Should I sell my car to CarMax?

Written on:November 18, 2011
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When it’s time to sell your next car you’ll have several different options available; you can sell it to a private buyer via an ad in the auto trader, your local paper or Craiglist, you can take it to a local car dealer for a trade-in or you can go to a CarMax Auto Superstore. Each of these options presents multiple pros and cons, many of which may not be considered by the average car owner.

Selling to CarMax

One of the extremely positive aspects of selling your car to CarMax is that unlike the typical car dealer, they don’t require you to trade-in your vehicle in order to sell it to them. Although CarMax does have a trade-in option for those who are interested in picking up a new car, they also allow car owners to bring in their automobiles for an appraisal which may lead to CarMax offering to purchase the car outright.

Unlike other resources, CarMax will also put their offer in writing and will honor it for up to seven days which provides car owners with a good opportunity to see if they can sell their car elsewhere for a higher price. If the seller opts to sell their vehicle to CarMax there will be a small fee attached to the sale, but this is not unlike the fee that would be charged for placing a for sale ad in the local paper. Those who decide to trade-in their vehicle will have a wide selection of used cars to choose from and may be eligible for a reduced taxes program on their car purchase.

Private Sales

Taking the private sales route often requires a greater time investment, both to place ads in multiple places and to meet with potential buyers. It is common for personal buyers to offer more money than a dealership as they will still receive a better price point than they would if they were to buy the same car directly from a dealer.

Utilizing this method allows both the seller and the buyer to get a better deal but it does come with some potential drawbacks which are not just related to time; if you’re unfortunate enough to sell someone a vehicle that breaks down shortly after the sale, they will know how to contact you and this could become an issue. Car sellers who are interested in selling to a private buyer should also consider their own personal safety when agreeing to meet with strangers in order to let them test drive the vehicle.

Other Dealerships

Going to a more traditional local dealer does also have perks, especially for those who are loyal to a specific dealership. The ease of trading-in a vehicle at the same place where you’ll be purchasing the next one does free up some valuable time; on the downside, trade-ins typically do not pay as well as selling a vehicle to a private party. If time is a huge factor, however, a trade-in is definitely a good option. Those who are interested in purchasing a new vehicle at the same time as trading-in an old one will save the most time if they go straight to a dealership which sells both new and used automobiles. The national chain CarMax only sells used vehicles, so those who do not want to go to multiple places to sell their old car and purchase a new one will be better served by a trip to a local dealership.

Other Ideas mentions eBay motors as another viable option for those who wish to do a private sale. Utilizing the eBay format does provide an additional layer of security although there are some fees involved. also discusses CarMax and refers to their car purchase program as a very good option, especially for busy professionals.

Before you sell your car, you need to determine if time or money are the most important factors in the sale. If time is your main concern then going to CarMax or another car dealer is absolutely your best option. If you’re willing to stick with the car for as long as it takes to get top dollar, however, then selling to a personal buyer makes the most sense. Realistically, most people need to hit a combination of speed and money when selling their vehicle; due to the format that CarMax utilizes, they are a viable option and visiting them for an appraisal can give you a good base to start from.

5 Comments add one

  1. Carguy says:

    Personally, I just looked up my car’s price on before I went to CarMax. Be sure to get the “Trade In”, “Retail”, “Wholesale”, etc prices. Then, you don’t go in blind.

  2. Charlie Phelps says:

    Carguy: Yes, terrific point!

  3. John P says:

    This question is pretty simple. If time is more important than money to you, sell it to CarMax. If not, sell it yourself…you’ll get substantially more.

  4. Charlie Phelps says:

    John: Well, yes, that’s a good summary, of course there are other points in the article worth considering.

  5. Rick says:

    Regarding CARMAX purchase, they will only pay wholesale for your vehicle, which is what most dealers are going to try to pay. They will then try to sale the car at retail, making 25% in the process. Nice business model.

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