Selling a Car to CarMax: How The Process Works

By Julie Blackley

 

So you want to sell your car. Whether it’s because you want a new car or because you no longer need a vehicle, you’re probably wondering where you should get rid of your wheels. 

One popular place is CarMax, which is the largest used car retailer in the United States. If you’re buying a car at CarMax, trading one in through the retailer will likely be your most convenient option. So how does the process work when you sell your car at CarMax, and is it a good idea? We set out to find the answers. 

What is CarMax?

First a quick primer on what CarMax is. If you’ve looked for used cars, you’ve likely come across a CarMax used car dealership or visited its website. CarMax has over 225 locations across the country, and you can also buy a car through the retailer completely online. One advantage that CarMax has over completely online car retailers is that you can schedule a test drive at a vehicle’s CarMax location.  If you want a contact-free alternative, CarMax can also deliver the car right to your door or you can pick up at the nearest location. CarMax has an inventory of over 50,000 vehicles that are all subject to a 125+ point inspection. The vehicles are generally five-years-old or newer though most of their cars are three-year-old off-lease vehicles. CarMax also offers a seven-day return policy and 90-day or 4,000-mile limited warranty on all vehicle purchases. All CarMax vehicles have no-haggle pricing, so if you are a shrewd negotiator, CarMax might not be the place for you to buy a car.

Will CarMax Buy Any Vehicle?

CarMax will buy most cars, even old cars that don’t even run. However, these cars will need to be towed to a CarMax store for an appraisal. CarMax will even buy cars that they don’t expect to sell, such as badly damaged vehicles, that they will sell to auction. 

There are exceptions to the vehicles that CarMax will buy. The retailer will not buy a salvage vehicle. It will also not buy one with frame damage or flood damage.

How Do I Sell My Car to CarMax?

If you’ve never traded in a vehicle, you might not be aware of how the process works. Or, you might wonder if trading your car in through CarMax is different than what happens at your local used car retailer. Here are the three basic steps to help you navigate the process.

Step 1: Do Your Research

Before you begin the process of selling your car to CarMax, you should do your research. There are a few online tools to help you estimate your car’s trade-in value like the iSeeCars Price my Car Tool, Kelley Blue Book (KBB), or Edmunds. These prices can give you a good starting point and help you understand the value of your car.

Step 2: Bring Your Car to CarMax for an Appraisal

While online car dealers like Carvana will give you an offer online without seeing your car (though they can change their offer if your vehicle is different from what you described), CarMax requires you to bring your vehicle to their locations for an appraisal. You can schedule an appointment or you can just bring your car in to your nearest CarMax location. It is recommended that you clean your car beforehand. While a professional detailing is not necessary, you should do your best to remove all stains and make your car as presentable as possible. 

When you take your vehicle in for an appraisal, the salesperson will bring your vehicle to the in-house team of appraisers. The inspection process will take around 30 minutes  and you can browse  the inventory on the CarMax lot or wait in the waiting area. The appraisal team will give you a written offer that is good for seven days, which will allow you to shop around for a better offer or to secure your replacement vehicle. Keep in mind that this offer is non-negotiable.

Step 3: Accepting the Offer

If you decide to have CarMax handle the sale of your car, you will then complete the necessary paperwork in the finance office. If you’re also purchasing a car through CarMax, your trade-in can be applied to your down payment. Here is what you need to have with you to sell your car:
  • Car keys including extras
  • Vehicle title
  • Valid registration
  • Driver’s license
  • Vehicle payoff information if applicable - if you owe more than what your car is worth, this will allow you to break the cycle of negative equity. But, you will have to pay the difference between the offer and what you owe.

Will CarMax Give Me the Best Offer?

Just like the car buying process, it is always a good idea to shop around. The CarMax price might beat that of your local dealer, or it may be lower. Keep in mind that you don’t have to buy a car from CarMax in order to sell one, so you can always trade in your car at CarMax and purchase at another dealership. Conversely, you can purchase a car at CarMax and trade in your old vehicle elsewhere. 

However, selling a car through CarMax or any used retailer will not get you as much money as you’d get by selling your car privately through iSeeCars.com, Craigslist, or Autotrader. However, CarMax is a lot more convenient and you’re guaranteed a prompt offer. If you want an even faster offer, you should consider online retailer Carvana, which will provide an instant offer and not require you to visit a dealership. CarMax and Carvana will also handle all paperwork and registration information, while private sellers will have to handle on their own.

Bottom Line

CarMax offers a hassle-free way to sell your car versus selling to a private party. However, you pay a price for this convenience. CarMax provides the best of both worlds by functioning as an online used car dealer, eliminating the need for you to visit the dealership while also allowing you to test drive if you so choose at a nearby CarMax location. This doesn’t extend to selling your car through, as you have to visit a physical location for an appraisal. But with over 225 locations across the country, you likely won’t have to travel too far. If you want to sell your car and avoid the dealership entirely in today’s Covid environment, you should check out Carvana.com. Check out our article on CarMax vs. Carvana to help you decide which used vehicle retailer is best for you. 

If you are in the market for a new vehicle to replace your trade-in. Check out some of our handy guides:

If you’re interested in a new car or a used car, be sure to check out iSeeCars’ award-winning car search engine. It uses advanced algorithms to help shoppers find the best car deals across all vehicle types and provides key insights and valuable resources, like the iSeeCars VIN check report. Filter by make, model, price, and special features to find the best deal on your next vehicle.