Carmax, Colorado Springs — Preliminary Review

© 2012 Peter Free


29 May 2012



Efficient, no hassle car-looking


Colorado Springs’ Carmax has quite a few positive attributes:



Large customer parking lot with big enough spaces


Welcome person


Personable sales people


Set prices


Lockboxes on each car — as opposed to keys on a board inside the sales office


Inventory parked by logical classification — rather than being randomly distributed around the large lot


Good local selection


Accessible national inventory


Continually updated national website that lists all Carmax vehicles


I provide more detail below.


A better business model?


Carmax appears to follow a more pleasant business model than most car dealers do.


These days, the majority of auto dealers have their sales staff turn buying prospects over to one or more managers, just as soon as money enters the conversation.  The ordeal that follows involves a kind of tag team fleecing, with one manager handing recalcitrant customers over to another.


When you combine initially pushy salespeople with aggressively avaricious sales managers, the car buying process turns into a nightmare for the majority of buyers.


Carmax’ set prices reduce haggling pain.  And the company’s helpful sales people facilitate the car selection process.  A significant inventory also allows buyers to physically compare various brands and models.



This review is preliminary — it is based on 2 Carmax visits


Keep in mind that I have not yet bought a car at Colorado Springs Carmax.  But it is likely that I eventually will, if I buy used.


What follows explains why.



Accessible list of what Carmax has in stock


Carmax lists its entire national inventory on its website.


Enter your zip code, and the vehicles at the geographically closest dealer are listed first.  You can search for individual years, brands and models.  Prices are clearly posted.


The website appears to update in a timely manner.  A car that sold, while I was there one day, was gone from the website the next.



Large customer parking lot


I mention this because Colorado Springs’ “Motor City” (dealership row) is cramped.  Parking at virtually any dealer there is just asking for door dings.


Since I’m driving a new-looking full size pickup, I avoid going to Motor City for fear someone is going to dent it.


Carmax, on the other hand, has a large customer parking lot with “big enough” individual vehicle spaces.



Logically laid-out sales lot


On the sales lot, cars are parked by logical classification.  For example, off-road 4-wheel drive vehicles are grouped in a clump.  Small economy cars in another.


This layout saves time for sales staff and customers.



Lockboxes, not key boards


Each car has a lockbox on the driver’s window.  It contains the car’s keys.  This is much more efficient than keeping keys on a board inside the sales office.


When you arrive at the car you want to look at, the sales person can get the keys right there.  Rather than leaving you to bake in the sun (or freeze in the snow), while that person hikes back to the office for the appropriate key.



Salesperson greeter


My two visits to Carmax indicate that someone is assigned to greet customers at the door.


Compare your experience at most dealerships, where there are either (a) no sales people in sight or (b) far too many erratically milling around.



Helpful sales people — Wendy Clum and David Grogan — examples of listening to customer needs


Wendy Clum and David Grogan actually listened to, and attempted to facilitate, what I was trying to accomplish, even though it was a bit out of the ordinary.


Wendy particularly had an excuse to question my sanity, but didn’t.  She simply helped me look at the cars that I wanted to see.


The following day, David Grogan did the same thing, equally gracefully.



Day 1 — with sales consultant Wendy Clum


On Memorial Day, I wanted to look at 3 cars that I had spotted on Carmax’s website.  These included a Jeep Wrangler Sahara, a Subaru Forester, and a Mazda 2.


The only thing these vehicles (apparently) had in common was their price.


Wendy Clum met us at the sales office entrance.  I showed her my list.


I knew that, from a sales perspective, my “wanna sees” were roughly comparable to a real estate buyer asking to look at:


(i) a small downtown urban condo near to a young person’s active night life,


(ii) a suburban home with a pool and good schools,




(iii) a run-down ranch style house on a 10-acre rural property with very probably crappy schools.


Experienced sales professionals suspect right away that customers with lists like mine are either nuts or so early in the buying process that they don’t know what they want.  In both cases, people like me usually turn out to be time wasters.


To help Wendy make sense of what I was doing with my apparently irrational selection of cars, I explained that I buy vehicles based on the driver’s seat and driving position.  All I wanted to do was sit in each car.


Within 10-12 minutes (literally), I had plopped myself very briefly in each.  And I had eliminated all three models based on their unsatisfactory seating positions.


From start to finish, this was the most efficient car-shopping experience that I had ever had.



Day 2 — with sales associate David Grogan


The following day, after more Internet research, I went back to Carmax with a list of 4 more (this time similar) cars.  I had decided to concentrate on the off-roading aspect.


Wendy was not working the day shift, so David Grogan filled in for her.  He had the same helpful perspective.  He, too, narrowed in on what worked and didn’t.


Within a few minutes, interrupted by forays into unrelated “for fun” conversation, I had tested the seating positions in each of the four vehicles.  And had come up with two models that might work, provided that I could find an older, more affordable sample of each.



Recommended — efficient helpfulness speeds up the selection process


For people like me, who have significant physical constraints on what we are willing to live with in a vehicle, Carmax’s comparatively large selection and helpfulness go a long way in taking some the unpleasantness out of car buying.


I will follow up on this review, if I eventually buy a car there.