Being the age I am (68), I've bought and sold quite a few cars over the years. I've found that buying is more pleasant than selling, especially now.
New car dealerships increasingly have a fixed or no-haggle price. When I bought my 2011 Mini Cooper S in Portland, Oregon, I was told there was only one possible price: MSRP.
OK. I wanted the Mini. I paid that price. Simple.
Similarly, when I recently decided that a 2017 VW GTI should enter my driving life, replacing the Mini, I was told that the VW dealer here in Salem (Lithia Motors) has a no-haggle pricing approach. The Internet sales manager offered me $3,000 off MSRP, which seemed fair.
So about two weeks ago I became the happy owner of a 2017 Autobahn GTI. It's a great car, the best I've ever owned (including a BMW 325ix that I enjoyed a lot in the 1980s).
Interestingly, when I was shopping around, a VW salesperson at another dealership told me that people who own Mini Coopers are the most common buyers of GTI's.
They still want a sporty, fun-to-drive hatchback -- just one that is a bit larger, more powerful, and has better safety features (Mini's are behind the times when it comes to blind spot alert, adaptive cruise control,, rear traffic alert, and other features that my GTI has.)
After buying the GTI, I was faced with selling my Mini Cooper. Because the Mini had an unresolved high pressure fuel pump problem at the time I bought the GTI, I didn't even ask for a trade-in price from VW of Salem.
But after the Mini dealership replaced the fuel pump last weekend under an extended 10 year, 100,000 mile warranty, I wanted to sell it ASAP. We have a three-vehicle-sized carport that now had four cars competing for a space. I'd gotten an offer from the Portland Mini Cooper dealership while it was being repaired.
The used car buyer gave me a Kelley Blue Book report.
Trade-In-Range: $7,622 - $9,081. Total Trade-In-Value: $8,352. Yet the offer was only $8,000. I was told that if I was actually trading in a car for a new Mini Cooper, they would offer me more for my 2011 Mini. Since I wasn't, the offer was what it was.
Which struck me as way too low.
I'd done my own Kelley Blue Book research. I found that the "Good" condition trade-in value for my Mini was $8,732. The "Very Good" condition trade-in value was $9,040. The "Good" private party value was $10,831, while the "Very Good" private party value was $11,181.
(The KBB web site condition quiz told me my Mini was in Good condition, though naturally I thought Very Good was defensible, given how well it had been maintained.)
So right after I picked my Mini Cooper up following the fuel pump replacement, I headed to an appointment I'd made at the Beaverton CarMax. My daughter had told me that she'd sold a car to a southern California CarMax and thought she got a good deal.
The used car buyer at the Mini Cooper dealership was a straightforward guy. After giving me the $8,000 offer for my car, he said, "Almost certainly you can do better at CarMax. They sell to a national market, so can move cars around to get a higher price for them."
I replied, "Good to hear. That's my next stop."
I won't describe my CarMax experience in excruciating detail. Suffice it to say that CarMax has its act together. The CarMax Superstore, as its called, was modern, clean, well organized, attractive, and staffed with competent friendly people.
After asking for Sam, the guy CarMax said would give me an offer for my Mini, we sat down at his desk. Sam described the CarMax process, which started with an inspection of the car by a buying specialist. He asked me if I wanted to observe the process, or if I wanted to wait inside.
"Observe," I told him.
The woman who inspected my Mini obviously knew her cars. Occasionally I'd mutter something like, "Be sure to note the rain-sensing wipers," but it didn't take long for me to realize that she was so familiar with Mini's, and probably just about every brand of car, she could identify the features of my car without my help.
She did ask a few questions, like "Does it have navigation?" I said, "No, I decided to get MiniConnect instead, figuring that I could use my iPhone to navigate." I also honestly mentioned that I've hardly used the mostly useless MiniConnect.
Then she took the car for a test drive while Sam and I went back to his desk and chatted about life, cars, Portland, Salem, and such. After 20 minutes or so his computer signaled that the woman had completed the offer. As I suspected, my Mini was in very good condition.
After reviewing the condition report with me, Sam said "The next screen is the price you're being offered." I leaned closer to his computer.
Not as much as I wanted. Way more than I'd been offered by the Mini Cooper dealership. About $1,200 less than what Kelley Blue Book had told me I could expect to get from a private party if the car was in Very Good condition, and about $800 less than if the car was Good condition.
There wasn't any pressure to accept the offer. Sam said the offer was good for a week. After mulling things over on the drive home, then talking it over with my wife, I decided to sell my Mini to CarMax for $10,000. The next day we drove separately up to CarMax, then drove home together.
With a $10,000 check in my wallet. The final sales process went as smoothly as the offer process did. A friendly competent person led us through handing over the title and signing other papers.
Yes, I probably could have gotten more for the Mini if I'd advertised it on AutoTrader. However, I've done this before, and haven't enjoyed it. I realize some people enjoy the game of bickering over a price, giving test drives, answering questions about a car, and encountering potential buyers who are a pain to deal with.
Tonight I couldn't resist looking at what CarMax is asking for 2011 Mini Cooper S cars, nationally.
Quite a bit more than $10,000. I've read that CarMax tries to make about $2,000 on each car it buys. Since I saw Mini's similar to mine with a price of $13,000 or more, that seems about right.
To which I say, good for CarMax, if they can sell my car for that much. I don't think I could have, though maybe it would have been possible. Regardless, I sold my Mini to CarMax quickly, easily, and for a price that seemed fair. Works for me.
So my recommendation is to give CarMax a try if you're selling a car. Especially if you're willing to leave some potential private party cash on the table in exchange for a simple, fast, hassle-free selling experience.