Home > My Search > Here Today, Gone…Today

Here Today, Gone…Today

June 17th, 2010
2002 BMW M Coupe

2002 BMW M Coupe - $21,998

Pictured above is the first coupe I ever actually tried to buy in my 5 years of searching (click here for more photos). My 5 week-old daughter woke me up at 5:30 this morning, and I decided to drag myself out of bed. Before starting work, I did my morning nationwide M Coupe search and this car came up at a CarMax near Los Angeles. I immediately called them knowing they obviously would not be open at 4:30 AM local time, but deals like this on a car I want, do not come up often and I wanted to get my name in first. I left a message on my first call, sent an email through their website, then proceeded to call every 15 minutes to half hour until the store closer to me in Colorado Springs opened at 9 AM.

I had never dealt with CarMax before as the Colorado Springs store is 2+ hours away, and I honestly didn’t know it was even there. I primarily just had questions about their inspection, warranty, etc. and didn’t want to wait until the California store opened to ask them. After all, I had already been staring at the photos, looking for flights, planning my route home, and not getting any work done for 3.5 hours. The guy I talked to informed me about CarMax’s ability to do transfers between stores because CarMax is not franchised but has one parent company. He also enlightened me to the fact that if you purchase a car from a dealer in California, you pay sales tax to California whether or not you’re going to register it there. In essence, you would be paying sales tax twice. He said the transfer fee would be far less than paying California sales tax (not true, see comments below). Now that I was convinced I should have it transferred rather than flying out to get it, he put in the transfer request which was then immediately rejected because the car was non-transferable. CarMax did not have the title in hand yet, and Colorado consumer protection laws won’t let dealers sell you a car without a title. He said to wait until the dealer selling it opened and talk to them directly if I was willing to fly out and buy it in person.

I continued to try the California dealer’s number every 15 minutes until someone finally picked up. Somehow the salesman I talked to (who said he was one of 50 there), had already had 2 calls on it before me. One of which was from Cincinnati who I immediately knew was Enthusiast Auto. I told him I had cash and could fly out tomorrow to come get it. He started to put in my order but said someone had already put in a transfer request to Ohio. I told him I had tried to do the same thing a while earlier but was told it was non-transferable. He said it shouldn’t be able to be transferred and would talk to their business department and tell them he had a cash buyer. He also said that his particular CarMax didn’t sell to dealers which gave me a little hope. After quite a bit of back and forth and a call to the business department directly, I learned that Ohio allows transfers without title, the Cincinnati dealer opened 2 hours before mine and his formal transfer request was slightly before mine, they do “sometimes” sell to other dealers, and the car was sold.

What I learned:

  • Sometimes you can be prepared, get an early start, do everything you can do, and still not be able to get the car you want.
  • CarMax sales people are very helpful and informative (although not completely truthful) when they have a car they think they can sell to you but lose interest quickly.
  • CarMax does not know how to handle cars that generate nationwide interest.
  • It’s not the time you first call or email, but when you actually get a hold of someone and put in a formal request to buy a car that matters.
  • Consumer protection laws sometimes only protect you from the car you’ve been seeking for years.
  • CarMax buyers on the East Coast have a large advantage when looking for cars on the West Coast. I’m not sure if in the future I can call an Eastern time zone dealer and put in a transfer request then have the transfer request switched to my dealer later? I have a feeling I’ll never have another opportunity to find out.
  • Steel gray over gray at the right price, can make me compromise on my search for steel gray/imola. I’m not sure any other color combination could, and I don’t see a deal like this ever happening again.

I guess it wasn’t meant to be. Life goes on. The search continues…

Categories: My Search Tags: , ,
  1. Kelvin
    June 17th, 2010 at 06:57 | #1

    Don’t give up. Coupes do occasionally come up on Carmax even though they are getting older. You probably remember this one, also SG if I recall


    • June 17th, 2010 at 07:38 | #2

      Yep, and after re-reading that thread I’m a little less disappointed about missing out on this car :-). I really would prefer to buy from a private seller, they just seem to be better informed of true market value on these cars than CarMax is.

  2. Josh S
    June 17th, 2010 at 09:07 | #3

    Huge major bummer. But keep looking!

    The sales-tax-twice thing doesn’t make any sense, unless that’s carmax raking you over the coals. It’s not the state. California doesn’t actually charge sales tax on cars, they charge a use tax (called the Vehicle License Fee) that is paid when the car is registered, and you owe it annually. It is based on the transaction cost and a depreciation factor for future years.

    In any case, it is paid during the registration process. If you never register in CA, then you don’t pay it. If you don’t live in CA, then you don’t register in CA. I can’t understand how you’d be taxed twice.

    • June 17th, 2010 at 10:20 | #4

      I guess I was so excited about the car I hadn’t researched what exactly they told me. From what I can tell, it looks like CA would charge sales tax at the dealership even if I say I’m bringing it out of state, but CO would credit me for paying those taxes if I provide the documentation showing they are already paid and would only charge me the difference (which I’m sure CA sales tax is higher than CO so there wouldn’t be one). CO will however stick me with an “ownership tax”, but that will only be 0.45% of 85% of the original MSRP for an 8 year old vehicle (about $200). I could maybe see how the difference in sales tax could make up the difference of the transfer fee (I only have 3.8% where I live), but the paying twice was a total scam. Thanks.

  3. Josh S
    June 17th, 2010 at 10:38 | #5

    A California dealership should not charge any CA DMV fees (including the Vehicle License Fee) if they are selling to an out-of-state buyer and the car is being delivered out of state. It cannot be DRIVEN out of state in that case … it would need to be trucked/trailered. If it goes 4-wheels-down on the public roadway, then it needs to have a valid registration, if even only a temporary one.

  4. Kelvin
    June 17th, 2010 at 12:22 | #6

    When I bought my car from Alvin last year, I was not charged any CA taxes or transfer fees. I paid $500 of various dealer processing fees but that was reasonable given the high level of service I received. The car was shipped across the country to me obviously

    • June 17th, 2010 at 12:52 | #7

      Great to know. I’ll adjust my article accordingly. I guess CarMax was living up to their bad sketchy reputation.

  5. Eric
    June 18th, 2010 at 20:22 | #8

    Shame about the car, but it sounds like you’ll be ready for the next one. What would you estimate the actual value of this car is?

    • June 18th, 2010 at 22:42 | #9

      Well, there’s currently another steel gray car with 22,000 miles listed for $33,990 by Enthusiast Auto. I’m guessing they’ll list this one at $34,990 or $35,990. I think that’s probably on the high side. My guess at market value would probably be $31,000-$32,000.

  6. July 24th, 2010 at 23:05 | #10

    i was one of those two calls… damn i missed it too.

Comments are closed.