6 Reasons I Sold My Car at CarMax

My second car c.1999

Vroom! Note: Not my hoopty.

“If you own a home with wheels on it and several cars without, you just might be a redneck.”
–Jeff Foxworthy

There are people who view their cars as an expression or extension of themselves. Then, there are people who view cars as a means to get from point A to point B. I used to be the former. I once owned a brand new BMW 318i convertible. It was awesome driving on the Autobahn in Germany with the top down, zipping along at unfathomable speeds until the governor kicked in at 118 miles per hour, causing me to hit max speed, and watching in jealousy as minivans whizzed by me. It was also a pain when I’d drive straight into a rain storm, top down, at 118 miles per hour.

But, really, the biggest reason that I bought such a nice car wasn’t because I had the money or because I was such a car fanatic. It was to impress women. There are no two ways about it. I figured any woman who rode in such a car with me had no choice but to melt and become smitten with me.

Then, I realized that the type of woman who would melt over me because I drove a convertible BMW could also be described by another term:

Gold digger

That wasn’t the type of woman I wanted to attract. Up to the dealership I drove, where I traded in the car, 3 miles short of the 36,000 mile warranty expiration, and got a 1994 Chevrolet Cavalier, affectionately known as le Cavalier bleu. Despite not haggling in the least (though, for the return on your time, you’d be better off shopping for a mortgage than shopping for an auto deal), I managed to come away with a bought and paid for car, even if it was a beater.

Once that car died, I upgraded slightly to a 1999 Honda Civic. Last year, it developed a pesky Check Engine warning light that caused it to fail inspection and create much angst with me. We finally decided to get the car fixed, expecting to drive it into the ground. After all, nothing says confidence in your financial planner than to see him driving around in a rickety old beater, right?

The plan went swimmingly until my step-grandmother-in-law decided to get rid of her car and the family made an offer my wife couldn’t refuse. Suddenly, we were the owners of three cars as a two person household (the dog doesn’t know how to drive).

While I considered putting the car up on blocks in the front yard just to add to the ambience of our place, I decided that wouldn’t endear us to the neighbors (or it would endear us to the wrong neighbors) in the long run. Actually, as soon as we decided to purchase the step-grandmother-in-law’s car, we knew we needed to get rid of my beloved “Green Bean.”

OK. It’s a car. It wasn’t beloved. People and pets are beloved. I’m no longer in the category of people who associates emotions with cars unless said car has just broken down on the side of the road.

We’d pretty much already decided as soon as we wrote the check for the new (to us) car that we were simply going to take my old car to CarMax and take whatever they offered for it.

6 Reasons Why We Went to CarMax to Sell Our Car


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  1. We’d been to CarMax before, and their offers were reasonably competitive. The past two times we’d needed to get rid of a car, we comparison shopped between CarMax and the local dealerships. CarMax was usually a bit lower, but, then again, the dealership had a vested interest in getting us to buy their cars, so they probably goosed the offer a little bit.
  2. We didn’t have a strong competitive position for dealerships to buy our car. Since we’d already acquired our replacement car, we couldn’t act like we were going to buy another car. OK. We could have. But we weren’t going to, because that was a lie.
  3. We valued our time. We were in and out of CarMax within an hour, check in hand, and we knew the check wouldn’t bounce. We didn’t have to file any paperwork with the DMV for getting rid of our car. The process was quick and easy.
  4. The value extracted from selling privately wasn’t life-changing money. Had we tried to advertise the car for sale privately, let people test drive it, etc., we might have received, potentially, $500 more for the car. $500 is nice. It pays for a small vacation. But, it’s not make-or-break money for us. That’s one of the perks of achieving financial independence. You don’t have to optimize for the maximum economic benefit in every money decision you make. Make smart big money decisions, and you get to not sweat the small ones.
  5. I didn’t want to deal with what I perceived as the hassle of taking calls from a bunch of Craigslist potentials. I’ve listed a car on Craigslist before and wound up driving hither and yon to meet tire kickers who wanted to take my car for a test drive and then apparently went to the same place where solo socks go hiding after you throw them in the dryer. I know Craigslist works. We’ve bought and sold items on Craigslist before. But, I wasn’t interested in driving around with flyers in my windows and taking calls at odd hours for weeks on end.
  6. There wasn’t anyone in the family who could use a great deal on a beater car. I’d have happily given away the car to any teenage family member who wanted it. Nobody did. You know you have a hoopty when even the teenaged kids don’t want it.

Did I leave money on the table? Absolutely. Do I care? Not really. Did I make selling my car out to be a bigger deal in my Monkey Brain than it probably would have been? Probably.

But, for the same reason we use a property manager to run our rental properties, I just didn’t want to be taking calls and dealing with the necessary steps to sell my car to extract the maximum value.

It was worth it for me to skip all of that procedure, get a little less money, and wash my hands of my car.

Poor old Green Bean. Faithful servant dropped off in the middle of the night into an enormous car factory without even a goodbye wave from its owner.

Penny wise or pound foolish? How do you get rid of your cars? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!




About Jason Hull, CFP®

Jason Hull, CFP®, is the Chief Technology officer of myFinancialAnswers, an online comprehensive financial planning service.