Is CarMax Better than a Dealer?

It is overwhelming, being on the market looking to buy a vehicle, particularly if it is a used one. The number of ways of getting one is so many and with the advent of online services that include home-deliver, it gets even more confusing since you’ll want an easy way out.

Nevertheless, for the brick-and-mortar store to visit, many people often ask, is it better to buy from CarMax or a dealer? Luckily, you have come to the right place. This article details the typical buying experience between the two.

Is CarMax Better than a Dealer?

So, which one is better? The answer depends on your preferences. If you want a hassle-free experience and a place where you can give the car a run first, then CarMax is a better suit. However, if you can stomach the long wait-time to get better pricing, then going with a dealer will be your best bet.

Both options have their strengths and drawbacks. Ultimately, what you choose to go with depends on how each fulfills your needs. To help you arrive at a decision, here is a look at how they work.

How Does CarMax Work When Buying a Car?

So, finally, you decided to buy a new car, but with the reputation of used car sellers being shady, you find yourself asking, is CarMax a ripoff? This notion is often based on user experiences, and it only makes sense that you want to know before committing to such a huge investment.

If you choose to purchase a car from this seller, you will find that the actual experience and process of buying matches their description – that is, their team is friendly, and the experience is hassle-free, a wildly different feel from what you can expect from other typical sellers. That notwithstanding, is there anything else you should know before making the purchase? Here are some answers as to how it works.

What’s the Catch?

This isn’t a question that the car seller includes in its documentation of FAQs, but it makes a great place to begin exploring. Its reputation for customer service, for one, is stellar. With a friendly team of employees that are quite helpful, finding the right vehicle for your needs isn’t as overwhelming. Plus, they do not employ some high-pressure tactics of sale or try to convince you to subscribe or sell you a different product as is often the case with traditional dealerships.

With more than 200 physical locations across the U.S. and more than 50,000 cars available at any given time on their website, the chances of finding what you are looking for are pretty high. And here is the best part, you will be given enough time to give the car a spin to ensure it is the perfect fit. Even after purchasing it, you have up to seven days to return the vehicle for a full refund.

While this sounds so easy, many people often wonder, can you negotiate price with CarMax? Will CarMax give me a fair price? Is the CarMax warranty worth it? Does CarMax lower prices over time?

Can You Negotiate Price with CarMax?

Sadly, if you are set on trying to get the best deal possible, this seller might not be the best option for you. The whole appeal of the company is to remain a no-hassle seller. Its prices also tend to be a little on the high side, that is, more than what you would have paid from a conventional car seller. So, it doesn’t negotiate.

However, does this mean you are stuck with what the seller offers you? Not necessarily. You can take advantage of their extended warranties and financing options to get the best rate. As such, you can shop around for attractive deals from other financial institutions before buying the vehicle. Getting a few quotes will at least offer you the satisfaction that you are not getting fleeced on monetary terms. This pretty much answers whether the company will give you a fair price.

If, however, you were selling or trading your vehicle for another, after their rigorous inspection, they might offer you a price that is worth the value of your car. But, in some instances, you might also walk away wishing you had gotten a better offer.

Is the CarMax Warranty Worth It?

On top of buying and selling vehicles, the company offers a limited warranty that covers your vehicle for the first 90 days or 4,000 miles, depending on which comes first. Beyond that, the seller’s MaxCare coverage picks up. This extended coverage, however, is optional. You can choose to have or decline the offer. But if you turn it down, you can’t opt-in later because it is only available at the time of purchase.

Is it worth it though? Well, if you are the type of person that will whine a lot at the thought of an expensive repair bill, then the extended warranty is worth it. It is also worth having if the vehicle you choose doesn’t have a good reliability rating. This way, if it breaks down and begins needing constant repairs, you can use the coverage.

Needless to say, you may also be paying for something that you might not need, especially if the car you buy is still new, has low mileage, or is acquired only temporarily. In such a case, you might not need it at all.

Does CarMax Lower Prices Over Time?

The only time this can happen is when the cars are marked down. Some vehicles may end up getting marked several times before they are auctioned. They may also be marked once or twice a month before they are sent to the auction or another location, depending on inventory need.

What About the Documentation?

As is the case with most car purchases, or sales, you can miss out on a good deal if you don’t put your papers in order. Therefore, you need a valid driver’s license, proof of insurance, and income, if you want to take advantage of the financing options. Other documents that you need include proof of residence, or variance if it differs from what your credit application states, and a valid phone number. Armed with that, and your cash for a down payment, you’re good to go.

As for the down payment, it is due when you purchase a car. So, you must plan to know how much you can afford. Good thing is, even if the company doesn’t take credit cards, they accept debit cards, cash, and personal checks.

That’s basically it about the company – no-haggle policy, no negotiations, extended warranties, friendly team, and flexible financing. Oh, and you can return your new or used car and get a full refund.


A dealership, when compared to the previous option, is only great if you are looking to get the best price for a specific vehicle. However, the process is tedious, and you’ll often be frustrated by the time you get it done.

It starts well, you browse their inventory, find a car you like, visit their lot, and that’s where it all begins. A salesperson shows up to help guide you through the process, including going over the pricing options before completing whatever preliminary paperwork is required.

After it is done, you will wait for the finance manager, someone responsible for handling the rest of the paperwork such as financial and DMV documents as well as the actual contract. There are a lot of pieces to your deal, and it includes running your credit, getting a loan approved, among other considerations, therefore, it will even take up to four hours.

Although you can also test drive the vehicle, it might also take longer if the car was parked somewhere else. But you can identify your vehicle and call ahead to avoid any inconveniences.

What About the Pricing?

The best part about going this route for purchasing a vehicle is that you get to negotiate. And this is one of the reasons why they will not give you the best price upfront. You might end up going to another seller and ask them to beat it, or you’d ask that they lower it. Well, it is quite a process, but due to the competitive nature of the business, you will probably land at the best deal ever.

Monetary Incentives

Often, the same salespersons will try to entice you with other deals. Remember, however, that these deals are not exclusive and are also available at other shops as well. What they are trying to do is to get the best value for the vehicle.

It is also such a bummer, that if you have a poor credit score, securing reasonable financing through these sellers is quite challenging and when it goes through, it is quite expensive, thanks to the attached ludicrous interest rates.

The Catch?

Well, apart from the ability to negotiate, you can always find the best deals on new and relatively used cars with low mileage. Moreover, in regards to protections and flexibility in terms of payment, this traditional route has the upper hand.

For one, these institutions normally accompany the vehicles with attractive warranties that negate the likely scenario of you getting stuck paying out of pocket in case of mechanical problems. Although its counterpart has the same warranties, you can expect to find a better warranty from the latter, some even have their warranties for used cars.

Their inventory may be limited, but you can sure get a good deal, particularly on car specials. Even better, you get to enjoy some loyalty incentives and free after-sale services!

Selling Cars on Both

Ultimately, you will find that selling cars on both institutions pretty much follows the same buying process. However, it is easy to do so using the first option.

Closing Thoughts

Ultimately, if you have your eyes on that beautiful SUV or truck, and you are looking to drive it home, the option you decide to go with depends on various factors, including how fast you want to get it, the payment flexibility, and whether you will get the best deal out of it.

Of course, if you don’t prefer to haggle, want to give the vehicle a run for a week, and return it for a full refund, then you know which one to go with.

On the other hand, if you want the most attractive price and a chance to enjoy some after-sale service such as regular maintenance, then a dealership might be the best choice.

Whichever option you go with, I hope this article gives you an idea of where to start.

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