How to Sell Your Car to CarMax

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

Philip ReedMay 19, 2021
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Selling your vehicle to CarMax, the national used car retailer, can be quick, easy and should get you a fair trade-in price. 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 fall through.

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

Online Appraisal

To get an online offer from CarMax you have to provide accurate information about your car. Much of the information needed is automatically retrieved when you provide either your car’s license plate number or the vehicle identification number (VIN).

You then have to list the options your car has, such as a sunroof or leather upholstery, along with the current mileage. Finally, answer a list of questions about whether the car has ever been in an accident, has flood damage or any of a number of other problems.

If you decide to accept the offer, which is good for seven days, your car will be physically inspected to make sure the condition level matches the information you provided.

In Store Appraisal

If you opt to get an appraisal in person, start by checking the store locator to find  a CarMax near you. You can just show up or you can make an appointment for the appraisal, which only takes about an hour.

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

  • Extra car keys or key fobs.

  • 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're upside down and 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.

A CarMax salesperson will greet you at the store. Tell them you are considering selling your car to them and want an appraisal. Follow the appraiser’s instructions since the actual procedure is changing due to precautions for the pandemic.

While you wait, the salesperson will probably 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.

You will get a non-negotiable written offer for the trade-in value that is good for seven days.

If you like the CarMax offer, you can get a check on the spot. If you still owe money on the car, CarMax will handle the paperwork. You could also use the value of your car as a payment toward another vehicle on the CarMax lot.

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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 consulted.

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.

  • No negotiation is required to get a firm price for your car, one that could be higher than what you would be offered by a dealership.

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

  • If you owe money on your car, selling to CarMax is easier than finding a private party buyer who is willing to deal with the extra hassle of waiting for the title to arrive after paying for your car.

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 trash and personal items out of the car.

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

  • Address any check engine light issues before you ask for an appraisal.

  • Try to go to CarMax on a weekday morning to avoid crowds and speed up the process.