Should I Sell My Car to CarMax?

Consider your vehicle's age, condition, and popularity to figure out your best option when selling.


It has never been cheaper and easier to sell your used car, truck, minivan, or SUV, and CarMax has become a popular choice when trying to sell a vehicle you no longer want, or perhaps need.

CarMax is an automotive retail powerhouse that stretches from Florida to Washington state. It’s the second-largest auto auction company globally, with more than 60 locations selling over 10,000 vehicles a week, ranging from near-new Teslas to 20-year-old Buicks. According to their latest quarterly report, CarMax bought nearly 400,000 used cars from consumers in only three months, and over half of those deals were done online.

If you’re in the market to sell your car, there are plenty of options. CarvanaVroomGiveMeTheVINKelley Blue Book, and CarMax all buy cars online from consumers. Selling a car on Facebook Marketplace is completely free, and Craigslist costs only $5. But which of these options will likely yield you the best price?” The answer is, “It depends.”

The best way to sell your used car depends on your vehicle’s age, condition, and popularity. Here are five scenarios to consider if you’re wondering, ‘Should I sell my car to CarMax?’

1. You’re Selling an Unpopular Car with Mechanical Problems.

CarMax often has over 300 dealers at their auctions who directly compete against each other. These auctions are capitalism incarnate and often yield a win/win for consumers and CarMax. But that doesn’t mean it always happens.

I was once the not-so-proud owner of a 22-year-old Ford Contour that was worth more dead than alive. It had a blown head gasket, bad transmission, an interior that smelled musty, and a water leak that filled the back seat floor with inches of water.

I bought it for only $500 and sold it to CarMax for $1,500. No other car-buying outlet came close to that price, and selling it myself would have required dealing with flippers who make meager offers on used cars in the hope of making a quick profit.

2. You’re Selling an Older, Unpopular Used Vehicle That’s in Great Shape

The used car market is so strong that even 20-plus-year-old cars that would typically sell for only $2,000 a few years ago are now going for $3,500 and beyond. In many cases, you can get more money selling these cars on your own than you can from an online dealership.

I sold a 2001 Buick LeSabre with a peeling dashboard and tons of dents but only 101,000 original miles for $3,500 at my dealership near Atlanta in less than 24 hours. This is just one of many old cars that went for plenty of money due to inflation and the current car shortage.

Instead of CarMax, Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist should be where you start if your car is older and unpopular but still in good mechanical shape.

3. You’re Selling a Popular Used Car in Mint Condition

Any Toyota or Honda, or a well-kept large SUV, truck, or crossover will likely be easy to sell in today’s car market. A 2005 Toyota Highlander had a title issue that required me to sell it as True Miles Unknown, which means that the odometer couldn’t be verified as the actual mileage.

It made no difference. Even with that major title issue, this entry-level Toyota SUV with over 130,000 miles still sold for nearly $9,000.

None of the online dealers, including CarMax, will sell an older vehicle on their lot. They may buy your car to resell it at a dealer auction, but for these vehicles, it usually makes better sense to cut out the middlemen and sell it yourself.

4. You’re Selling a Newer Vehicle with Zero Mechanical Issues.

The value proposition changes for 2010 and newer models and vehicles with fewer than 130,000 miles. CarMax and other retailers such as Carvana and Vroom may be able to sell it for more money than you can locally.

Since CarMax has so many dealers attending their online auctions, many of whom are several states away from that live sale, CarMax can get more money for the vehicle than I can in my local market. I sold a popular 2017 Kia Forte with over 40,000 miles and accident history in minutes to CarMax’s online site. CarMax then sold it at one of their auctions to another car dealer.

5. You’re Selling a Car That’s Nearly New, but with Some Mechanical Issues

Late-model vehicles with major mechanical issues can be challenging to sell on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist without significantly adjusting the price. CarMax and other dealers might make you a competitive offer, but I find enthusiast forums to be incredibly helpful in these situations. Since enthusiasts who love their cars are already familiar with the issues, they are often willing to pay a reasonable price for a car they can fix and make right.

If you’re willing to reduce the price for the repair cost and subtract about $700 to $1,000 for the hassle of repairing it, you can unload a vehicle and get a fair deal. If you don’t get any bites after a couple of weeks, you can always shop it online at CarMax and other dealers.

If you're thinking of selling your car to CarMax, figuring out what you have makes all the difference. Weigh your options, shop around, and get the money you deserve.

This site is for educational purposes only. The third parties listed are not affiliated with Capital One and are solely responsible for their opinions, products and services. Capital One does not provide, endorse or guarantee any third-party product, service, information or recommendation listed above. The information presented in this article is believed to be accurate at the time of publication, but is subject to change. The images shown are for illustration purposes only and may not be an exact representation of the product. The material provided on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the availability or suitability of any Capital One product or service to your unique circumstances. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.
author photo
Steven Lang
Steven Lang is a special contributor to Capital One with nearly two decades of experience as an auto auctioneer, car dealer, and part owner of an auto auction. Some of the best-known auto publications turn to him for his expert insight. He is also the co-developer of the Long-Term Quality Index, a survey of vehicle reliability featuring over two million vehicles that have been inspected by professional mechanics.