How to sell your car online to Carmax (Carmax.com): Its not actually Online
Updated: Mar 2
We already reviewed selling a car to Shift.com & Vroom.com here, now we’ll tackle the experience at Carmax. This experience is going to be HUGELY different to the experience at Vroom, Shift, or Carvana primarily because you won’t be ABLE to get an online offer from Carmax. Instead, you’ll book an online appointment where you’ll then need to drive to an appraisal center to have your vehicle purchased or appraised.
Nonetheless we’ll still cover the basics of selling your car online to Carmax (as much as possible anyways), as well as cover the offline steps. Here’s a basic overview of what to expect in this article:
Preparing your car for sale at Carmax - key differences to other online new car selling services.
How to compare your Carmax sale price to other online appraisals, and what to expect.
How to determine whether selling your car to Carmax is the right option for you
The inspection, documents, and each key step to getting the most from your Carmax offer.
Preparing your car for sale to Carmax:
Selling to Carmax is meant to be about ultimate convenience. If you’re considering their offer, it means you’ve likely skipped the “I can sell it myself privately” steps. We strongly recommend against doing private-party car sales in most circumstances for several reasons:
“Potential Buyers” rarely show up on time, and instead flake, or show up late thereby wasting your time.
Many car buyers who test-drive the car can’t afford your asking price, and so you’ll be stuck joy-riding with craigslist strangers who have no intention to buy your car
The process is littered with scammers and scam artists (anything from forged ID’s, forged cashier’s checks, to outright theft).
Finalizing a sale is difficult if a loan is involved (both the DMV and the lender are part of the process when there’s a lien)
Even though other sellers have made the process of selling your car online, Carmax is the pioneer in hassle-free car sales. No more dealing with private party craigslist tire-tickers - instead get a convenient appraisal at any one of their 225+ locations.
That said - there are a few items you’ll need to prepare that are VERY different from the online car vendors. Carmax simply doesn’t “make an offer” they do a thorough appraisal, and knowing the status of your car beforehand helps you go in with the right information.
Firstly, make sure to have the paperwork in preparation for sale ready:
The vehicle title and registration (these must generally be in the same name as the person selling the car)
The 10 day payoff statement from your lienholder
Maintenance records or a recent inspection report
Your driver's license
Next - its important to determine if your car will be resold by Carmax. In the case it would be a “Carmax car” the advice for preparation is very different.
Category 1: The car could be resold by Carmax if it meets ALL of these requirements.
Generally 10 years old or newer
Less than 100k miles
No accidents preferable, but if the car has had an accident it needs to have been minor
The cost of “making good” is not prohibitive to Carmax (e.g. its in good cosmetic and mechanical condition)
Category 2: The car will not be resold by Carmax. If the car meets ANY of these criteria, Carmax is unlikely to resell the car:
10 years old or OLDER
More than 100k miles
Significant cosmetic or mechanical needs
Major accident history
If your car is a “Category 2” car its unlikely that any investment or repairs in the car will impact Carmax’s offer significantly. Carmax instead will simply resell this car through their own car auctions to another used car-dealer and on average make ~$900 in the process. In the case of a “category 2” car you’re better off simply finding the dealership where the car will ultimately be sold and who specializes in higher mileage, older vehicles.
If your car is a “Category 1” car you’re going to want to prepare the car cost effectively. If anything needs major repairs, it’s worth taking care of if you can get advantageous rates or if your vehicle is still under warranty . Replace tires with budget options, often repairing with non OEM-parts for brake pad or other replacements can help save money and allow for an appraisal with a higher price.
Anything that requires replacement or reconditioning, Carmax will deduct from the offer. So for example let’s take the example of a “Ready to sell” 2018 Toyota Camry. Let’s say the Camry is worth $15,000 but requires $1,000 in tires, and $500 to repaint bumper scratches.
Carmax offer will be $15,000 - $1,000 -$500 = $13,500. So if you’re able to remedy these two items for “below estimate” than its worthwhile to have these repairs done.
Booking your Appraisal Online for Carmax:
Now it's time to book your appraisal! Luckily this is super easy for Carmax by visiting this site here: https://www.carmax.com/sell-my-car
Because they’ll be seeing your in person, you only need to enter the vehicle basics like
Make (such as Toyota/Honda)
Model (such as RAV4/CR-V)
Then some basic contact details, and select a time and location for your appraisal. After that - simply drive to the Carmax location to get your appraisal.
Comparing your CarMax offer to Other Online Car Offers:
There are many competitors for selling your car online, and you should be sure to get instant cash offers and trade-in quotes from these other online car selling services too. It should be noted that the price they show shouldn’t be the only driver of “who to choose”. Some services will add/deduct money after they arrive for inspection (as an example shift will conduct an “inspection in the driveway” and make offer adjustments from there). You can visit our tool which aggregates these appraisals here or you can go to the individual sites.
(1) Carvana.com: https://www.carvana.com/sellyourcar
(2) Vroom.com: https://www.vroom.com/sell
(3) Autotrader.com: https://www.autotrader.com/instant-cash-offer/
All are a good comparison and help you to get a true sense to the value of your car without having to leave your living room. You can also use some of the more typical car-buying market research websites to get a value such as NADA, Kelley Blue Book (KBB), or Edmunds as well as reference points.
We built the tool to make comparing these offers a little easier than entering the same information five times. That said, we do have a few recommendation for how to use the tool to make a decision.
Keep in mind that the "best offer" or "best price" shown online doesn’t always mean you’ll receive exactly that amount. Adjustments can be made from certain vendors.
The price shown is only reflective of the price in a moment in time. So as a certain car becomes more or less desire-able to these online or physical dealerships, the pricing will change to reflect that.
For all of the online car-sellers the "instant cash" price is equivalent to the "trade-in value". The only difference may be the added tax benefit of trading a car in.
Different sellers may offer different prices in a given geography. These offers are reflective only of offers in Northern California so might change substantively depending on where the retailer wants the car.
What are next steps in selling to Carmax?
Selling the car to Carmax is completely different than the online car vendors. After physically driving to the inspection center, you’ll be directed to wait in the waiting room (or due to COVID Pandemic procedures outside the facility).
A Carmax appraisal tech will put your vehicle on a lift, inspecting the car for mechanical needs, looking for signs of previous accident damage, and general condition. The appraiser will also typically take your car on a brief test-drive to test for any vibration, noises, or other issues.
While the appraiser is inspecting the vehicle, Carmax will also input the VIN or license plate number to check the vehicle’s history. Here’s they’ll pull both vehicle history reports from Carfax and Autocheck, as well as identify if there are any current liens on the car.
The appraiser will then “walk through the offer” based on the market value of the vehicle and any results from the mechanical inspection. The appraisal itself will be good for 7 days from the initial offer.
If you choose to accept the offer, you’ll be directed to a cashiers desk (or sometimes the associate does it themselves). Here you’ll walk through the vehicle title, the lien payoff statement, and provide proof of identity. You’ll sign a bill of sale with Carmax, and then depending on your loan you might:
Be asked to provide payment to the lienholder if your appraisal is less than you owe
Be issued a check if the appraisal is higher than you owe