CarMax Appraisal vs KBB Estimate: Criteria, Differences Explained

Exterior of a CarMax store with two cars parked in front

Short Answer

CarMax appraisals use the same general criteria as personalized Kelley Blue Book (KBB) estimates, including the vehicle’s history, current condition, make, model, year, mileage, and desirability in the market. However, your CarMax offer may be lower or higher than the KBB estimate because CarMax uses its own data and inspection process. CarMax also factors in the costs to prepare your vehicle for sale; KBB does not directly buy vehicles, so it avoids these overhead costs.

CarMax Appraisal vs. KBB Estimate

CarMax appraisals consider many of the same factors as Kelley Blue Book’s personalized estimates, but CarMax does not use KBB to determine the value of a vehicle. This is why your CarMax offer may be lower or higher than the KBB value.

Both companies consider the following factors in their offers/estimates:

  • Accident and repair history
  • Current condition of the vehicle
  • Desirability in the current market and the seller’s geographic region
  • Make
  • Model
  • Year
  • Mileage
  • Transaction history for similar vehicles

CarMax also considers the cost of “renewal,” or the process of preparing a car for sale. CarMax may sell your vehicle on one of its own lots or at wholesale or auction.

If it purchases your car with the intent of selling it on the lot, the cost of any necessary cosmetic fixes and/or repairs will decrease your CarMax offer.

During the appraisal process, CarMax will conduct a thorough inspection of the vehicle and take it for a test drive.

CarMax customer service representatives were unable to state whether the company’s appraisal prices are typically higher than, lower than, or comparable to Kelley Blue Book estimates. Representatives told us that CarMax makes its offers on a case-by-case basis after careful inspection.

During our research, we found that customers have reported mixed results. According to customer reports online, several people claim that CarMax valued their vehicles about 15% less than KBB; others said their CarMax offers closely matched the KBB estimate.

Fewer customers reported CarMax offers being higher than KBB estimate, but it is possible — particularly if you own a car that is highly desirable to buyers in your area.

When to Use Kelley Blue Book

Kelley Blue Book is best for research and price comparisons — it does not directly buy cars. Keep in mind, KBB offers several types of estimates, not all of which will be realistic for your vehicle depending on its condition and in-market desirability.

Estimate types include:

  • Instant Cash Offer: KBB partners with dealers to offer personalized quotes. You can request an Instant Cash Offer from a participating dealer on This offer will likely be closer to a CarMax offer than any of the other Kelley Blue Book estimates since it considers factors specific to the vehicle.
  • Fair Market Range: The Fair Market Range is KBB’s estimate for what people will pay this week for a particular car, based on statistical models. These general estimates consider the make, model, year, and style of the vehicle, but not its condition. This type of estimate will usually be higher than a CarMax valuation.
  • Personalized Blue Book Value: You can enter information about the vehicle — including the style, model year, options, color, and condition — for a personalized Kelley Blue Book value. This tool will estimate the trade-in value and private-party sale value (including price and the average amount of time it will take to sell).
  • Price Advisor: The Price Advisor is KBB’s price range for private buyers and sellers to consider when negotiating deals.

About the CarMax Appraisal Process

You can begin the CarMax appraisal process by booking an appointment online or visiting a CarMax location for a walk-in appraisal. The CarMax appraisal process typically takes about half an hour.

There is no fee to get an appraisal, but all titleholders should be present during the appraisal process.

CarMax representatives said that the vehicle’s history and your long-term upkeep of the car are much more important than cosmetic factors like cleanliness.

Detailing your car will not increase your offer, but you should clean out the vehicle before the appraisal in case you decide to sell it the same day.

Your written offer is valid for seven days at any CarMax location after the appraisal, and CarMax generally does not negotiate once an offer is given.

Types of Vehicles Accepted at CarMax

CarMax will accept vehicles with a bad transmission, with the check engine light on, and even damaged or salvaged cars (as previously reported).

CarMax will also buy older model years and high-mileage vehicles.

While these factors decrease the amount that CarMax is willing to offer for your vehicle, the company stands by its promise to “buy any car.”

CarMax does not buy motorcycles, but our related research lists companies and online marketplaces where you can sell your bike.


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