My name is Chuck Banks, and I’m a retired CIA officer and car nut hobbyist with no professional credentials. I’m hardly an expert on any of these cars. I am not paid by or in any way affiliated with CarMax. I could never afford cars I loved, and hated cars I could afford. But in 2013 I stumbled on an affordable ($21,599?) 2004 Mercedes S55 AMG (Guenther) with low miles at CarMax, with an extended warranty for $3,500 that kept me out of the poor house and kept my wife from leaving me, and it changed my life.
CarMax did $35,000 in repairs on Guenther under the MaxCare warranty without batting an eye, making me a believer. I have absolutely no affiliation with CarMax, and in fact, I’m quite surprised they haven’t banned me from their lot. When my warranty repairs piled up a friend suggested it would be in CarMax’s interest to fix my car, pay it off, and forbid me from ever returning. But they didn’t, and one day when my car was in the shop and I was wandering the sales floor I ran into the sales manager who knew my whole story. I told him how impressed I was that CarMax stood by the warranty since the car was so expensive to maintain, and that I was a believer and would be back for my next car. He said, “So next time you’ll buy something more reliable?” I said no way – I’m buying your biggest money loser – a Jaguar or Porsche!
I was so happy with my S55 I did not return to the CarMax website for years and deleted the app from my phone. I was happy. But Guenther grew old and was approaching the end of the warranty and I got back into the market in the fall of 2016 to start pursuing Guenther II. By the time I started this blog (August, 2017) I had not yet found her. I just did in January 2018 (meet Etta – my 2008 Porsche 911 and second unicorn here!).
But I did find that I have a knack for finding CarMax cars that are unusual, reasonably priced, reasonable mileage, and in no way affordable new, and that with the MaxCare warranty ordinary but not rich car guys like me could afford to drive something really unusual. I have found far more CarMax cars than I could afford, and as I close in on Guenther II, I thought it would be fun to share my experience with Guenter, the search for Guenter II, and the things I have learned along the way that might help other car guys (and gals) find something special and affordable and not settle for a Camry. Full disclosure – in 1994 I bought a CPO Camry and loved it. But as Jason Isbell says, those were different days.