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CarMax’s Friendly Buying Experience

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Originally published May 30th, 2005.

With the recent passing of my girlfriend’s 1990 Toyota Celica, she’s been feverishly researching cars and collecting pricing information on used vehicles. As part of her research we took a trip down to the Laurel CarMax facility to check out the feel of some cars and what we’d expect to pay. If you aren’t familiar with CarMax, and they’re only located in some states so there may not be one near you. But they pride themselves on no-haggle pricing and being a friendly sales environment where they don’t try to pull a fast one on you like traditional horror-story-type dealerships.



As soon as you walk into a CarMax, and if you wander around, you’ll be greeted by one of their sales representatives almost immediately. They’re not forceful but they will ask you if you’re being helped if you wander the dealership alone. How knowledgeable they are about cars depends on the person but the person who helped us, David, was there for three years and had a pretty good understanding about the cars he was showing us.

CarMax sells a large number of used cars, the Laurel, MD location sells the most out of any of them. David told us one month they had a quota of 1,100 cars and crushed it by selling 1,400 – the execs came down and cooked them steak and lobster. The reason CarMax sells so many cars is because they’re valuing turnover and sale frequency over the profit per sale. It’s obvious when you talk to these folks that they aren’t trying to sell you an expensive car, they’re trying to sell you the car you want. Even the sales commission structure works this way.

The commission structure at CarMax works as follows: a salesman makes $150 per sale plus bonuses if they sell warranties, financing plans, etc. Quota at CarMax is ten cars. If you average thirteen cars in a 6 month span, you are part of a Director’s Club. Sell fifteen cars and you’re in the President’s Club. As you join these clubs, the commissions increase so it behooves you to sell as many cars as possible. The quickest way to do that is to match a buyer with the car they want – not try to sell them a car that’s more expensive. A $50,000 car nets the same commission as a $10,000 car – but you can move cheaper cars more often!

Anyway, that gives you an idea of the inner workings. We showed up at the CarMax to find a Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, or a Saturn of some kind. The Laurel location didn’t have any used Corolla’s or Saturn’s in my girlfriend’s price range and mileage but we did find three Civic’s she was interested in looking at. Another benefit of CarMax is that you can find out what sort of financing they can secure for you in under fifteen minutes without an obligation. After a quick credit check, my girlfriend could get an incredibly crappy rate of 6.45% on a 5 year loan on a Civic ($14k sticker, $4k down). You can always buy the car and secure your own financing within three days without incurring any interest penalties (for them floating the loan to you for three days).

David told us about the CarMax MaxCare Extended Service Plan too – which covers what your typical manufacturer’s 3-year 60,000 mile warranty would cover. This is important because if you’re buying a gently used car, you probably only have a fraction of the manufacturer’s warranty remaining. All you pay is a $75 deductible ($50 if you take it to a CarMax) and it sounds pretty sweet. The price for five years of coverage was a flat price of $1,199 on a $14,000 car – $1,149 for only forty-eight months.

David knew that we weren’t going to buy a car that day (it was pretty obvious) but he was very polite, helped us with all that we needed, and when we thanked him he was very polite. He never made us feel uncomfortable and I appreciated that. We asked for a business card in case we did decided CarMax was the best option and we were on our way.

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41 Responses to “CarMax’s Friendly Buying Experience”

  1. Anonymous says:

    MY EXPERINCE AT CARMAX WHITEMARSH WAS A PRETTY GOOD EXPERIENCE..MY SALES PERSON KAREN WAS AWESOME…HER KNOWLEDGE WAS OUTSTANDING..AND HER PERSONALITY WAS GREAT.SHE HELP ME FIND THE PERFECT AUTO…SHE KNEW IT BEFORE I DID..AND SHE WAS RIGHT …HATS OFF TO KAREN SHE KNOWS HER STUFF..SHE IS A DEFINITE ASSET TO YOUR COMPANY….KEEP HER..SHE IS THE BEST….PLEASE TRY TO CUT DOWN ON THE PAPERWORK PART OF FINANCING..TOO MANY COPIES TO SIGN..SHOULD SHORTEN THE FINANCE PART OF THE SALE..WE SIGNED PAPERWORK FOR EVERYTHING.ALL NALL NOT BAD THANK YOU SO MUCH KAREN AND CARMAX

  2. Anonymous says:

    I have to say I am pretty disappointed with Carmax. I have been looking at their inventory for the last couple of weeks. I found a few cars I am interested in, but when I do a value check with blue book, karpower and edmunds, the carmax price is 2-3k more than RETAIL, not wholesale not private party, but RETAIL! I e-mailed asking if they are using either an outdated version of the value or if there is a mistake. The answer I received by phone is that they price their cars on supply and demand. They don’t care what the value is and it has no weight on how they price their cars. WHAT???!! Are you SERIOUS?? What makes you think I am going to buy a car from a DEALER for 2-3k more than what it is worth? What a JOKE. I am a loan officer and am very familiar with a car buying process. I have had clients who I could not do a car loan for or they had to put more money down because carmax gave them a 6 month old print out of kelly blue book and sold them the car for more than it is worth. Can they really do this and get away with it?

    • Mike says:

      Kelly BB, NADA, Edmunds, or where ever else you look….these are just general guidelines and not actual selling prices. A car is worth what a willing seller and a willing buyer agree that it is worth. The guides you mentioned do not take into account service records, vehicle conditioning, regional preferences, etc. A four wheel drive vehicle will sell higher in the snow belt than it would in Miami Beach. Should a meticulously maintained vehicle of the same make, model, year, mileage sell for the same price as the exact same vehicle that was never maintained and looks like crap inside and out? None of the guidebooks would account for these differences.

  3. didgeridood says:

    Jerry, why don’t you leave more comments? I got to where I was just reading yours. You and a cunning linguist! “You could make from $0.00 to $700 or even more per week…” Brilliant!

    :D

  4. Oscar Vazquez says:

    Horror Story, At one location the salesman never called me back, so I went to their other location, the Salesman Keith Mays provided me with excellent no BS service, and I purchased a vehicle I really liked. One week later the vehicle broke down and had to get it towed home, called their service department only to find out they couldn’t to anything for like 5 days or so, So since the vehicle was still under factory warrant, I called the Infinity dealership and they sent a wrecker to pick it up, they said the car didn’t have any service records since it passed the 20k miles and therefore they couldn’t honor the factory warranty, specially because the engine had sludge and had signs of neglect. Went to Carmax immediately and they said they couldn’t do anything because they didn’t have the vehicle. I told them I wanted another car, because the people at the dealer advised me to stay away from that particular car should I have the chance. One of the sales managers by the name Aqua Sykes had the nerve to tell me that if I wanted to return the vehicle I will have to get it appraised and see if Carmax will be willing to buy it an for how much. The story goes on, I have been nearly a month w/o a car and my first payment is already due.


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