CarMax is nor normally where car enthusiasts would look for an unusual and affordable car. I hope to change that. I won’t go over the advantages here that are promoted on the CarMax website. Yes, they have fixed prices and it’s refreshing to not haggle or have the sales rep have to go back to the sales manager three times and have the sales manager make a personal appearance to appeal to you to one last time that his final price is fair. Yes, they have a boatload of cars nationwide – anywhere from 45,000-75,000 cars in inventory on any given day since I’ve been tracking them. Yes, they have a 30 day warranty but who cares, we are interested in the extended MaxCare warranty for out high-end unicorns anyway.
Here are my top reasons for buying from CarMax:
Access – All of the cars on their lot are unlocked. That is, I am told, except for a lot in New York City where they had to stop that because the homeless were sleeping in the cars. A lot full of unlocked cars is important because you can wander the lot without a sales rep and sit in all the cars you want. I’m tall and simply having access to unlimited cars meant I could find out right away if I even fit. I’m a coffee addict. European cars, especially pre-2010, have sucky cup holders. Some hang right over the radio. After the pitiful cup holders in my S55 AMG I swore as petty as it sounds, I would never buy another car with inadequate cup holders. Maybe you don’t care about cup holders, but there are probably other things you would decide are deal breakers just by sitting is a car even without driving it.
The Warranty – I have a whole page on the MaxCare warranty but the short version is they will sell you a long-term, bumper to bumper warranty on anything they sell, and that warranty often exceeds anything the manufacturer offered when the car was new. You can get five-year warranties up to 150,000 mile odometer readings on cars up to 10 years old. Nobody does that. The best deal includes a $50 per visit (not per repair – bundle your repairs in one visit and save more!) and they waive the $50 if you take your car to CarMax for repair. See my Guenther S55 write up here (Guenther) for the long version, but CarMax did $35,000 in repairs to the S55 I bought for $21,500 and I didn’t pay a nickel. Made a believer out of me! And every time I dropped the car off for repairs, and I dropped it off a lot, they gave me a loaner.
5 Day Refund Policy – You don’t like the car, return it for a full refund. I did it. Bought a 2010 Mercedes E63 AMG (see search for Guenther II) in the spring of 2017 and was so disappointed it melted down within 48 hours of purchase. After my repair challenges with Guenther I just couldn’t do it again, drove the E63 back to the lot (it died and coasted into the parking spot), left the keys on the seat, caught an uber to the airport, and called my sales rep to say I was done. CarMax refunded the whole price. (Turns out a belt blew and maybe I regret returning the car just a bit?) I’ve seen stories on the internet where folks have quibbled when CarMax balked at car returns but those stories always have some twist that conflicts with the policy. I think if you’re a straight shooter and don’t put a bezillion miles on the car or race it they’ll take it back.
Financing – To the best of my knowledge CarMax will finance everything they sell. When I was looking at 2007 cars (see Guenther II) my credit union balked at anything that old, and even 2009 cars were quoted at 2% more than CarMax was offering. Do your own research but when you’re looking at older unicorns not everyone will loan you money.
Alerts, Saves, Holds, and Transfers – I’ve tried to find deals and unicorns with many manufacturers’ Certified Previously Owned inventories and found it almost impossible. Dealers across the country have different owners, websites, inventory policies, and pricing. With CarMax it’s all under one virtual roof. Because of that, from your laptop or phone you can create and access your CarMax account and view everything everywhere that they have. The website allows you to set up alerts to let you know when cars you’re interested in become available. You can save a lot of cars to your account to track interests and see when they sell, the price drops, or they reappear after vanishing for a bit. You can also place a hold on a car that piques your interest and take it off the market, and you can even book it for transfer from a distant dealership to one near you either free or for a fee. All of these are important for rare and special unicorns and are detailed in my Catching Unicorns page.
CarMax has unicorns. I don’t know yet why they do, but somehow CarMax scarfs up low mileage, up to 10-year-old enthusiast cars and offers them at reasonable prices with five-year warranties. You can go to my unicorn section but we are talking cars that were over $100,000 new selling for $25,000. Cars that are 10 years old with 20,000 miles. Cars that are 500hp beasts for $30,000. Shelby Mustangs. Mustang Bullitts. Mercedes S-class and SL flagship cars. BMW and Audi V-10’s. Porsche 911’s. Supercharged Range Rovers and Jaguars. Even Miatas, Infiniti M45’s, extinct Honda S2000’s. I find them all! CarMax is a place where car enthusiasts of modest means can find a car that would be way out of their price range new.