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Tips for buying a used car from a dealer or Carmax

We are looking to buy a used car right away, either a GMC Acadia or a Buick Enclave. We are new to the used car buying process and any tips would be appreciated. We do have a trade in but it isn’t in great shape (2005 Chrysler town and country, some rust, some hail damage, needing new brake pads and rotors, and a noisy engine) we know we won’t get much for it but will dealers/Carmax give us anything for it? Thank you.

If you go to Carmax, they will give you an offer (or not) whether you buy a car from them or not and give 7 days for you to make that decision. You may think it is a lowball offer but CarMax isn’t making it conditional on the buying a newer car from them. It is the easiers option, although not the one that will net you the most money.

A car dealer will only make you an offer on a van this old and in need of work to sell you something newer. You will NOT get bupku$ for the van, even if they offer you what seems like good money, because the dealer will send it straight to auction. The “offer” is just added to the price of the car you buy.

Your best bet is to sell the car privately, and honestly - reveal its needs - and then buy the car you want to replace it. Look up the value on Edmunds and and be honest with yourself about its condition. The money you didn’t spend on needed repairs comes off the asking price.


If you go to Carmax, ask why they have a giant body shop with a down draft paint booth if they don’t deal in damaged cars.

I doubt they will offer to buy your van. It is too old for them to sell. My Acura dealer has twice asked me to get my trade ins appraised by Carmax,; as they heard Carmax offered high appraisals. Not in my case. Two late model Acuras were appraised at 10% behind Black Book wholesale.

Again, I doubt they will buy your van but I have heard of people who found their offer to be acceptable. Carmax offers a “no hassle” sales experience at a high price. It’s a good place to visit to sit in lots of different cars and models. Some people like their extended warranties.

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I sold a minivan to CarMax and got more than I expected. The exhaust gas recirculation ports clogged constantly and the dealer couldn’t fix it. Whether you buy the Buick or GMC from CarMax, you might consider just selling it to them. Because they are a dealer, don’t tell them anything that is wrong. They can figure everything out for themselves. This is not like selling to a private party. Dealers are experts and don’t need your help.

Nice SUV, BTW. I tried to interest my wife in a new Enclave, but she wouldn’t go for it. It rides very well and is whisper quiet.

One thing I remind folks when they are considering buying a vehicle and have a trade is that in some states dealers can offset the sales tax on the trade if it is done in one transaction. As opposed to you selling the older model private party and then buying the next vehicle at a dealer like CarMax. In my state, the sales tax is 6.25%. Nothing to sneeze at.

Are you saying that if I sell a vehicle privately or to a dealer I will pay sales tax in your state where ever that is?

Also this OP has several related threads and it just leads to confusion.

I’m confused… I am new here so maybe you can help me. I do have two threads: one looking for tips when buying a used car from Carmax, or a dealer and one looking for advice on the enclave v the Acadia. They should be one post? I apologize for any confusion, I’m still learning about this board I guess.

Car Max is probably a fine place to buy a used car, If you can get a report of brake life compression, needed maintenance, Remember to check if the timing belt has been replaced if applicable. Spend the bucks for an indepandant inspection, There are alot of used cars out there. Considering the same for my daughter, rather than spend 10 grand on a used car I am thinking 13k for a new kia or nissan.

Other than what is on a Carfax or Autocheck report Car Max is not going to know anything else about the vehicle.

From what I can tell, Carmax prices are not lower than anybody else’s prices

In some instances, their prices are even higher, than if you were to buy that same used car from any other dealer

When we were shopping for a used Honda Civic for my mom last year . . . 2014 model, by the way . . . we quickly discounted Carmax, because their prices were simply too high

We wound up getting a good price at a nearby VW dealer. Apparently, the car had been traded in on a new VW, and after 2 months of not moving, they lowered the price, and we got it. We did a little homework, and it was true that they had it for 2 months. They weren’t lying about it.

At Carmax, we would have paid about $2000 more for the same car. Not worth it in my opinion.

I guess one of the draws at Carmax, is that they have a large selection of vehicles, of various types and brands.

Several years ago, when they weren’t quite as well known as now, they were blatantly poaching mechanics from the new car dealers. They made good offers,and stole away some very sharp guys.

As for the quality of cars they sell, I’ve seen good and bad examples. I’ve seen them really pass the buck, so to speak, and hope the buyer is an idiot, and I’ve also seen them sell some excellent condition vehicles


I agree with @db4690; as much as I have tried to like carmax and their philosophy of no haggling, I have never had much luck with their cars and the pricing. I have seen cars being sold with no maintenance records, the salesman was telling me that IF the manual calls for a timing belt change at 90K miles, then it was probably done-really!
Also, they price the cars higher than the CPO sold by the manufacturer which does not make sense to me. I also have found cars with major accidents on their lots but they just refuse to accept that the car has been fixed. In other words, I think it is like any other used car business with a bit of extra lipstick.

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My only thought between carmax and a dealer after talking to them, they have minimum acceptable limits for brakes and tires, and will put new on if needed before selling, not sure what the minimum standards are but in buying used cars often new brakes and tires are on the to do list.

In NY State , in my county the sales tax is 8.75 %. If you trade in a car at a dealer ,new or used dealer, you only pay sales tax on the difference in price. If you sell a car privately, the buyer has to pay sales tax on the bill of sale amount and you have to pay sales tax on the whole cost of the new car.