Oh, Carmax. You might not have the best deals on used cars, but you have some damn good marketing. So good in fact, that even a seasoned gearhead can get hypnotized by the desire to buy car “the best way,” even if it means overspending.
I had a customer in the Indianapolis area that wanted to get a lightly used Miata Club with the power hard-top. He didn’t want to wait for the ND Miata and wasn’t sure about the time frame for a hard-top version.
I found a 2013 Club with only 8k miles for $21,500. At the time this was by far the lowest price Miata Club within 100 miles of Indy.
He says to me something along the lines of: “That’s nice, but it’s at a Chrysler dealer. I don’t know if I want to do business with them. A lot of times they can be pretty sleazy. What about this Miata at CarMax?”
I had to remind my customer that the CarMax Miata was a year older, not a Club, (though it does have more equipment) and most importantly has a “no haggle” price that is $2500 more.
So I say to him, “You want to spend $2500 more on a car that is not exactly what you want so you can buy it from a nice dude in a blue polo that you are never going to see again?”
Such is the power of the CarMax marketing machine. They want you to believe that anyone that walks on to a dealership lot is automatically looked upon as “fresh meat.” .
Sure, there are plenty of really sleazy car lots out there, but it is not like they are totally unavoidable. Even if you are just going to a dealership to browse and not buy, all you have to do is tell them, “I’m not ready to buy today, and I just want try a few things out before I make my decision.”
Most of the time, the salespeople will chill out and just let you drive the car. If you don’t like the dealership or feel uncomfortable, you can go somewhere else! Many of our readers pointed out, that CarMax is a great place to drive a variety of makes and models in one place. So if you are going there for browsing purposes that is a good plan. Just remember, selection does not equal savings and “no-haggle” certainly does not equal “best price.”
Yes, you don’t haggle over your chicken parmigiana, but if you pay 10-15 percent more for your dinner than you were supposed to, your are not saddled with a payment for the next several years.
I’m going to let you all in on a little secret, and this is coming from someone who works deals every single day: you don’t have to be an expert negotiator to get a good price on a pre-owned car. More often than not, the lightly used market (1-5 years old) is about finding the best “value” by taking into account year, make, model, and equipment then comparing prices.
This does require a bit of research and can be really time consuming. But you aren’t dropping $15 on breaded chicken and marinara sauce, you are spending thousands of your hard earned dollars on a vehicle that you have to live with for a while.
CarMax may have the best deal for the car you are looking for, especially if you’re getting something interesting that may require some extra warranty coverage. Keep in mind that CarMax is a used car dealer, just like any other store that sells pre-owned cars. So make your purchase just like you would do for anything else, hop on the web and see what other deals can he had.
This story was originally published on July 20, 2015