Tips, Tricks & Trends

How Does CarMax Work When Buying a Car?

OK, so let’s say you’ve decided to buy a new car. Well, new to you at least. Used car dealers have a reputation for being shady that’s often well-earned, too, so we understand why a lot of customers find used car shopping so stressful. That’s why it also makes sense why people find the idea of CarMax so appealing. Based on the commercials, it looks like a friendly, hassle-free experience that’s wildly different than what you can expect from stereotypical used car dealers.

But if you decide to buy a car from CarMax, will the actual experience match what you see in the commercials? Is there anything especially different about CarMax? Perhaps most importantly, is there anything special you need to know before going in? To get a better understanding of the car buying process at CarMax, let’s take a look at some of the answers to those common questions.

What’s the catch at CarMax?

RELATED: Can You Really Return a Car You Just Bought?

Technically, this isn’t a question that CarMax includes on its car buying FAQ page, but it’s definitely a good place to start. Our experience has been that CarMax’s reputation for customer service is well-earned. Employees really are friendly and helpful, and they don’t employ the same high-pressure sales tactics so many people hate.

With so many stores across the country and so many cars at each store, there’s bound to be some variation in the condition of some of the cars. But that’s also why you should take any car you consider buying in for a pre-purchase inspection. A PPI won’t catch everything, but it should catch a lot of the big stuff.

If you’re dead-set on getting the best deal possible, though, CarMax may not be for you. Its prices tend to be a little higher than you might pay somewhere else, and it doesn’t negotiate. Some people think it’s worth it to avoid the potential headache, but others are going to be much happier haggling over that last $100.

Can you buy a car online?

Currently, you can take care of some of the buying process online but not all. Using CarMax’s website, you can reserve a car, schedule a test drive, check the vehicle history report, get pre-approved for financing, and schedule a trade-in. The rest of the process will require some form of human interaction, however.

What kind of documentation do you need?

When it’s time to buy a car, you definitely don’t want to miss out on a good deal because you showed up without the proper documentation. CarMax requires you to bring a valid driver’s license, proof of insurance, and proof of income if you plan to finance. You’ll also need proof of residence, proof of variance if the address on your credit application is different than the one on your credit report, and proof that you have a phone. Examples and longer explanations are available on CarMax’s website if you have any questions.

When is the downpayment due?

Much like the deposit and first month’s rent for an apartment, the downpayment is due when you purchase the car. So make sure you plan ahead and know how much you plan to put down. Unlike some other used car dealers, though, CarMax offers a seven-day return policy, so if you have a problem with the car or change your mind, you can bring it back for a refund or use the value of your downpayment toward a different car.

Can you use a credit card?

It would be convenient to get a few thousand credit card points out of your car purchase. After all, that could easily be $150 in rewards if you buy a $15,000 car. Sadly, CarMax doesn’t take credit cards. It does, however, accept debit cards, as well as cash and personal checks with your current name and address.