Selling my car|My first CarMax experience

Selling my car|My first CarMax experience

Me taking a few final snapshots with ‘Spike’

Like most car lovers, I’m a person who can get a little attached to my vehicle. Last weekend, I parted with my 2007 Honda Civic Si sedan after a five-year stint together. I must admit that I didn’t anticipate keeping my car around for that long. I also didn’t anticipate not having enough time to sell it the traditional way.

Admittedly, I probably held onto this car a little longer than I would have others because it was the first car I bought with my “grown-up allowance.” But as a busy young professional in a major metropolitan area, it can be difficult to find time to prep your car for sale, list it and show it (read ‘countless test drives’). I mean, who has time for all that? This is exactly the problem I ran into when I was ready to let go.

Enter CarMax.

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Most people are probably familiar with CarMax as the place to buy a used car, but what they may not realize is that CarMax also provides free used car appraisals. In the quest to unload my ride, I actually had not thought of CarMax as the solution to my problem. A salesman at an area dealership actually tipped me off to the good deals that he has gotten by taking his personal vehicles there.

So there you have it. I decided to give CarMax a whirl for the first time. I shined up my car and drove it 20 miles south to the nearest store, making sure my husband followed in his vehicle “just in case” we made a sale.

Would Jose Canseco prove to be right?

Although skeptical about the experience I was about to have, I was greeted by a friendly CarMax staff member who directed me toward the main desk area to put my name on the list for speaking with a sales person. It was an unseasonably gorgeous Saturday, so the lot was full of prospective customers. During the roughly 30-minute wait, my husband and I walked the lot to check out their inventory – they were short on Civics (yes!).

We soon met up with a sales team member and showed him the Si. He was impressed with the exterior and set us up to have the car appraised, explaining their step-by-step process. CarMax looks at the following criteria when determining a car’s value:

  • The year, mileage, make, and model of your car
  • Interior/Exterior conditions
  • Aftermarket modifications
  • Structural damage
  • A test drive for mechanical issues
  • Your car’s history report for possible flood or frame damage and any accidents

We left him the keys and grabbed a bite to eat. An hour later, we returned to see what kind of deal they would offer us. Being that the car was impeccably clean, had been regularly serviced, and had fewer than 20,000 miles; I was hoping for the best – but of course, I expected a low-ball offer. I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong. CarMax offered me full private party value, which meant that I ended up driving the vehicle for roughly $1,000 per year.

CarMax not only offered me an excellent deal, but they also made signing over the vehicle a cinch. Within a few hours, I had said good-bye to “Spike” and said hello to the convenience of CarMax.

My time that day was well-served. I didn’t have to worry about placing an ad on Craigslist or screening callers who wanted to take my little rocket for a joy ride. (Not to mention avoiding that nerve racking moment when it’s time to get payment for the vehicle!)

I can definitely say that if you take good care of your car, keeping the criteria listed above in mind, then you can expect to have a better time at CarMax than Jose Canseco.
Want more tips for selling your car? Check out the posts below:

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This article was written by

Melanie Batenchuk founded Be Car Chic in 2009 as a way to help consumers make smart decisions when buying and selling their cars. Her prior work at the dealership, trade association and manufacturer levels has provided her a deep understanding of the complex facets within the auto industry, making her a leading woman in her field.

There are 23 comments for this article
  1. Adam at 2:03 PM

    I have heard mostly bad experiences regarding CarMax. You are the only person I have heard that has a had a good experience.

  2. Melanie Batenchuk Author at 4:44 PM

    Thanks for your feedback, Adam. Have you had any personal experiences with CarMax?

    I have heard both positive and not-so-positive stories from friends and have read what’s been said online; however, I like to report on personal experiences when it comes to issues like this one.

  3. Matt Keegan at 3:27 PM

    Melanie, I have considered CarMax too for a car that I have been thinking about getting rid of. It is an old low-mileage Dodge Neon, but it might be the perfect car for my sons when they’re ready to drive in a few years, thus my dilemma. Anyway, I like how easy CarMax makes it to strike a deal and it sounds like you made off better than had you traded it in.

  4. Melanie Batenchuk Author at 3:58 PM

    Thanks for your thoughtful response, Matt. The representative I worked with at CarMax said that they would pretty much buy any car, but often times the ‘less than stellar’ ones go straight to auction. Bottom line is they have a great network for parsing out the vehicles they purchase.

    But I can understand wanting your kids to learn to drive on a beater car of sorts. It certainly wouldn’t hurt as bad if they were to get in a fender bender!


  5. Jolandi Kerstetter at 8:11 AM

    Your car fits your style and attitude: cool and hip. =) And oh, it has a pretty catchy name too! I know you and Spike had a great time together, sharing road trips and memories together along with people who are special to you. So do you have any plans on purchasing a new one anytime soon?

  6. Melanie Batenchuk Author at 7:16 PM

    Thanks for your comment, Jolandi. I always end up finding a name for my cars without even planning it. I guess I substitute them for live pets in a way (thanks to allergies). 🙂 Hope you enjoyed the blog. Definitely stay in touch!


  7. Holly at 6:11 PM

    I was just thinking about car max too! I live in NJ ,Where did you go?

  8. Melanie Batenchuk Author at 12:21 PM

    Holly – I went to the CarMax in Woodbridge, VA. Do you plan to sell or buy there?

  9. Alex at 3:26 AM

    Thanks for sharing your experience at CarMax. I’ve read posts where people will detail their car before taking them to get appraised, often resulting in better (than they expected) valuations. Did you detail your car beforehand? Any tips for getting the car prepped for selling?

  10. Melanie Batenchuk Author at 4:22 PM

    Thanks for your comment, Alex. Great question. I always maintain my cars with a meticulous eye, so it was already in great shape before taking it to CarMax. However, I did make sure to vacuum it out and clear any junk from the back seats and trunk before showing it. Like a house that’s for sale, buyers don’t want to see your personal touches all over the place (especially if that means a messy interior).

    Having a pristine car before taking it to CarMax, or showing it to any potential buyer, is important and can most certainly help you get your asking price.

    Here are a few resources from the blog that will help you prepare to sell your vehicle:

    Please don’t hesitate to reach out again with questions. Thanks for stopping by!


  11. Sammy at 11:38 PM

    I just had a great experience. The trick is to get your car ready and detailed. Find a person who repairs dings on the doors and also one that fixes road rash on rims. Just go on craigslist and find them. They go from dealer to dealer fixing them for their cars. I honestly got over Kelly BB on my car. Do as much as possible. I actually got $2k more than I was expecting. Spending a bit of money upfront will get you more cash. It’s all about marketing your car !!

  12. ernest at 4:33 AM

    looking to sell my car. it was a 2011 honda civic, and no reported accidents. also, very little mileage incurred over the past 18 months.

    however, i have driven the car fairly hard, and there are tons of scratches/dings (no dents). and the car is dirty (interior/exterior) due to desert driving.

    how best should i prepare my car for sale? should i take it to honda to get everything cleaned/checked first? will spending that $250 at the manufacturer increase my resale value?

    or is this all a moot point at carmax.


  13. Melanie Batenchuk Author at 12:11 AM

    The best thing you can do, Ernest, is to take good care of your car consistently throughout ownership of it. Keep it regularly maintained per the owner’s manual that comes with the car and try to keep it clean inside and out.

    If that’s all passed at this point, then I’d take it to a detail shop and get it shined up as nicely as you can – shampoo carpets, clean leather and surfaces, pop out dings and so forth. You very well could get your investment out of it when it comes time to sell the car.

    If you don’t want to invest in that, then you can take the car to CarMax. You may not get much money for it, but they will be able to sell it at auction. Your local dealer may also buy it off of you as a trade-in and then choose to re-sell or sell at auction.

    Hope this was helpful. Good luck!

  14. Erik Chou at 6:19 PM

    Took my 06 Passat (71k miles, otherwise good condition) to Carmax back in 2010 and was offered $6700. Put it on CL and sold within 3 days at $9800 (I listed at $10500). I was getting many inquiries on CL so I think my pricing was reasonable. In my case, Carmax really low balled me.

    Another point I would like to add is that the cleanliness of the car doesn’t matter. I spoke with an appraiser at Carmax and they are only interested in major structural damage. In fact, you might be better off with a dirty car so all the blemishes/scratches don’t show.

  15. babasell at 5:24 AM

    The trick is to get your car ready and detailed. Find a person who repairs dings on the doors and also one that fixes road rash on rims. Just go on craigslist and find them.

  16. Joey at 11:23 PM

    Thanks for writing your experience! I’m hoping I receive the same positive outcome!

  17. Michael Miller at 12:57 PM

    I am surprised that nobody has mentioned the sales tax cost/savings comparison of selling your car outright vs. trading it in on the new car you would like to purchase. If you buy a new car for $25,000 and you get a trade in value of $18,000, you only pay sales tax on $7000(in most states). You could save almost $1500 in sales tax assuming a sales tax rate of 8%. What is the law in your state Melanie?

  18. DM at 3:27 PM

    I had a great experience at Carmax! The key is to not rush, and do your research. I called Carmax about the car that I wanted and they ran my application over the phone. He was able to tell me which banks approved me and my APR for each. I went to the dealership after work and drove off the lot less than an hour after I got there. I am not sure why so many people have had bad experiences at Carmax. Thanks for sharing!

  19. william shaw at 1:35 AM

    yes you may have sold it for more money privately which is different than selling to a probably have no idea how much risk a car dealer has in taking in and selling cars.Enjoy the cash but dump ignorance.

  20. Melanie Batenchuk Author at 10:18 AM

    Thanks for your comment, William. Actually, I’m familiar with the risks that dealers take since I previously worked at a dealership and have spent many years working with car dealers. I typically prefer selling private party, but with a car like this one, I didn’t have the time/patience to schedule test drives after work hours with folks who may not have been serious about the purchase. All in all, CarMax gave me an excellent deal for my car because I kept it immaculate (no dings or damage and perfectly clean throughout)…plus it had less than 20,000 miles on it after 5 years of ownership. These factors, plus the popularity of the car on the used car market at the time, are why I got such a good deal. There was absolutely zero risk for them in purchasing this car because of how well it was maintained. As you mention, that’s certainly rarely the case! Thanks again for stopping by Be Car Chic.

  21. Jason at 9:03 AM

    What form of payment does Carmax pay for your car in? Cash or Check?