How to Sell Your Car to CarMax

A CarMax offer can help you gauge your car's worth or serve as a good backup if other plans to sell or trade fall through.

Philip ReedApril 25, 2016

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Selling your vehicle to CarMax, the national used car retailer, can be quick and easy. A CarMax offer can serve as a good backup if your own plans to sell the car outright or to trade it for another car don't come out as expected.

Here’s how to get a CarMax appraisal and turn your vehicle into cash rather than trading it in at a dealership or trying to sell it yourself.

Get a CarMax appraisal

Before you head to CarMax, it’s always a good idea to estimate how much a dealer would give you if you were to trade in your car.

Look up the NADA used car value and also check your car’s trade-in value using pricing guides such as Edmunds.com and Kelley Blue Book. Make sure you find and write down the trade-in value for reference later.

Now, you’re ready to head to the nearest CarMax, which has 218 stores in 41 states. Check the store locator to see if there is a CarMax near you.

If you’re serious about selling your car on the spot, bring these items with you:

  • Extra car keys

  • The car’s title — sometimes called the “pink slip” — if you own the car outright

  • Your car’s valid registration

  • Your driver’s license

  • Information about your car loan if you still owe money

  • Your checkbook in case you owe more than the car is worth; for amounts greater than $250, CarMax requires cash or cashier’s check, certified check or debit card.

  • Enough money to take a taxi, Uber or Lyft home

Each store has a team of appraisers that will inspect your car and give you a non-negotiable written offer for the trade-in value that is good for seven days.

A CarMax salesperson will greet you at the store. Tell them you are considering selling your car to them and want an appraisal. The salesperson will take your car keys and hand them over to the appraisers.

While you wait, the salesperson will offer to show you cars to buy, if you want. If not, you can grab a cup of coffee from a vending machine and wait until you hear your name called. The inspection process can take as little as 30 minutes, according to Edmunds.com.

Trade-in price  vs. CarMax offer

When the salesperson presents the CarMax offer to you, compare it with the trade-in value you found in the pricing guides. Hopefully, the CarMax price is the same or more than the pricing guide amounts you recorded.

The CarMax offer is good for seven days so if you’re unsure whether you want to accept it, feel free to leave at this point. In fact, some people list their car for sale for a few days to see if they can get more than the CarMax offer. If they can’t sell their car to a private party, they bring it back to CarMax and take the cash.

While the CarMax offer isn’t as much as you might get by selling it to a private party, selling it to the used car chain offers these advantages:

  • It eliminates the expense of advertising your car and the hassle of showing your car to strangers.

  • CarMax prices are usually higher than those that a dealer offers.

  • All paperwork is handled by workers trained in registry laws.

If you owe money on your car, selling to CarMax or another dealer may be easier than finding a private party buyer who is willing to wait on the title to arrive after payoff.

For those who are deep underwater on a car loan, a CarMax or similar offer to buy your car outright offers an opportunity to end a negative equity cycle. However, you will have to find the funds to pay the difference between what CarMax gives you and what you owe. If you take a personal loan to do so, you'll need average to excellent credit to find an affordable interest rate.

Accepting the CarMax offer

If you decide to accept the CarMax offer, you will be escorted to the finance office where the paperwork will be handled. You will be asked to sign a number of forms required by your state’s department of motor vehicles.

And finally, the finance manager will hand you a check for your car.  Here are a few other recommendations to smoothly navigating this process:

  • Don’t bother trying to negotiate — prices are fixed.

  • Give your car “curb appeal” by making sure it’s clean.

  • Take personal items out of the car.

  • Repair any major mechanical problems before you ask for an appraisal.

  • Don’t bother asking for an appraisal if your car has a check engine light on.

  • Try to go to CarMax on a weekday morning to avoid crowds.