Always always always get an appraisal at CarMax.
It takes about 30 minutes.
It is good for 7 days.
And they take care of all the messy paperwork. (And no, NEVER EVER buy a car at CarMax.)
You might get lucky and “shave off” (yes, I said shave off) that negative equity, because they really want your kind of car.
CarMax uses their own appraisal system. On the other hand, most dealerships use NADA. At the end of the day, getting appraisals from many different places will give you many differnet prices.
With that said, CarMax tends to overpay for cars that have lots of options…
And they underpay for bare bones cars.
There is a big thread here about this at Reddit. These snippets might inspire you:
Had a 1999 Honda Accord sedan with 140k miles on it back in 2010. Thing was beat to hell. Had a new door which didn’t match, radio didn’t work, bald tires, missing knobs, one window that didn’t go down, a coke exploded in the back seat, missing floor mats, weird stains thoughout and 11 years of fart in the drivers seat. Guy said I’d be lucky to get $500 for it and then Carmax offered $3k. I snapped that up obviously. I’m starting to think I left some gold bars in the trunk or something.
I sold my F150 to them, it was a stripped down work truck with 100k plus miles so they were planning on selling git at Auction. A local dealer offered me $1500 on trade in, KBB and NADA put private party sale at about $3500, Carmax gave me $5000. I kind of felt like I was ripping them off, but I took the money and ran.
I took my 2010 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon to CarMax expecting a lowball offer. I had drilled some holes in it and done some regrettable modifications (cosmetic stuff). It was still running on the original set of tires after 4 years. I was offered $2,000 above the KBB value, so I took it, bought a new car and walked away with some cash. I love CarMax.
I think it’s a hit or miss. My dealership offered me 500 for my 2001 Civic with about 60k on it. Carmax offered me $2000 for it so I took it. It had permanent alignment issues (too expensive to fix) and also had a cracked manifold. EDIT: also had a large dent
I did this with my 2013 Toyota Prius C. It was leased and I was looking to get out of it, and I read somewhere that Carmax would buy you out of your lease by paying the payoff amount. They offered 13K, which was fair, but the buyout price was $14,600 so I decided to look around first for other evaluations. i went to a toyota dealership and they only offered 10K and told me that the carmax offer was fantastic. I ended up paying carmax $1,600 to take the car out of my hands, but it was worth it, since I no longer had to make payments on a car that I wasn’t using at all. Definitely recommend them. The entire process was incredibly easy.
I’ve only had to trade into Carmax once, but had a good experience. Had a 2008 Saturn Astra, about 80k miles. Car had been in 3 accidents, ranging from punching a whole into the back of the body to getting t-boned and having to replace large pieces of the car. It had underlying electrical issues from that large accident (light bulbs kept melting, fuses would blow periodically, etc) and the AC went out (the catalyst for getting rid of it). KBB valued it at 4k, they gave us $4250, even with the busted AC and Saturn no longer existing. I took it, bought a 2 year old car at a surprisingly low price and ran.
I just sold my 2007 Volvo S80 to CarMax hoping to get $2500 (100k miles and side damage because of snowplow hit/run). Ended up walking away with $4500.
Obviously I am thrilled with that and the process taking 45m total makes it entirely worth it.
I had a 2004 malibu maxx with 120k miles on it, and it needed a lot of work, new transmission, new tires, trunk didn’t open (had latch fixed, but broke again after about 3 months) etc, a few dealers offered $1,500-$2,300. Carmax gave me $3,500. KBB says ~$4k. Took that money and ran cause I felt like I ripped them off.
A few years back I had an old car that was overheating and the cost to repair ($2,000) was worth more than the car. I got the car down to Carmax and let it cool off before I got an appraisal. They drove it around the block and it didn’t overheat in that time and they offered me $1,600, they never asked if it had any issues.
Once you have a CarMax appraisal, I would visit several dealerships and ask them for an appraisal. If they are too low, show them the CarMax appraisal and ask if they can beat it.
After several appraisals, you will “shave off” that negative equity.