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How Much Does CarMax Pay for Cars?

How Much Does CarMax Pay for Cars

Selling a used car is a challenge if you don’t know where to start. Private selling, trade-in values, and Facebook Marketplace are options, but none are as easy or as convenient as CarMax. They are, however, sometimes picky about what cars they buy.

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CarMax is a national used car retailer with a fairly decent reputation these days. Part of this reputation has been upheld by being selective in the cars they are willing to put on their lot. For people looking for a short-term investment in a “junk car,” this has been frustrating.


On the other hand, people will some cash to spare are happy to find a used car dealer that accepts and sells reliable vehicles. Because the dealership focuses on reliability and trustworthiness, their reputation is safer in the market. 


In other words, people keep coming back for more at CarMax. The cars are in decent shape thanks to a very detailed inspection, and so, selling a used car to the business isn’t always easy. You’ll have to keep your car in pristine condition if you want top dollar.

It All Starts with a CarMax Appraisal

What’s an appraisal? It’s like an estimate or a quotation, but you are the one selling instead of buying. This makes the process a little easier in some ways (because you will know what the offer is without having to beat around the bush). 


The appraisal process can begin online, but you’ll have to provide some pretty specific information regarding your vehicle. For example, you may be prompted to share your license plate number or the VIN (vehicle identification number).


You’ll also have to be familiar with the vehicle inside and out. The web-based form will prompt you to respond to questions about the car mileage, features, amenities, and style. They’ll ask you if the car has any dark spots on its record (car accident, floods, etc.).


If the offer is confirmed online, you will have one week to make your decision whether you want to bring the vehicle to an onsite location for an in-person inspection.

An In-Person Appraisal at CarMax

If you show up in person, this is called an in-store appraisal. It’s the best way to find out how much money CarMax will pay for your used car.


If you decide to go this route, just find a location near you. The website can guide you, or you can use a search engine to locate the nearest CarMax.


The appraisal meeting usually takes less than sixty minutes.


To be prepared to sell your car to CarMax, here’s what you should bring to your appointment:

  • Car title
  • License
  • Registration
  • All keys, remotes, FOBs, etc.
  • A way of getting home after the car is sold


The CarMax team is pretty friendly in general, so you should expect a hospitable situation while you wait. They’ll offer you coffee or water. There’s likely to be a vending machine if you’re looking for a treat. You can even tour the lot and check out the inventory.


When the appraisal and inspection are completed, you will receive an offer on paper. This offer cannot be negotiated. The trade-in value is good for one week.


If you prefer, the trade-in value can be paid out on the spot. In fact, if you’re making payments on the car still, you could allow CarMax to handle the transfer process. You could also throw that money toward a down payment on another vehicle offered by CarMax.

Is a CarMax Offer Better than Trade-in Value?

How much will CarMax pay for a used car? It’s hard to say as it depends on many factors. In general, CarMax should offer the same cash value although sometimes the CarMax value is higher than the dealership trade-in value.


Just remember the offer is only good for one week. So, if you’re on the fence about the sale, you should be ready to take action seven days from the date of inspection and appraisal. 


Some people use the CarMax value to justify the sale price for a private sale. Others go back to the dealership with a new number in hand. The ability to say “thank you” and walk away from the offer with seven days to think about it (or make other plans) is quite lucrative.

CarMax Vs. A Private Sale

There are some drawbacks to selling your car to CarMax. They set the price, and the inspection process is rigorous. People who have old vehicles on their hands may find that CarMax isn’t interested in their clunker. 


People in this spot are advised to call a junkyard. 


There are plenty of benefits to selling a used vehicle to CarMax, though.

  • Negotiation is not part of the equation. The price is the price, and that’s that!
  • You don’t have to deal with a revolving door of interested parties who never actually sign on the dotted line. In other words, it’s less of a hassle.
  • The paperwork is handled by people who are experienced in title and registration laws and policies. Nothing gets signed in the wrong place.
  • If you owe money on the car, this is a great way to get out of the loan as they handle the paperwork.


Some people go to CarMax because they are “upside down” on their loan. They owe more than the car is worth. This can be a great way to break the pattern, but the seller must be prepared to make up the difference with the car loan.


For example, if you owe $10,000 on a car loan, and the car is only worth $8,000 at CarMax, you will have to pay the loan provider the balance. Sometimes, however, this payout is worth it for the individual. Every case is different.

What Happens at the CarMax Finance Office?

When you decide to accept an offer, you’ll be shuttled to the finance office for further consultation. You will start filing forms from CarMax, financial institutions, and the DMV (department of motor vehicles).


The finance manager checks everything over to ensure there will be no problems down the road.

Tips for Getting the Most Money at CarMax

When you want to know how much money CarMax will pay for your car, you have to take stock of what you’re putting up on the auction block. Is your car in great shape? Have you had the vehicle detailed recently? Are there problems in the car’s past?


CarMax is famous for being picky about used cars. They don’t buy just anything, and they absolutely don’t sell beaters.


To get ahead, you should be familiar with the Kelley Blue Blook or Edmunds value of your car. You can also check out car listings for similar vehicles, but be aware that mileage, other problems, and retail markup distort that price. Be prepared to be offered thousands less.


If your car has any damage, you’ll want to get that fixed before heading to CarMax. It will help you get a better offer. If you can’t, don’t worry. They may still buy the vehicle, just at a lower rate.


Remember that CarMax is a by-the-book company! This means that you need to have your ducks in a row before selling the car. You can’t waltz into CarMax without a title for your vehicle and expect to sell the used car. You’ll be immediately turned away.


If you don’t have the title, but the car is rightfully yours, not all hope is lost. You will have to request a duplicate title from the department of motor vehicles in your state. After a short waiting period, you will be able to go through with the CarMax appraisal. 


Rumor is that they are becoming more flexible in the cars they purchase and that they have even taken on cars with salvage titles. Be prepared for anything, though.

Does CarMax Buy Cars with High Mileage Vehicles?

Supposedly CarMax will shell out some cash for cars with odometer readings over six figures (100,000). These cars don’t make it out on the lot, though. Instead, they’re sent off to auction where bidders compete for the best price.

How Does CarMax Determine A Car’s Value?

CarMax determines how much they will pay for a used car by completing an inspection and performing a market analysis.


A trained appraiser will research the car’s year, make, and model. They will also inspect the car’s history via a vehicle history report (like Carfax). 


Once the information is collected, a financial snapshot reveals how much the car is worth in CarMax’s opinion. Generally, the offer is considered fair by most, but consumers should not expect to work miracles here. The payout is usually on part with trade-in values.


The team will also inspect the car inside and out. Is there frame damage? Was the car rusted in a flood? Do the blinkers work? How are those brakes? They even take the car for a little test spin to ensure everything’s working as it should.


Sometimes they will still buy a car with problems, but the rate they are willing to pay for such a vehicle will reflect the issues.


The reported appraisal is non-negotiable. This means that you can’t sit there and argue with their financial team. They are professionals, and they will not change the report-generated figure. Instead, you can say thank you and sit on the offer for seven days.


If you decide not to go forward with the deal, nothing is lost.

Does CarMax Buy Cars with Body Damage?

CarMax reserves the right to refuse a car for any reason, meaning that the price they’ll offer you is zero dollars and zero cents. Yikes!


This doesn’t happen too often anymore, but it is a possibility. The company has been known to buy cars with frame damage, body damage, and flood damage though. Just don’t expect a big cash offer for such a vehicle.

Alternatives to CarMax

When CarMax doesn’t seem to be fitting the bill, those interested in selling their used car, truck, or SUV are in luck. There are other options.

Selling your Car to the Junkyard

Go ahead and try this one if CarMax seems too picky, inconvenient, or detail oriented. The junkyard basically sends a tow truck to you and pays you cash for the car no matter the condition. 


Don’t expect Kelley Blue Book Values, but as they say, something is better than nothing!

Selling your Vehicle to a Dealership

You can go the classic route and try to sell your old pickup truck to the car dealership down the street. They may not offer the best values, but sometimes people get lucky with trade-in deals.

Private Car Sales

Thanks to the Internet, selling a car on your own is easier than ever. All you have to do is get the vehicle listed in the right places, and voila. This can be a method that brings a lot of cash value if you find the right buyer.


Downsides are that finding someone to take the car off your hands can be a veritable challenge and that many people who want to see the car are unpredictable.

How Much Does CarMax Pay for Used Cars?

It’s really difficult to say! You have to be prepared for anything.


The best shortcut we can provide is to check out the official used value car estimators available through websites like Kelley Blue Book and Edmonds. If the offer isn’t in the ballpark range, for whatever reason, you can always pass on it. No harm done.


Selling a used car? Why not give CarMax a try? If not, there’s always the junkyard.

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