that tied in with me pulling the carfax for the car I was looking at from them and seeing an accident on the record that wasn’t reflected in the history report on their website (I think they use Experian). The combination of the two made me cautious enough that I ended up taking the offer and the old car to a dealership, getting the same value as a trade on the old car, and getting a brand new for $1000 more than what carmax was asking for the same model, different year, on the used car.

Bought a fantastic Nissan Sentra with 30K for about $10,000 in 1998 or 1999. I should point out that I got excellent service from the salesperson, and didn’t see the Nissan Sentra on the lot the first day. He called when it arrived, I went back, THAT was the car.

Sold it back for a good price to Carmax when I bought my next car. No hassle.

I’ll never buy used again, but I felt like I got a great car at a good deal at the time.

I bought a truck there. While the actual sticker price was higher, I also received a much better price for the car I was trading in than I had received at another dealership.

I’ve also sold a car there and wasn’t buying another. While I had some hassles, it wasn’t Carmax’s fault, it was due to the previous state I lived in fat fingering the mileage on the title. Once that mess was straightened out, I sold the car to them with no problem.

I’d go there again, since I usually start car shopping with a few makes and models in mind. I can usually find the exact one I’m looking for, often in my first or second choice of color.