CarMax - Is this really how car buying should be??
The CarMax promise!
CarMax - We don't sell Junk!
After all the positive reviews I have heard about CarMax, I knew the next car I was going to buy from a dealer would definitely be from them. After all, I have bad car karma. I don’t know why, but every car I have ever gotten from a dealer has had issues with brakes, transmissions or airbags. With their reputation, I was hoping for a whole new buying experience.
When you go to CarMax, the first thing you will notice is a totaled car. Above it is a sign saying we don’t sell vehicles that ever looked like this. It isn’t the exact wording, but you get the point. So, if they do this million point check and they don’t sell vehicles that have ever been in accident, I should be pretty good? Right? Right!
Of course, anytime I am buying a car, I am skeptical. After all, I have had such bad luck with past cars from dealerships I can only assume I am heading for another bad car karma experience. However, unless you have been with me for the ride, you really wouldn’t be familiar with the truly bad car karma I have.
Bad Car Karma
While I had a car in high school, it wasn’t until I joined the military I had the first opportunity to buy a car that cost more the $1000. These first couple of cars had metal cancer, but they ran. So I can’t really couldn’t complain. However, once I left home I sold the car so it wouldn’t be sitting around while I went through Basic Training and AIT. A week after I sold it, the car started on fire while driving down the freeway.
Knowing I couldn’t walk everywhere once I was on active duty, I knew it would only be a matter of time before I ventured onto a car lot. And that I did. I bought my very first car without any help. A 1994 Teal Geo Prizm. With the exception of nothing being automatic, this was my dream car. It ran like a champ and gave me hardly any issues. Then, I found out the tires were wearing prematurely because of a bracket in the front. It had been damaged in an accident. I couldn’t fix the part, and suddenly it was starting to nickel and dime me, so I traded it in and got a new vehicle.
Now I could go on and on about all the cars I have bought from dealerships… and how each and every one of them would run beautifully on the lot, but once off the lot and in my possession, the hidden problems would start poking through. It has been 12 years, and between my husband and I, we have had 13 cars in our possession. With the exception of 1 which was totaled in an accident, majority of the cars bought by dealers have given us issues and we were forced to replace.
What's your opinion
What do you look for in a car?
Finding a ride....
Last September, my husband and I were discussing vehicles. I was driving around in a Ford Escort ZX2 and he was driving around in a Ford Escape. My ZX2 was a charmer, but it had one problem… it no longer fit our family. We needed to find a bigger vehicle. My husband’s vehicle was big enough for us, but suddenly started having problems with the entire brake system. If his vehicle were to ever go to the shop, we would not be able to use my vehicle as a family vehicle because we were a 5 person family, and there were only 4 seatbelts.
Upon my husband’s research, he found CarMax. At the website, not only could he get approved for financing, but he could also pick out the vehicle he wanted to go home with. So, once we were approved, we found what we wanted and set up the appointment to take a look and sign the paperwork.
Yes - it was that easy!
When we got to CarMax, we were in awe by the gigantic size of this business. It seemed clean cut and the staff were overly friendly. So far so good. Then they went and got the car we were interested in. I took one test drive and decided there was no way I was driving this car home. We needed a family car, and while this vehicle had enough room, it sounded like a race car. (That of course is being nice! Every time I hit the gas pedal, the car was so loud I thought my ear drums were going to burst!)
I nicely declined the vehicle and told the salesperson the reason why I didn’t want the car. She tried to explain to me that was the way it was supposed to run. I don’t buy the excuse, and I don’t buy the car either.
Know before you go...
6 hours later
So my husband and I were on the search for another vehicle in the lot. We test drove vehicle after vehicle until we had it down to two that we liked. And then we argued. He wanted the Mazda CRX7. It was a pretty car, it ran awesome but… it also required premium gasoline and got poor gas mileage.
It was pitted up against a Chrysler Sebring with leather seats and automatic starter and all the bells and whistles, minus the kitchen sink. The Sebring was not only my dream car from when I was in high school, but it also got better gas mileage and the backseat was much more roomier for the kids.
The Sebring won. However, in hindsight, I wish we would have gotten the Mazda.
Our New Car - Thank you CarMax of Milwaukee
We left the dealership with the promise of guarantee. If we didn’t like the car in 5 days, we could bring it back with no questions asked. About 6 days later, the brake light went on.
We called the dealership and were forced to bring it down. There fix, it was low on brake fluid!
Now this may seem like a dumb question, but if a car is about to be sold, shouldn’t all the fluid levels in the car be topped off?
This was already starting to look like a bad investment. Yet, I loved my car. It moved and hummed to the pavement. It had a moon roof, which was about as close as I was going to get to a convertible. And minus the little issue, which was about to be fixed, it was supposed to be our dependable car.
Are you driving around a lemon
Has it happened to you?
Have you ever boughten a car that you would consider a lemon?
This story could get overwhelming if I start listing all of the times this car has gone into the shop and back. So I am just going to state some of the things that have happened with this car.
In December, we made the move to California. We thought it would be smart to sell our other vehicles and just keep the dependable car. Yet, it was long after we got to California, the car was in the shop over here, for some of the exact same problems.
Once again, the brakes were bad. Once again, the airbag light had gone on. And once again, the check engine light was showing us there were problems.
We took it into the Riverside CarMax dealership. As per our warranty, the brakes would not be covered. That is considered maintenance.
Now, in my mind, I don’t consider the brakes needing to be replaced after less than 6 months of ownership. This was not a sold as is kind of deal. If I would have bought this off a private party, yes, I would have been annoyed, but I would have sucked it up. So, I do what I do best, and I threw a fit. They ended up fixing the brakes… for free. They also fixed the other issues as well… or so they thought.
A few months later, the lights started flashing on again. We would bring it to the dealership, and they would show no record of the lights ever going on. They acted as if we were lying to them. Now, why would I ever make up that my car was having issues?
In April, we took a trip across country to visit family. My Great Grandma wasn’t doing so good, and since it was spring break, we took the trip through the mountains to see her for what could possibly be the last time. (She is still alive and well… our car however, is not!) As we are driving down the mountain, I can tell the brakes are starting to go. The breaks that had just been replaced not even 3 months earlier. The car was shaking so hard, I could barely hold on to the steering wheel to keep it straight.
When I informed CarMax of this, they told me we needed to replace the brake pads. Now, I was pretty sure they just fixed the brakes… so again… my question… Should I really need to be doing routine maintenance on a car that I haven’t even owned for half a year? Shouldn’t this all have been taken car of before it was sold?
Do you suspect you have a lemon?
Unfortunately, the lemon law varies from state to state. Therefore, what might be true for Wisconsin, might not be true for the state of California. However, it doesn't hurt to contact a lemon law attorney and know your rights. Most likely, car manufacturers would rather handle a case through mediation instead of going through a court case.
A funny story...
As I was talking about the lemon of the car I bought, my mother-in-law suggested I sit out front of the dealership with a sign that said, "Beware! This isn't a dealership. This is a lemonade stand!" Apprarently, this is a true story. Someone else who was having car issues did the same thing when they weren't getting the outcome that was needed. Instead of dealing with the bad publicity, the dealership made a deal and they ended up trading there car for a new one! Just goes to show you sometimes need to be the squeeky wheel!
Couldn't you do it right the first time CarMax of Riverside?
Fast forward a little bit farther ahead, and not only is our brake light flashing on and off, but our airbag light is going on and off, and so is the check engine light. If my car was green, it would have been Christmas in the middle of the year. Expensive, only without the presents in return!
We have now been dealing with all of these issues for several months. From late August, early September to June. Finally, in June, we had the timing right. The check engine light had gone on again. We drove straight to CarMax and it was just our luck, the light finally remained on. Skeptical, we kept the car running while we grabbed a technician. We wanted to prove the light was on. I was sick of feeling like I was the crazy person here!
After I had several people verify the light was on, they hooked it up to their machine. Nothing. The machine never detected the light. They finally realized after all of this time, that even though the light wasn’t going on, they couldn’t read it. Their reader and our car were not compatible. They had to bring our car to the dealership and they got us a rental car.
Two weeks later we finally had our car back. It finally ran the way it did when I first drove. The way it did before all the lights started coming back on. I finally thought we were done with this nightmare.
The light is on... again?
The vast majority of this hub was written in June. It was written from a very angry perspective as I was frustrated. I personally wasn’t too nice to any of the people that worked at CarMax. I fully understand it is nothing personal. They personally, aren’t the ones who sold me this heap of junk. However, they are the representatives of this company. They are the ones responsible for making sure the customer was happy.
In June, we discussed with the manager about having the car recalled. The airbag light had already been fixed 3 times; the check engine light as well. As we left the car dealership, I saw the manager take a sigh of relief. I knew after I laid into them, they did not want to be seeing me anytime in the near future. I was hoping that I could say the same for them.
It is now October. We are now 4 months after the whole fiasco. A few weeks ago the heater went out. Now, I don’t know why the heater would go out, nor did I really car. After all, I live in California. However, the windows still need to be defrosted in California when there is a massive drop in temperature. So here we are, faced with another safety issue. Yet, we took a deep breath. We really didn’t want to go through this again.
Then the airbag light started doing it’s on and off game. Again, deep breath. It isn’t staying on, so there is nothing CarMax can, nor will do!
Then last night, my husband sends me a text message. The whole entire dashboard of lights is on. The car is stalling. The car is resisting and kind of steering. The car is resisting any kind of braking. Mind you, this is in Rush Hour traffic!
Back at the shop again, only to wait. It was now next time and now it is time to see what CarMax was going to do. The Manager knew the history, and knows this isn’t going to be fun. And we are once again playing the waiting game to see what is going to happen to the car.
Done with the games...
My husband has insisted he is not driving this car anymore. It is going through an electrical breakdown and has given us more issues than it is worth. After checking into it, the manager’s response is they will not be able to replace the car for one that works since we have put on too many miles. They will however fix it.
Here are my questions?
- If you spend $15,000 on a vehicle, how many times do you expect to be bringing it to the shop for something that is not routine maintenance?
- Who is the determining person that decides how many miles is too many miles to be put on in a year? And how many of these miles were put on because we were driving back and forth to the shop and taking test drives to make sure the vehicle is working again?
- If your cars are supposed to be the best of the best, why is it that you refuse to fix the one person who is having a serious issue with their car? After all, good customer service is key. Or, am I not the only one having the same problem? To a multi-million dollar company, $15,000 is a drop in the hat. To a family of 5, that could be equivalent to half a year’s worth of earnings!
- Who should I send the bill to for my husband missing work because of how many times he has had to bring this car in?
- How many times should you have to fix the same problem? Shouldn’t once be enough. If that isn’t doing the job, don’t you think there is something else wrong that you aren’t catching?
And the fight begins!
As of right now, our car is still at the shop. We have been told what was wrong, and it is the same things they have already fixed, plus some. And the airbag light sensor, well, the computer once again isn't reading it. If the warranty covers this, we will most likely have to pay the deductible. And once again, the customer loses.
So, I am starting a fight. And I can get rather loud and rather vocal. Originally when I started this article, I decided not to publish it. I did not want to tarnish the CarMax reputation. Yet, it seems I don’t need to tarnish their reputation. They are doing the job all by themselves.
Many suggestions were made as to how to deal with this situation, such as calling them 3 times an hour to check the status of our "new" car. Nothing would motivate them more then talking to me all day long. Yet, I don’t have the time to be calling them 3 times an hour and every time I call them, I only get the answering machine anyway. So, it would be a wasted effort.
So, this is where you come in. I am looking for a shout-out! I want to get this shared with as many people as possible. I would love your comments but mostly I would love it if you share this with everybody you know. I understand things happen and I do know there are some people out there who have had a great experience with CarMax. Yet, for my family, they have been unwilling to stand behind their product!
So please, it only takes a minute. Let’s get this article to go viral. Just go up to the top and push those buttons. Post it to your Facebook page, tweet it to your followers, one up it on Google, or even send it in an email. Hopefully if we stand together, no one else will have to deal with this kind of situation again!
As of Oct. 9th, we were able to pick up our car from the shop. The car is running like it should be again, and we were given a free pass on the deductible for having so many issues. We will see how long the car wants to behave this time.