If you're a regular reader, you probably know that I write two frequent series here on Jalopnik. In one, I document all the problems I have with my used Range Rover, which I bought two years ago from CarMax with a bizarrely comprehensive six-year warranty. In the other, I tell you what it's like to own a used Ferrari. These columns are very popular, and most people seem to like them, except the folks over at the Ferrari and Land Rover message boards who believe I am worse than the Taliban.
But yesterday was a big day, because my worlds collided: I brought my Ferrari to CarMax. You'd know this if you followed me on Twitter, because I announced that I took the Ferrari to CarMax for an appraisal. But you wouldn't know the hilarious story that came out of my trip to CarMax. So I'm going to share with you now.
To begin, it's important to explain exactly why I visited CarMax in the first place. So here's the deal: in addition to being the nation's leading provider of unreliable high-performance used cars with comprehensive warranties, CarMax also has this program where they will buy your used car, no matter what it is, and give you cash on the spot – even if you don't buy a car from them. Seriously. You show up in a Ford Pinto? They'll buy it. Buick Roadmaster? They'll buy it. Saturn Relay? Hahahaha, no, even CarMax won't touch that crap.
Just kidding, they'll buy a Relay, presumably in an even trade for a socket wrench they have lying around the service department. In fact, they say they'll buy anything, no matter how awful. So I'm sitting around the house the other day, and it hits me: I wonder what would happen if I asked them to make me an offer on my Ferrari.
You can see where this is going.
So the next morning, I'm driving out to my local CarMax in the Ferrari, and a thought hits me: What if they recognize me? I've been doing these Range Rover columns for a while, and they're pretty popular, and I've received quite a few e-mails from current and former CarMax employees, sharing some funny stories of their own. So are they going to know it's me? Are they going to recognize my name? DO THEY HAVE A "WANTED: DOUG DEMURO" POSTER HANGING UP IN EVERY SHOWROOM?!?!?!
I was so concerned that I decided to pull up to the front of the store and take a photo of the Ferrari with the CarMax sign first, so that I could eventually post it up on Twitter. My theory was that if they recognized me and told me to get lost, I would at least have photographic evidence of that time I attempted to take a Ferrari to CarMax for an appraisal.
So anyway: I walk in and I'm met by the CarMax greeter, who tells me to fill out my information on a touchscreen they have in the lobby. It's mostly just standard personal stuff — name, address, etc — but there's also a section for "additional comments." These were mine:
Eventually, a CarMax buyer named Ryan comes out and he goes over the entire process with me. It'll take about 25 minutes, Ryan says, during which he'll run the Autocheck report, examine the car for body work, take it for a short test-drive, and check out selling prices for comparable vehicles. Ryan is professional. He doesn't seem bothered by the fact that it's a Ferrari. It might as well be a Mercury Topaz.
We walk outside, and we're quickly joined by Ryan's buying manager – a nice guy who shakes my hand and wants to check out the car. We discuss it for a little bit – fuel economy, performance, condition. The usual. I'm nervous that he'll recognize me, but he doesn't say a thing. Eventually he goes back inside. Then Ryan tells me I picked the perfect day to bring in the Ferrari.
"Why is that?" I say.
"Because our regional manager just happens to be here today," Ryan replies. "We have to call him anyway, before we buy a car like this. So it's good that he's already here."
Now I'm nervous. The regional manager will definitely recognize me, right?? What an unlucky day! I think. Now they're going to know I'm not serious, and they won't give me a quote! I stand there as Ryan continues to go over the car, manually entering the options into his computer because CarMax's third-party VIN tool doesn't exactly have data for Ferrari. And then regional manager walks out, accompanied by a store manager. I'm trying to shield my face, certain that the jig is up, when the regional manager introduces himself to me.
"Hi!" he says. "I'm Troy!"
It turns out that Troy is a big car enthusiast: he's spent nearly 20 years with CarMax, and he was interested in British car restoration before that. He's great to talk to, and he really appreciates the Ferrari – and cars in general. It's no surprise, then, that we get to talking about some of the other interesting cars they have on the lot: a BMW M5, and an M3. A Porsche Panamera. A Range Rover. I tell him I wish they carried some other high-line stuff, like Bentley or Maserati. And that's when…
"Do you ever read that website, Jalopnik?" says Troy. I can tell the question is genuine: he's not just trying to screw with me. "There's a guy on there, and he loves us. He's got an old Range Rover he bought with a warranty, and he writes about all the problems he has."
No, Troy. I've never heard of that guy.
Eventually, Troy goes back inside, and Ryan and I take the car for the test drive – with me in the driver's seat. I try to insist that Ryan take it for a spin, which is the usual CarMax process, but he's worried about the risk.
"It's not every day that you get to drive a Ferrari!" I say, trying to convince Ryan to get behind the wheel.
"That's exactly why we don't want him driving it!" jokes Ryan's manager, as he walks back into the dealer.
When we're done with the test drive, I park the car and Ryan and I walk inside. At this point, I'm excitedly texting my friends: They know OF me! But they don't know it IS me!!! As Ryan goes into the back office to come up with an offer, I'm giggling in the showroom. The whole thing is hilarious.
After a few minutes, Ryan returns, offer in hand. It's tremendously low (EDIT: I don't want a potential buyer using the offer against me, but I'll reveal it when I sell the car!), but I don't blame them: this isn't a car that CarMax wants anything to do with. Not only can they not sell it to a retail buyer, but they'd need to purge all the service records in the interest of privacy — not a big deal on a 3-year-old Camry, but a four-figure value hit on a modern Ferrari. I thank Ryan, and ask him for one quick favor: "Can you grab Troy?"
Troy walks back out into the showroom, and I shake his hand.
"I have to come clean about something," I say. "I'm the guy with the Range Rover."
"Yeah, we just figured that out while we were preparing the offer!" says Troy. We chat about cars for a while – Troy says the warranties used to be even cheaper than they are today – and he tells me he always chooses the "cool stuff" for his company cars, even if it's not one of the latest models. As I'm leaving, he extends his hand again: "You're welcome here any time!"
That's good to know. Because I think we can all assume it won't be long before my next warranty claim.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.
Top Photo Credit: Raphael Orlove/Getty Images