CarMax Review: 5 Things to Know Before You Buy or Sell

CarMax promises to make buying or selling a used car an easy and stress-free process through its "no haggle" policy. But is CarMax right for you?

Team Clark has explored the process of buying and selling vehicles with CarMax compared to other methods.

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In this article, we’ll look at how CarMax works and what the process is for buying and selling cars. We’ll also look at how CarMax compares to its competitors on price. And we’ll give you the pros and cons of buying and selling cars there.

Table of Contents

1. How Does CarMax Work?

CarMax is a used car dealer that has a “no-haggle” policy for selling and buying used vehicles. That policy is intended to simplify the process for people who don’t want to spend hours at a dealership dickering over prices.

CarMax has more than 200 physical locations located across the U.S., but you can actually do most of what’s involved in buying or selling a car with CarMax online.

At any given time, CarMax has around 50,000 used cars to choose from, according to the company's website. So the chances of finding a vehicle that suits your needs are pretty good. The company also offers you a full week to drive the car to make sure you like it. If you don't, you can return it for a full refund.

CarMax will also buy your car if it meets their specifications. You can take your vehicle to a CarMax location to have it inspected. And if it passes muster, you'll get an instant cash offer. That offer is good for seven days from the time you get it. If you do sell your car to CarMax, you're under no obligation to buy a car in return.

2. How Do You Buy a Car Through CarMax?

CarMax makes buying a car about as simple as it can get. I know, because I purchased one from them last year.

Start the process here. You'll be able to search for the vehicle you want.

As you can see, you can search by make, model, or keyword. That means you can search for a specific vehicle — a Honda CR-V, say — or a more general category like “Small SUVs.”

This search gives you access to CarMax’s entire inventory. If the specific car that you want isn’t located in your area, CarMax will bring it to you. Depending on the vehicle’s distance from your location, you may have to pay a transport fee.

If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, you also have the option to browse available vehicles by clicking “Find Your Car.”

Once there, you’ll find plenty of options to filter your search.

Those filtering options include:

  • Make
  • Type
  • Year
  • Price
  • Mileage
  • Features
  • Size
  • Exterior Color
  • Interior Color
  • Transmission
  • Cylinders
  • Fuel Efficiency

Once you narrow down your choices and select a vehicle that interests you, you’ll be taken to that car’s profile page.

There, you'll get an interactive 360-degree view of the actual vehicle in stock, along with multiple photos of the interior. You'll also see the car's Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which you'll want to look up to see the vehicle's history. You can do that for free.

If you decide you like a vehicle, you can schedule a test drive at the vehicle’s location, purchase it, and pick it up at the lot. Or you can buy it and have it shipped to the CarMax location closest to you. In some cases, CarMax offers delivery to your home. If that’s the case, you’ll see it as an option.

Just remember that, if the vehicle you settle on is located some distance from you, you may incur transport costs. If that’s the case, it will be clearly disclosed.

At this point, you’ll also have the option to get pre-approved for financing on your purchase.

Of course, you'll want to compare any offer you get from CarMax with other financing options, especially those from credit unions. In my case, CarMax's financing terms were the best I found. That made the process even easier.

Don’t forget that if you buy a car from CarMax, you have seven days to change your mind for any reason. You also get a 90-day or 4,000-mile (whichever comes first) limited warranty that covers your car’s major systems.

While you can’t beat shopping and buying online for convenience, some people may be more comfortable doing everything in person. If that’s true in your case, you can always head to a CarMax store for a more traditional experience.

3. How Do the Prices at CarMax Compare to the Competition?

To see how the prices at CarMax stack up to the competition, we compared three vehicles of different makes and model years. Obviously, these are not the exact same vehicles, so we've noted the mileage for each one to account for minor discrepancies.

Vehicle CarMax Price (Mileage) Carvana Price (Mileage) Autotrader Price (Mileage)
2014 Toyota Camry SE $13,998 (60K) $13,590 (64K) $13,210 (60K)
2017 Toyota Tacoma SR5 $29,998 (35K) $28,990 (39K) $31,230 (39K)
2020 Chevy Tahoe LT 4WD $42,998 (36K)  $36,590 (37K) $40,998 (40K)

As you can see, with the first two vehicles the prices are pretty similar. But with the newer, more expensive SUV there is quite a spread. That’s why it always pays to comparison shop — especially with a major purchase like this.

4. How Do You Sell a Car Through CarMax?

Selling a car through CarMax is a less automated process, but considerably easier than going through a traditional dealer or conducting a private sale.

If you're interested in selling your vehicle, head here. You'll find a brief form where you enter your car's make, model, model year, and mileage.

If CarMax is interested in your vehicle, you’ll get a message like this:

At that point, you can schedule a time to take your vehicle in for an inspection. If CarMax makes you an offer, you’ll have seven days to decide whether you want to accept it.

That weeklong period to decide is a big deal: It lets you shop your car with other dealers like Carvana or even test the private sale waters with a sure-thing offer already in hand.

If you think you might want to accept the CarMax offer right away, you should be prepared with your:

  • ID
  • Registration
  • Keys, fobs, and remotes
  • Loan payoff information, if any
  • Vehicle title

Some states may require additional documents, but CarMax will alert you to those in advance if applicable.

You are also under no obligation to buy a vehicle from CarMax if you sell them yours.

5. What Are the Pros & Cons of Doing Business With CarMax?

On the whole, if you’re looking to buy or sell a used car, you really can’t go wrong giving CarMax a shot. But it’s always a good idea to consider the pluses and minuses:

Pros Cons
Easy-to-use interface for shopping used car inventory Potentially higher prices than private purchase because of the middle man and overhead factors
No-haggle, no-pressure environment May have to pay extra to have a car shipped to your location
Wide variety of makes, models and model years When selling, offer may be less than you can get in a private sale
Seven-day return policy; 90-day or 4,000-mile limited warranty on purchases Must visit store to sell car
In-house financing available

CarMax turned the used car market upside-down when it opened almost 30 years ago. Today, the company is working hard to keep up with the competition (chiefly Carvana) and remains a great option for easily buying or selling a used car.

Have you bought or sold a car with CarMax? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!

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