When it came time to sell my 2020 Crosstrek Limited because I was getting a 2024 Crosstrek Limited, the choice was between Capitol Subaru and CarMax. In the past I've sold cars on my own, but I don't enjoy doing this anymore.
My wife and I have bought quite a few cars from the Capitol Auto Group, starting back when they were on Mission Street. Now the four Capitol dealerships -- Chevrolet, Cadillac, Toyota, Subaru -- are adjacent to the Martin Luther King Parkway, which enables the Capitol slogan:
Your way on the parkway
Usually I've agreed with that slogan. But sometimes I haven't, especially when it comes to trading in a car. That's what happened this time. I found CarMax much easier to deal with than Capitol Subaru when it came to getting an offer for my 2020 Crosstrek.
That car was fully loaded with every possible factory option. I ordered the Crosstrek, which was built in Japan. It also had low miles, about 24,000, in part because I did so little driving during the initial Covid period.
Understand: I only have good things to say about the Subaru saleswoman I worked with, Emily Campbell. You won't go wrong if you buy a vehicle from her. My problem is with the trade-in policies established by Capitol management that Campbell had to operate under.
Campbell gave me a test drive in a 2024 Crosstrek after I'd brought my 2020 in for service and got to looking at the 2024 model, which was a redesign with some marked improvements from my 2020. Notably, a larger 2.5 liter engine rather than the underpowered 2.0 liter I had. Also, wireless Apple CarPlay and a bunch of other new features that appealed to me, including upgraded safety equipment.
I was curious to learn what my 2020 was worth. Campbell took some photos after my car had been serviced and said she'd let me know what Capitol would offer for it. But I never got that offer. I'm pretty sure it was because Capitol didn't want to give me an offer before it was time to trade-in my 2020 on a new car.
That happened fairly quickly, since Campbell found a 2024 Crosstrek Limited on its way to the dealership with the color and options that I wanted. I put down a $500 deposit on the 2024 around mid July and the car was scheduled to arrive on September 3. So it wasn't like I was asking for a trade in offer way ahead of time.
At any rate, in early to mid August CarMax gave me an online offer of $25,000 after asking a bunch of questions about my 2020, including the VIN. Around that time I'd gotten an email from Subaru saying they were interested in my 2020 Crosstrek.
I recall that I wasn't asked for the mileage, which I thought was strange. Regardless, I gave Subaru the info on my 2020 and got an offer back: $23,550, which was good for up to 45,000 miles on the car. The offer had an expiration date of August 31.
That led me to text Campbell, saying that I'd gotten an offer from Subaru that was less than what CarMax was offering for my car, and seemingly didn't take into account the low mileage -- though maybe they had that from my service record, all of which has been done at Capitol Subaru.
I figured that after Capitol learned that Subaru had offered me less than CarMax, they'd raise their offer.
I'd been telling Campbell that I wanted to have the trade-in set several days before the 2024 Crosstrek arrived, because from past painful episodes with various dealers I've learned that what should be a pleasant car buying experience can be hurt by an unpleasant car selling/trade-in experience.
Plus, how about that slogan Your way on the parkway. The way I wanted was to get a firm trade-in offer from Capitol Subaru before the 2024 came in, so the car buying and car selling were separated.
That never happened. A week or so before the 2024 was to arrive, I got an updated online offer for my 2020 from CarMax. This time the offer was for $25,600, six hundred dollars more than the previous CarMax offer.
Since my 2020 had a MSRP of $32,103, I was pleasantly surprised that the value of my Crosstrek had held up so well. I headed off to CarMax (on Lancaster Drive) to have them confirm the offer by looking at my car.
Melanie Zuniga worked with me at CarMax. She was wonderfully efficient, as was the CarMax appraisal process. Within about 40 minutes I was told that no problems were found with my car and the $25,600 was a firm offer good for the next seven days.
Leaving CarMax, I felt that they deserved to buy my 2020 Crosstrek. After all, Capitol Subaru had plenty of chances to give me a fair offer. (The CarMax offer was right in line with the midpoint of the Kelley Blue Book trade-in price for my car, which CarMax showed on their offer sheet and which I'd already confirmed with my own KBB research.)
When I got home, I told Campbell that my wife and I were going to sell my car to CarMax. Campbell then told me that if I sent her the CarMax offer, Capitol would match it. That didn't seem fair to me, since Capitol was just piggy-backing on the CarMax offer, which had taken some time of CarMax staff.
However, it turned out that the 2024 Crosstrek was delayed in arriving at Capitol Subaru.
By the time it came in, my wife was planning to go to the coast for a few days. We were going to be able to buy the 2024 on the evening before she was due to leave, but since I didn't want to sell the 2020 before I'd seen the 2024 and confirmed that I liked the Sun Blaze Pearl color (I do, a lot), my wife would have had to leave later for the coast than she wanted to if we were going to sell my 2020 before the 7-day CarMax offer expired.
Thus we ended up trading in the 2020 to Capitol Subaru for the $25,600 CarMax had offered. I regret doing this, because the CarMax car selling process was much better than the Capitol Subaru process that I encountered.
CarMax was straightforward, fair, and efficient. With Capitol Subaru, I couldn't get a decent trade-in offer until CarMax gave me one and Capitol matched it. Yes, I was told by Campbell that CarMax is huge and can shift cars around the country, which is true, while Capitol is local.
But somehow local small Capitol was willing to pay just as much for my car as CarMax was -- after CarMax had given me a firm offer. I can't say that my trade-in experience was typical for the Capitol Auto Group.
Still, based on my experience I'd advise getting an offer from CarMax, then selling your vehicle to CarMax even if a local dealer is willing to match the CarMax offer. This just seems to me to be the right thing to do, regardless of how large CarMax is. I like to reward good service, and like I said, I regret not being able to sell my Crosstrek to CarMax, given how well they treated me.
Also, when my wife and I were buying the 2024 Crosstrek, we were presented with a sheet that had the price of the car about $4,000 more than the MSRP that I'd expected. It turned out that Capitol Subaru had loaded up the price with every dealer add-on that I almost always reject, like a windshield treatment and clear coat for the paint. I've never had a dealer add that stuff on their own. In the past the financial guy asks about those options during the purchase paperwork, when I go "no, no, no, no." With the 2020 I did get a Rain-X sort of windshield treatment, which was basically useless. Capitol needs to stop doing this.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention that in addition to the trade-in offer I got from a Subaru email message, I also got different trade-in offer estimates by clicking on a "what's your current car worth?" link on the general Subaru web site and by clicking on a similar link on the Capitol Subaru web site. All of those offers were less than the CarMax offer, though the general Subaru offer gave me a range of $23,470 to $26,765 for my 2020 Crosstrek. But I was never asked to get a firm offer by coming to Capitol Subaru. The only way I got a firm offer was by going to CarMax and telling Capitol that my wife and I were planning to sell the car to CarMax.