How to Sell a Car to CarMaxby Jeb Hoge
Selling a car can be challenging and frustrating. Doing it yourself is complicated and sometimes uncomfortable, since you interact with buyers who will probably try to whittle down your price. Most dealerships won't take your car without you buying one, and they make their offer conditional on your purchase terms. CarMax, however, is different. CarMax dealerships have buyers who work independently from the sales staff. Buyers have nothing to do with the sales process and they make selling your car to CarMax easy. It helps to be informed before you enter the store, however, so you know what to expect.
Getting Your Car Ready
Clean your car inside and out. Remove trash and personal property from the interior. Your car doesn't have to be perfect, but a well-kept car will score better when judged for necessary cosmetic refurbishment. Aftermarket modifications may negatively affect the sale so, if feasible, return the vehicle to stock condition. If you have a "Smart Trip" toll-road transponder or any other similar device, be sure to remove it as well as the CD in the car stereo; these are commonly forgotten by sellers.
Collect all of your documentation about your ownership of the car. Have your driver license (proof of identification), your title (proof of ownership) or loan information, and the owner's guides that may have come with the car. You also should have at least one set of keys to the car, including remotes. If you owe money on the car and you are not financing a new purchase (or you cannot get financing to cover the negative equity), you will be required to pay off your loan balance before completing the sale.
If possible, plan to arrive early, shortly after your CarMax store opens. On busy days, the wait for a CarMax car buyer can become pretty long. The appraisal itself typically takes from 30-45 minutes, not including the time from when you arrive at the store until when the buyer can start the appraisal, or the time to complete any transactions. In general, plan on two hours for the complete process.
Selling Your Car: The CarMax Experience
When you arrive, you will be greeted at the front door. Inform the sales associate that you are interested in selling your car. The associate will go to the car with you for an initial walk-around to record your license plate number and will leave a plastic "hat" on the car to help the buyer find it. The sales associate has no input on the appraisal and cannot affect the offer, but may still ask about any issues with the car.
The sales associate will take you back into the store and create a customer record for you, which is then sent to the buyer team. The buyer's appraisal process takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes, so your sales associate may offer to show you cars if you're interested, or show you to the waiting area. During the appraisal, the buyer will drive your vehicle, so don't be alarmed to see it out of its parking spot.
After the buyer has performed the appraisal and entered the offer on your vehicle, the sales associate will re-open your customer record in the computer and show you the appraisal. This will show the scores that the buyer assigned to various condition factors in the vehicle, as well as any potential damage, theft, or fraud records that may apply to the car. If you have questions or concerns about the appraisal, ask to speak to the buyer.
After reviewing the appraisal, the sales associate will show you the offer and ask if you'd like to sell your car to CarMax. You can either decide to sell at that time, or you can take the appraisal offer and leave the CarMax store. The appraisal is good for seven days. If you allow the appraisal to expire, your car will have to go through the process again with no guarantee that the offer will be the same.
If you decide to sell, the next step of the process depends on whether you are buying another car. If you are not buying one, then the sales associate will take you to the store's business office and an associate there will complete the sale. If you are buying another car, then the sales associate has much more of a role in accepting your old car, such as transferring plates and your remaining personal effects.
- The buyer's appraisal process is complex and includes-- but is not limited to--the following:
- Checks for evidence of repaint/body repair/glass or mechanical replacements
- Road test to verify that the car makes no unusual sounds or vibrations
- Vehicle Identification Number check against consumer databases for any insurance or repair reports
- Check against CarMax's own sales information database for comparable valuations
Things You'll Need
- Driver license
- Title or car loan information
- Checkbook or bank information
- At least one complete set of keys
- The appraisal is a roughly calculated amount of what CarMax would expect the car to sell for at a wholesale auction, not at retail after reconditioning. This means that usually the offer will be below typical Kelley Blue Book private sale values. Values also are affected by estimated market demand.
Jeb Hoge has a degree in English and more than 10 years of experience as a technical/business writer supporting federal defense contractors and government agencies. He is a member of the Society of Technical Communicators and Toastmasters.