Let’s talk about CarMax warranties.
(This update is so late because I had an opportunity to come work in Germany for a few months so I have not had much time to write. But I should have a great ‘car spotting’ post when done!)
Plenty has been written about CarMax warranties and you can decide for yourself if they are a good deal. But when I was doing my research on them I learned that one piece of important information is often left out from the discussion. If you are looking at buying a car from CarMax there are a few numbers you need to know: 5 days, 30 days, 90 days, and 5 years.
I think most people know that they offer a 5 day return period and a 30 day zero deductible warranty on every car. And that their optional warranty lasts for 5 years with your choice of mileage and deductible. What is less often discussed is the 90 day cancellation period for said warranty. And that they will charge you a measly 50 bucks for the privilege of canceling it. Yeah, for $50 you can have a zero deducible warranty for 90 days instead of the regular 30.
You could reasonably say that 90 days is not really long enough for new issues to crop up and the 30 day warranty can take care of any problems that the car already had. I would offer two counter points. 1) 30 days sounds like a long time but at least for me it was very tight. You will want to have a dealership or independent mechanic inspect the car in those first 5 days, and then you will need to schedule a repair at CarMax. I found it stressful to try and squeeze in everything into just 30 days especially since I ended up needing two visit to CarMax for repairs. 2) The second issue is that in the first 30 days you will have to have all repairs made at CarMax. They won’t let you go to your indy or dealership in that time unless you have the 5 year warranty and then you will have to pay the deductible.
I had not worked out all of that when I bought the car and selected a $500 deductible warranty so I really want to get everything done in those first 30 days. In my last post I mentioned that I had an indy do a short inspection and then went on a 300 mile road trip. After I got back I arranged for a more in depth inspection; and found that oil was pooling on top of the cylinder head somehow. We could not find the source at that time but I took a bunch of photos while I was there showing where the oil was pooling. I dropped of the car with a bunch of diagrammed printouts of the photos in the passenger seat. It turns out the oil was leaking from the gasket between the block and water-oil cooler. It is buried fairly deep in the car and you cannot really see it without removing the intake; which it why we could not pin point the source during my inspection. About a week later I got it back and started looking for other things to be fixed. Well, the climate control unit display developed a small blotch. Not the kind of thing that really affects usability but technically a defect. So back to CarMax and a week later I have a band new climate control unit. Because CarMax did the work themselves I don’t have a detailed breakdown of the cost. But I can reasonable estimate that parts and labor would have been about $3000 if I had paid out of pocket.
Moral of the story? Use the damn warranty!
In conclusion here is my recommendation to anyone buying any car from CarMax (but especially a performance car) if they don’t want to keep the 5 year warranty.
1). Buy the car
2). Opt for the lowest mileage zero deductible warranty (+$50 if repair done at dealership
3). Take car for an inspection in the first five days (note: for many makes you will need to schedule this one or two weeks before buying the car!)
4). Hopefully there aren’t any deal breakers but start making a list of every little thing wrong with the car. If there is something big like an oil leak go ahead and have that taken care of.
5). Over the next few weeks keep a close eye on things. Even the best inspection could over look something but an attentive owner will find everything sooner or later. And drive the car a lot! Even if the car is supposed to be a weekend toy you should daily drive it during this period.
6). About 45 days into owning the car arrange for the dealership or indy to make all the repairs on your list. Also ask them to try and identify anything else that needs to be taken care of. Remember that with a CarMax warranty you are charge per visit so it is good to try and have as much done at once as is possible.
7). For the next month look out for anything else that needs to be taken care of. Once you are nearing the end of the 90 days if you haven’t found anything wrong then you can probably plan to cancel the warranty. But before you do you should either go back to the dealership or indy one last time or at least spend a few hours poking car the drivetrain and suspension. Maybe an oil change or just clean the under carriage and engine bay just so that you have time to look for anything out of place.
8). At least two weeks before the 90 days is up call the customer service department at the CarMax you purchase the vehicle from so you will know their hours. Not all of their departments keep the same hours. I paid for the warranty with a credit card so I had to go in person to cancel it; if you got a car loan and bundled the warranty with it you should be able to cancel it over the phone.