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[Table] IAmA: We sell cars at CarMax, ask us anything

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Date: 2014-05-21
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What would you suggest to a mid-20's person who still has their little student car (like a honda civic that'll never die) that wants to upgrade just a bit? Lots of factors for this question, starting with budget. If you want to trade in your car and have a few grand to put down, that would be an awesome downpayment on a ~$20k car. If you're wanting to use that amount to just straight up buy a car... Keep yours til it dies.
Personally, my car still runs just fine and there's no real issues, it's just a 1996 model and the paint's coming off the hood. I have a few thousand I could potentially spend plus whatever I get from my car trade in (I believe the Kelly Bluebook value is around $2800). What kind of cars should I be looking at to make a slight upgrade? But, in the ~20ish range, as previously mentioned I really like the Nissan Maxima. If you like American made the new Ford Fusion is very nice, especially in the titanium trim package. Hell, the higher trim package Honda Accords are very nice too. Lots of options in that range, but I'd have to know a lot more about you, your financial situation, and what you want to give you a good, customer focused recommendation
Do your salesmen smell like they have been marinating their forearms at the perfume counter at Bloomingdales for a month? Personally, all of us contributing don't usually wear cologne to work. We do have one consultant that will about make you pass out every time they walk past with the overpowering smell.
Are they wearing suits like someone's Aunt just died? No suits at Carmax, thank god. Polo and khakis/shorts for most of us. It would suck working summer in a suit.
On average, is the average salesman's hair oiled more or less than the average block-piston of one of your cars? Again, for the most part no products for us answering. But again, there are culprits, and it's not a good look.
When your salesmen make your customers grab their socks on a purchase, is it just a little bump, or do they bang the customers heads against the showroom ceiling until there are head-prints? As much as I sometimes wish that was the case, we actually try are absolute hardest NOT to screw people. CarMax, as pertaining to both consultants and as a company, makes very little off each car sale. We just make up for it in volume. Also, commission isn't based on a % of the vehicle, so I don't care if you buy a $7k or $70k car - I'm making the same amount. Tl;dr light tap at worst, usually just a longing gaze.
Regarding the no-haggle pricing. If there is a car I want to buy from my local Carmax for almost $12,000, and KBB says a fair value of the car is only $9500, does that mean I can just offer you guys $9500 and you'll accept it or does it mean that you'll only accept the $12,000 listed price? It will be $12,000. KBB is a great place to start, but is by no means accurate all the time on car values. Same with when people say their trade in is worth X amount according to KBB. Honestly, probably 75% of the time people don't enter their info into KBB accurately, which exacerbates the problem. Don't even get me started on NADA.
I would venture that KBB is much more 'accurate' in terms of the actual value of the car than the dealer mark up price. I would venture that KBB data can be months out of date, doesnt take into account conditions like season/location that can have a large impact on value, can be affected by things like a dealer offering more for a car because it was traded in (they get their data from dealers), and when it comes down to it, KBB is an estimation of what you might get for your car. We are giving you a written offer saying we'll hand you a bank draft for that amount, today.
The most reliable, sporty car that your money is worth? Reliable and still being sporty in what price range? I'm gonna say probably something like a Nissan Maxima for the average person. The SV trim package had a ton of options (leather, heated seats, back up camera, Bluetooth, satellite radio, sunroof, navigation, Bose speakers), and the v6 puts out 290hp. Pretty quick, and the paddle shifters are fun.
I have to disagree. After having worked on 05-06 Maximas that had a transmission made by, what I assume, was the lowest bidding glass manufacturing company in North Korea I just can never recommend a Maxima to anybody. And they make them in my home town too :( Let me rephrase: newer Maximas. Also they do have CVTs (continuously variable transmission), which requires trans fluid changes about every 30k miles as opposed to the 80-90k recommended for most vehicles.
"Regular" Dealerships that are near CarMax generally will say, "We have already lowered our prices to compete with CarMax, we cannot lower them anymore." What is your take on that? My take is that we sold 522,950 cars last year, and regular dealers can't compete with us. We have the market cornered on well maintained, newer, low mileage used cars.
That being said you can get good deals on used cars that are outside of what Carmax sells (older than 2003 or over 130k miles). I bought mine from a small mom and pop type place and got a great deal, just have to know what you're looking fohow to bargain. The larger dealers that sell used cars though don't stand a chance.
I was told that you guys make zero bonus on selling cars. You just have to meet some monthly quota. How true is that? Does the quota ever go up or down? Seriously, no bonuses? Nope, no quota. We all work on 100% commission, we don't get hourly or a salary. We make a flat commission per vehicle, doesn't matter what we sell. I really like that as a sales person, so that when I make a recommendation it's something I feel is beneficial to the customer, not just trying to up sell for the paycheck. We can make a higher (flat) commission if we maintain high selling numbers for several months at a time, but you have to maintain that. Pretty much the harder you work the more you make.
Isn't the carmax model to not be like regular dealers? We aren't like other dealers! I wouldn't say that's our entire business model, although we definitely do put the customer first and try and make the car buying experience as simple as possible so.. maybe it is haha.
What would you say is the ratio of people who look online and pick what they want and buy that vs people that come to the lot? I would say about 70% of my customers have at least done some kind of research online before they step foot in the store. And then of course we've got people that come in and just want to walk the lot/kick tires, since we don't force you to be accompanied by a sales consultant at all times like most dealers. Also all of our vehicles are unlocked so you can get in them and check em out without us there, which most people seem to love.
Do all the cars have a sticker price? Yes, all vehicles have the year, make, model, mileage, features, and price clearly printed on the sticker.
Is there any way to get below sticker? No way to get below sticker unless you work here ;)
Are you familiar with Doug DeMuro's reviews of CarMax's warranty program on Jalopnik? Is so, what are your thoughts on his reviews? Do you find the warranty to be a good value? Great question. I hadn't heard of his reviews until just now actually and went and read them.
In my opinion, maxcare is the best extended service plan in the business, period. It covers more, costs less, and is extremely up front about what is and is not covered. Personally I sell maxcare at about an 80% clip, but even company average is over 60%. You'd be hard pressed to find people buying another extended service plan at that frequency. When my next vehicle comes from Carmax, I will definitely be purchasing it.
My concern is the constant fight with the dealer about what is a "wearable part". That makes me never want to buy into a warranty. What's the point if you aren't going to fix it? Maxcare is very clear cut on what it does and does not cover. As in, lists exactly what it doesn't cover, and anything not listed will be covered, period. It's extremely easy to understand
True that when you buy a car to be re-sold, one of the first things you do is put new tires on it and sell the old on the used-tire market, even if they're almost new? Good question, definitely not true. The state requirement for tread depth varies; in our state it is 2/32nds of an inch. CarMax doubles that to 4, and it is RARE to see tires that worn on cars we plan to retail. We will only replace tires if it doesn't meet standards; I've sold a car that's tread was right at 6/32nds before.
Do all CarMax's have ridiculous quantities of Porsche Panameras or is it just my local one? Just the local one. We have a lot of... Fiestas? :/
Sounds like a festive work environment. But seriously, at least 15 Panameras on site. I'm gonna guess you either live in California or Florida
Any idea why there isn't a carmax store in New Jersey? No idea. But Carmax expands every year, maybe soon! Us worker bees aren't usually privy to that type of info until it's imminent.
Also would it be difficult to buy a car from you guys out of state and then register it here? (New Jersey) Not hard at all! You will simply pay your state sales tax at time of purchase, which may differ from the one you purchase it in.
Lastly, how is the extended warranty price determined? Our extended service plan, maxcare, is priced entirely by the vehicle it is covering. Simply put, a newer, lower mileage vehicle will be less expensive to cover than a comparable older one. Further the cost of fixing the vehicle is taken into account (BMW is more expensive to fix than a Honda), and what kind of reputation the vehicle has for needing repairs. The best deal is usually on Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, Kia, Hyundai. The absolute worst? SmartCar. We sell them for around 10k and the service plan is something like 5-6k, because they do not have a great rep and they're expensive to fix a lot of the time.
That what I was hoping for. You guys sell warranties for some silly silly cars. I'm going to take advantage of that when my lease is up. [edit: and by silly cars I mean things along the lines of BMW //M5 and Audi RS anything. ] Honestly, even on those cars I would take maxcare if I was the one buying it. I have owned an m3, and I have paid to fix it. Literally use the plan once or twice and it's already paid for itself. Good luck finding a car after the lease is up!
What car would you recommand as a pussy magnet? C63 AMG. Big fan. Link to www.carmax.com
I need something with AWD though. Currently I have a g35x. It fairs well. I got you. Porsche 911 turbo: Link to www.carmax.com
Or Audi S5: Link to www.carmax.com
It's kind of offensive that they had to stick the CarMax logo on the rear decklid. It's on every one of our vehicles. It's really easy to remove though!
What's your worst type of customer? From a fellow consultant: Typically, when that shiny, clean, 2011 Ford F250 Superduty pulls onto the lot we all cringe. Truck clients have gained a stigma for being the most unrealistic customer that steps foot into our dealerships. "I want a 2013 Silverado 1500 with no more than 20k miles for under $15000"... Yeah, so do we all. Take a hike champ.
Couple answers. First, people that come in having done (bad) research on what their car is worth, and blast me when they don't like the realistic value of what their car is worth. Again, NADA is the worst.
Next, people that come in really wanting to bargain and get offended when I tell them we have no haggle pricing - we advertise the heck out of it, you'd think they'd already know.
Finally, people that are extremely unrealistic about pricing. They want a car under 10,000 miles, newer than 2013, with leather and a sunroof, and it needs to be under $10,000. Sorry dude, we sell used cars not unicorns. Those are also the ones that will call back after the fact to tell me they found that at billy bobs used cars, only to later find out it has frame damage.
How would you recommend people keep from rolling debt from one car into the next? Would you say that the best option is too buy a car with cash in hand and drive it for as long as possible before trading it in? Pay it off before you sell it. Or at the very least, pay enough such that your car is worth more than the payoff. Rolling negative equity isn't the worst ever, but make sure whatever you roll it into will be something you want to keep long enough to pay off. And get GAP insurance for sure if you are rolling negative.
Okay. Just want to make sure that I am on the right track now. I rolled negative equity through multiple cars and ended up with a 35K brand new GTI (10K over sticker, dumb i know). Well I have paid off the car and the extra debt and now I have a 2012 GTI with a lil work into it. I assume the best thing to do at this point (financially) is drive it until the wheels fall off? Financially, yep. Definitely.
What demo are you currently driving? Demos are only for managers and sales consultants that are selling at the highest level/have been with the company a pretty long time. I'm not a new hire, but I definitely haven't been here long enough to qualify for a demo :/ My manager was rocking a Cadillac CTS4 earlier.
Sad...I was disappointed by the choice in demo of my recent CarMax sales guy...a Buick Enclave. Not that it's bad, but so many better choices. Yeah, enclaves are nice enough on the inside I guess, but definitely not what id pick. They do have price constraints on what they can demo though, so you won't see anyone working at Carmax demoing something insanely expensive haha.
Is there anything you can suggest doing last minute to a car before bringing it in to sell? Sure. I'm not an appraiser, we actually have a separate department for that, but I entepresent appraisals to customers so I'll give you what tips I can.
We tell customers that as long as there's no damage/nothing wrong that the appearance of the vehicle doesn't matter, and maybe sometimes it doesn't. But in my experience if you get all your crap out of the car and give it a wash, you might get a little extra (think hundreds, not thousands). You wouldn't belief the disgusting vehicles people bring in - it's always nice appraising something that doesn't look like a family of hoarders uses as their trash bin. Also, our appraisers will drive the vehicle a short distance to make sure the tranny/engine are ok, and putting them in a grossed out or bad mood from all your crap will not help your cause.
Tips on bargaining on a car? Absolutely! The best tip I have: don't bargain. Come to CarMax, we do no haggle pricing on vehicles so you always know what the lowest price is up front ;)
Edit: just to be clear, we just don't bargain. Most customers hate that part of car buying and never know if they could've gotten a better deal. Since we eliminate that and are extremely transparent in all of our associated car buying costs, customers can know exactly what they're getting for exactly how much up front
I never knew carmax had the no haggle policy. Next time I am looking for a car I will definitely check them out. I hate the negotiating part and if I can get the same deal or pay even a little bit more not to deal with it at carmax I would buy from you. Yep that's how it works! We have a gigantic sign inside that says "the way car buying should be," and it's true!
A few months ago I was looking to buy a car from Car Max "No haggle" the obviously let me walk because i wanted to talk it for lower. I ended up going to an official dealer and getting the same type of car 2 years newer and less miles for about 3k cheaper. Do you really think the "no haggle" thing is worth it? Unequivocally yes. We get a lot more customers than we lose off of no haggle pricing. And yeah, we won't ever haggle with you. If we haggle with one person, we're just lying to everyone else, and then what else would we lie about?
Thoughts on the 2013/2014 Kia Optimas? I'm thinking they're my best "next car" after having my '98 Toyota Tacoma for the past 12 years. (2nd owner). What are some best alternatives? I think the Optimas are AWESOME. Kia and Hyundai give you a lot of car for what you pay vs a lot of other brands. Satellite radio, bluetooth, and heated seats are very common options even on base models. Especially at carmax - hell, we had a 2013 with 9k miles, hybrid, good options, for 19k. Hell of a price. Equivalent to the Optima, check out the Hyundai Sonata (Kia and Hyundai are the same company). Other than that, you're probably looking at paying a little bit more for an Accord, Camry, or Maxima.
On a different tangent, maybe look at the Ford Fusion or Chevy Malibu. The newer American made cars are much nicer than people are giving them credit for, and because of the American auto industry's poor rep the past few years they are also selling cars at less than they probably could be. I would feel comfortable buying either vehicle.
How can your company sell a used 2010 Ford Ranger for $19,000 with say, 30k on the odometer, all the while knowing that the consumer can walk across the street and get a brand new Toyota Tacoma for $18,000. Do car companies realize this is frustrating for the consumer? Kind of hard to reply appropriately without actually seeing the comparison, but a quick search on the Toyota website and Carmax.com shows me that if you're getting a Tacoma for 18k, it is absolutely base model, 2 door, 2 wheel drive, and that Rangers in that price range tend to be crew cab 4wd. So that's an apples to oranges comparison.
But also, like I said, you can get good deals at other places sometimes, we aren't always the best. You also have to live with the fact that when buying new, you lose about 15% of what you just paid as soon as you drive off the lot.
How often are you the best? I don't know if I could give a really accurate percentage, but I would very confidently say more often than not. Personally I'm just not an advocate of buying new, and will always buy used (I thought this way before working with cars/at Carmax). As mentioned before you just lose too much after driving off the lot, and it's a lesser amount buying used. Plus you can get more car for the same amount of money. It's just a win-win.
What do you know about what they do when they buy a car? If something happens to a car that you sell does it come back? How often does that happen? So actually, one of the really awesome things CarMax does that I'm not aware of anyone else doing - you have 5 days to bring back the car for any reason whatsoever. Hell, you don't have to have a reason, bring it back within 5 days and you get all your moneydollars back. After that, we also give you a 30 day limited warranty which will cover anything wrong with it in that time period, and obviously if there's factory warranty or you purchased maxcare that goes into effect after. I've only probably had 3 returns in the past 3 years, and 2 of them were old people that their children forced them to stop driving haha.
Say I'm looking for a decently specific truck and having a hard time finding one. What options do I have in regards to finding one from you guys? Talk to your local sales consultant and tell them exactly what you want. Chances are we can find it for you; we have 42,000 vehicles in our inventory. If we don't have it currently we get new vehicles in daily, we can build a vehicle search and continually look until it's found. I just spent 2 months finding a guy an almost new SRT8 Challenger in Plum Crazy Purple. Was the only one in the country we had when it popped up, and we had it shipped up here. Depending where the one they find is, you may not even have to pay to transfer it!
What's your pick for a good entry-level luxury sedan, both used and new? Entry level? Probably something like a BMW 328 or Acura TSX. Next step up just go to the 335, or Mercedes C300. For even more affordable, the VW CC Lux is pretty nice
I have not had a great experience with TSX. I think Acura sacrifices a lot of quality for that particular model. Plus frequent brakes issues are apparently a known problem in recent years. The MDX and TL are different stories. Actually I'm glad you said this. I was thinking TL and typed TSX. Yeah, I'd also go with the TL.
We have the 04 TL. I hate the way the newer gen TLs look. What's your opinion on the 04-08 TL vs new gen TL looks? I like all of em :/ the newer ones are different but still really nice, and fun to drive.
Is there any interest in selling things that are not cars? Tanks, helicopters, warthogs, etc. Any interest personally? Sure why not. Sales is sales, doesn't really matter what it is. Now that you mention it.. I'll sell the hell out of airplanes or yachts, that sounds awesome! Tanks too.
Did you guys go out? Nooope. She was... how to put it delicately... Larger. And had a kid that was like 8. Easily one of the most awkward conversations I've ever had.
Can you guys leave us the f*ck alone when we go in there? You have the store designed to make it impossible for someone to just go in and browse. I ended up buying my car somewhere else because your salesman wouldn't let me just take 10 mins to look around. That's pretty weird. I mean yeah, we have the store set up such that you need to walk through it to get to the lot, but we let people browse all the time. The only reason we do that is so that everyone gets talked to so we can at least ask if they do want help. I can't tell you how many people will go hop the gate, and then come inside angry because nobody came outside to chase them down. But personally, and I can speak for all of us contributing - if a customer wants to browse, we'll definitely let them. We'll just check in every 10-15 mins to see if we can help out. Sorry you had that experience, but congrats on the new ride!
Glad you guys are here. Great ad pitch for you, and I learned about a possible way to get my next car. Looking for a fun SUV in the 35-45k range with low miles. I am currently looking at GC or 4Runner. Thoughts? Well... you're talking to a guy that drives a 4Runner, and I am hugely biased. So go buy a 4Runner.
Seriously though, 4Runners are AWESOME vehicles. They're pretty much indestructible, get fantastic MPG for a vehicle that size, are extremely off road capable even bare bones stock (you are getting 4wd, ARENT YOU?), and they have a party mode button. Whats that you ask? A "party mode" button you say? Yes dear friend, I said party mode button. The newer 4Runners have a button, clearly labled with PARTY MODE that turns on the amp/sub and makes your speakers sounds better. Total gimmick, and I love it.
In actual mechanical sense, Toyota knows how to make a truck/suv. They make great cars too, but especially trucks and SUVs. Anecdotal evidence: we appraised a 2007 Toyota Tacoma with 950,000 miles. ON THE ORIGINAL ENGINE. Yeah, apparently all this person did was drive, but seriously - almost a MILLION miles on one engine. If that isn't a testament to quality, I'm not sure what is.
If you have any other specific questions about 4Runners/Tacomas I'll be happy to answer!
950,000 miles on an 07?! WTF did he get for it? $0.99? We told them to take to it Toyota because that had to be some kind of record haha.
I think Toyota might use that person's story and car as a marketing ploy and perhaps give him a new Toyota for free. That's what we said, and I sincerely hope so!
What do you all like to do for your free time? In the state I live, I go hiking in the mountains and take pretty frequent beach trips. But I mean other than that, normal stuff I guess? Haha I play league of legends with buddies, and we go out together pretty frequently to toss a few back. Some days it's a necessity after certain interactions haha. After a good pay period we will go hard.
But the reality is that CarMax still needs to make a profit/commission for every car sale so with the "no haggle" the cars aren't really priced at the lowest possibility because CarMax still needs to make money which is fine but without the haggle how can a buyer really be getting the "BEST" deal? Best deal as compared to the competition. You aren't buying a car from a dealer at cost, no matter how good you are at haggling. Also, Carmax makes a smaller profit margin than most dealers, but we make up for it by selling a LOT of vehicles. Both as a company and as individual consultants, we make our money in volume of sales, not big margins on each sale.
Can I buy a car from you using Bitcoin? Oh man I hope so. Never heard that question. I'm not at work but I'll find out
I'm test driving what my become my first car purchase on Saturday. No CarMax near me, I'm afraid. The Carfax report indicates that this vehicle was involved in a minor accident some time ago, and (apparently) as a result, the dealer is offering it for $17k instead of the KBB value of ~$25k for the same car in pristine order. This dealer has a good reputation, but even so, what can I do to make sure that the damage has been properly repaired? If you have a mechanic friend I would take them along to look at the vehicle, or ask the dealer if you could take the vehicle to an independent mechanic for inspection. That sounds a little fishy to me.
Usually a price drop that drastic would indicate frame damage to me, aka damage to the skeleton of the vehicle, which will greatly impact the value of the car. Unfortunately, carfax doesnt report everything, and while autocheck (what we use, very similar) reports twice the incidents carfax does, its not foolproof either. Definitely take along someone that knows what they're looking at. If you don't know anyone, try and get under the car and look for spots along the frame lines that appear to have been welded. Don't forget to open up the hood and trunk and check those frame rails too.
Let's say I'm looking to sell/trade-in a 2001 Lexus IS 300 at the end of the year to get a new car. It looks great and runs fine, but the catalytic converter needs to be replaced. How much lower would the value of it drop? Or would you not even consider purchasing it? Would I be better off trying to sell it myself, selling it to Carmax, or trading it in with the dealer I'm buying the car from? Go get a quote from the dealer you want to buy a car from, then go to carmax and see what you get. If it's better, take it, if not, then go back to the dealer.
This is the first I've heard of CarMax. Is there a different process for selling to Canadians? Or are you even allowed to sell to your brothers north of the border? I am 100% sure you could come to the US and purchase a vehicle, although I'm not sure how sales tax/registering the vehicle would work. I was fairly certain we had some CarMax stores north of the border, but I may be mistaken on that one.
Plans for carmax Canada? Please? I thought we had CarMax in Ontario = maybe I'm wrong, I'm a pretty long ways from Canada so I may be ill informed
Is it true you get paid on fixed commission? Does this also mean you have a fixed gross margin? Yes we do get paid on a fixed commission. Lots of positives in that, for both the salesperson and the customer.
As far as I can tell, there isn't. Just dealerships using the Car Max as their name. Doh. Sorry guys. Hopefully soon!
Why buy an used car when i can lease new car + get a new one for free every few years? Because when you lease a car it's never really yours. You don't own that vehicle. That's like asking why buy a house when you can just rent the rest of your life? As someone with a paid off vehicle that doesn't have monthly car payments to deal with, it's a really nice feeling! And even better knowing that when I want something new, I have a few thousand of positive equity to work with.
People tell me that selling a car to Carmax is the easiest thing in the world since you guys literally buy anything and give pretty good money for it. What's the policy on cars with mechanical problems (in my case, coolant issues that I don't want to drop any more $$$ on getting it fixed)? We will buy literally any car. If it has mechanical problems, if you come in and we can identify it or you have documentation showing whats wrong, our buyers will look at the vehicle, assess what the price would be fully operational, and then subtract our cost of fixing it, pretty straightforward.
I recently had a 2003 Honda Odyssey appraised and apparently the drivers side door was not the original and we never had an accident. How do you guys find that out? For a door its pretty simple, they will have a VIN number matching the vehicle's VIN, and apparently your door didnt match. also, the appraiser will check for rough paint (evidence of recently painted, overspray) and things like that to tip them off
Just wondering, do you mind taking someone for a test drive, even if they no intent on buying the vehicle anytime soon? I am very curious about a certain car, but cannot afford it anytime soon... thanks... Nope not usually, unless the person is particularly strange or wastes a ton of time. Even if you're not planning to buy for awhile I'm usually very happy to help in any way I can.
Strangest customer interaction, GO. From a fellow consultant: we constantly deal with oddball situations. However, one that is fresh in my mind is a gentleman who claimed we had driven his car "too hard" on a test drive. In full biker gear he stormed back in the next day and made random threats at our staff... Fairly intense day.
For mine, I've worked at a couple different stores. The worst was definitely being on a test drive with someone that was currently on meth. Yep, that happened. Also, there was a time a (much older) woman waited an hour while i was with another customer so that she could ask me out.
Billy Bob's has terrible cars. Jimmy John's is where it's at. I heard their cars are freaky fast... Imsosorry.
I had a great experience when I sold my vehicle at CarMax, but it would've been even greater if my representative was an informed citizen of the internet. Glad to hear it! You might be surprised how many of us are. After all, when it's a slow day we spend lots of time sitting around if we aren't doing follow up haha. A lot of us spend that time on reddit.
Last updated: 2014-05-25 23:05 UTC
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[Table] IAmA: We are iFixit co-founder Kyle Wiens and cell phone unlocking crusader Sina Khanifar, two guys fighting for your right to unlock everything you own

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Date: 2013-03-22
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Is it possible for an 83 year old to have a well-reasoned attitude towards the internet, or are all people that old hopelessly analog and therefore irrelevant I would hope so! But I imagine it would take some time—there's a lot of context he's missing that we have, and vice versa. I'm sure that there's a lot that I could learn from Mr. Billington. Maybe I should drop by his library sometime and see if he'll show me around!
Why should I tailor my design to the .1% of the market who cares about repairing their design, instead of the 50% of the market who would rather have an extra 1mm shaved off the case, or who would rather save $.50 due to a more efficient factory assembly methodology? Just because the first owner doesn't fix it, doesn't mean no one will. Eventually, 100% of the products you design will fail. The battery will wear out or someone will drop it. The need for repair is just about as inevitable as taxes. Products that have long lives have much higher resale value. Toyota trucks sell for a significant premium over Ford trucks of the same year with the same mileage. And people care about how much they're going to be able to get for their used product a year down the line, even if they're not interested in ever fixing it themselves. Large purchasers are increasingly paying attention to design lifespan. I know purchasers at very large organizations that are horrified by the prospect of a glued in battery with a 2-3 year life. They have to get a better return on their investment than that.
Hey! I wrote a repair guide for a Fender guitar amp for you guys for my technical writing class at Cal Poly SLO! My question is what sort of compromise could you foresee that would both allow use consumers to do what we wish with our products, while still protecting the intellectual property of the numerous companies we purchase our products from? For those who are interested, here's their Fender repair manual. Great job!
The question is what intellectual property needs to be protected? There are already lots of laws that protect Fender from you starting a competitor and using their patented designs or trademarked logo and case styling.
In the case of electronics, all the design engineers I know tell me that by the time a product has shipped, they assume that it's obsolete. They know their competitors will be taking it apart and analyzing it.
Sharing information needed for repairs doesn't really make it any easier to clone a product. A number of manufacturers—Dell and HP, for example—provide service manuals on their website already. And iFixit's Apple service manuals didn't prevent (or factor in at all with) their lawsuit against Samsung.
My opinion is that the laws we have are substantially the result of a) unintended consequences of the fight against media piracy; b) Cell carriers using the law to enforce a monopoly; and c) a strategy of planned obsolescence.
Now that's it's illegal; what are the chances of getting caught? Is it easy for phone providers to track down an unlocked cell phone? Will they actively go after people? Or do you think it's going to be more like illegal torrenting where they'll go after the big fish (ie people marketing unlocking/jailbreaking services) and maybe cherry pick a few unlockers here and there to make an example out of them? The odds of them coming after you or me are very low. I'm not sure that they could detect remotely whether a phone has been unlocked—it would probably come down to how accurate their database is and whether there is data sharing between the carriers.
It's the folks making the unlocking software—like geohot and the iPhone dev team—as well as refurbishers and resellers. Companies like Recellular unlock millions of cell phones per year. If they can't do that, the used phone market will be significantly disrupted. It will become extremely expensive to buy unlocked phones, and your old locked phone won't be worth nearly as much.
It's crazy that intellectual property law is interfering with the free market of physical products like this. It's farcical. Imagine if Ford cut a deal with a toll road company and didn't allow you to drive your car on another company's roads!
We need to find ways of educating policy makers about the impact of applying policies designed to prevent piracy to physical hardware.
How do you think the rise of 3D printing is going to affect your iFixit business? Do you believe scanning the 3D models of little plastic pieces be subject to DMCA takedowns? And if so, would you consider addressing that on your fixthedmca.org site? I'm really excited about 3D printing. We haven't seen a ton of practical 3D printable repair parts, but that day is coming.
The legal issues around printing 3D parts are pretty different from the copyright concerns around unlocking (circumventing encryption) and access to service manuals and diagnostics. With printing objects, you run into problems with 3D patents and trademarks. If it's legal for a third party to make a replacement handle for your refrigerator, it should be legal for you to 3D print one. But that's by no means certain, and I think it's going to be a significant fight in the coming years.
There have already been some DMCA takedowns of 3D files, but IANAL and I couldn't say exactly what the implications are.
A major challenge for small companies like ours is uncertainty. Let's say I create a 3D file of my door handle, post it to iFixit, get sued by a major manufacturer, and my lawyers tell me I have a strong legal case for fair use. Going to trial could cost millions of dollars—money the manufacturer may be willing to spend, but that we wouldn't be able to afford.
This is a big reason why you don't see very many people standing up to the OEMs. It's also why it's critical that we financially support fantastic organizations like the EFF, Public Knowledge, Free Press, and others who are willing to fight long fights on behalf of us consumers. Free markets need clarity.
That said, iFixit is totally happy to host any 3D models of spare parts people want to throw up on our servers, as long as the files were independently created.
As a Cal Poly SLO Electrical Engineering student who built a 3d printer this summer, I support IFixit hosting models. Let's get started uploading some models, then!
Everything that you guys take apart and breakdown.. do you pay for those out-of-pocket, or are they given to you by the manufacturers? How do they feel about you doing that? Great question. We buy everything at retail, just like Consumer Reports. Since we're rating the repairability, it's important that we get the same hardware that you would buy at the store.
That gets a little expensive, particularly with out-of-contract cell phones (we'll be taking apart the Blackberry Z10 soon), but it's worth it. You can't tell how hard it'll be to repair something without taking it apart, and we've taken it on as our sworn duty to educate people before they find out the hard way.
We posted a tablet repairability matrix the other day.
Well, I feel like that is likely ALREADY the case with many cars. They all have lots and lots of chips in them. How many of those chips are we allowed to access, inspect, etc., without violating something like DMCA? It totally depends on whether they're encrypted.
Legally, can you modify the code on the chips?
Practically, will anyone do it?
Right now, we're focused on the first issue—guaranteeing your right to tinker. That's why we need to repeal Section 1201 of the DMCA.
But for repairs, the time to reverse engineer those chips is so significant that you would never be able to do so in the process of fixing a car. For many repairs, access to service documentation and diagnostics are critical. That's why Massachusetts just passed Right to Repair legislation requiring service information be made available. Independent auto mechanics were worried they wouldn't be able to stay in business.
I think we need Right to Repair legislation for electronics as well as autos.
You guys are great! A Maker Manifesto for all! I'm tired of the consumption based, throwaway society we have today. We need to get corporations to relinquish this tight-fisted control over everything they manufacture for "sale" (quotes to indicate that they say "sold", even though the consumer often own much of what was purchased) that encourages, no - demands, that merchandise gets thrown away and replaced new to maximize profits. What do you see as the best avenue, personally and as citizens, to encourage people, the government, and companies to pursue the ability to repair our merchandise? Help us build a free repair manual for everything! Join the thousands of people all around the world contributing to make iFixit the largest repair manual in the world. We're building a coalition to fight for access to unlocking tools, service manuals, diagnostics, and everything else we need to repair products. If the people of Massachusetts can stand up for their local auto repair shop, we of the internet can certainly stand up for the right to open our electronics.
Sign up at fixthedmca.org and let people know you want DMCA 1201 repealed.
I own a small business that's an authorized dealer of a major carrier's products and contracts. When I order, e.g., a 16 GB iPhone 5, I pay the full retail price, $650. One of my stores then sells it for $200, as per the carrier's requirement. When someone then proceeds to unlock that phone and activate it on, say, Cricket, I lose $450. The carrier only pays me a portion of the contract if it's kept for at least six months. Were you aware of this? Do you agree that anyone who acts in a similar manner is effectively stealing $450 from me? How can one own an item that he hasn't fully paid for yet (assuming that a device isn't entirely bought until the discount received on it has been compensated via contract)? The customer has to pay an early termination fee, I assume. Who gets that money?
Do you ever break a item while disassembling it? e.g. If you cracked a Ipad digitizer as you removed it while doing a break down. Edit:spelling. Yes. Specifically with the iPad, it was glued together. It took us breaking about five iPads before we developed a technique for opening iPads without harming the glass. Even then, we kept fiddling and improving our methodology.
How do you guys feel about "anti-fixer" hardware like security screws or Torx? I don't really think Torx is anti-fixer—it's a pretty standard tool, there are good technical reasons for it (screws don't strip as easily), and the patent on it has expired (way back in '91). Security bits and tools like Apple's Pentalobe driver are just consumer-hostile.
I had to open up my coffee maker to unclog it and they had flathead screws with a little bar in the middle - you'd need a flathead screwdriver that kinda looked like a two-pronged fork. I have a friend who just spilled liquid on her MacBook Air this afternoon and needs to open up the case to dry it out. But she doesn't have the right sized pentalobe bit already, and it's going to take a few days to mail her one.
Random idea: Mail Pentalobe drivers to libraries in major metro areas, so people can locally access them without the hassle? There's a growing group of tool libraries where they do just that. I think it's a fantastic idea—we recently wrote a story about the West Seattle Tool Library, which is very successful.
You guys are awesome! You helped me start my business in fixing and unlocking devices. I have already emailed my representatives (all of them), signed the petition, and spread the word about how bad the DMCA is. Thank you for your efforts. As for questions, how many DMCA threats do you receive? If so, from what kind of companies? Do they concern you at all? You'll be surprised to hear this: iFixit has never received a DMCA complaint. But there's a good reason for that—all the content on the site is originally created, either by us or by our community members.
We haven't gotten permission from any OEMs to rehost their service information (yet), but it's something that we're working on.
With the recent screenshots of xbox durango, do you think that we are moving toward a time where the used game market will cease to exist? You bought it, you should own it. That applies to music you buy from iTunes, or from Steam, or from the secret XBox market of the future.
But the trend right now is away from ownership, and towards licensing. Apple is very careful to never say that you own the music you download from iTunes.
There's a fantastic group of people working to guarantee your rights to resell the things you buy called the Owner's Rights Initiative. They won a huge victory in the Supreme Court this week in the Kirtsaeng v. Wiley case, verifying that it is legal to resell products in the US that were made overseas. Seems commonsense, but those are the sort of basic battles we have to fight.
If that verdict had gone the other way, we might be talking about whether it's legal to resell your old cell phone—now that would have been a step backwards.
Are you giving away free 6inch rulers? because they are $2.99 and redditlove322 gives $5 off. Yes.
Why isn't the problem the breaking of a contract? The customer is not actually breaking the contract, they're exercising an option in the contract to end the monthly service in exchange for paying an early termination fee.
Your problem is that the carrier wrote the contract, and likely also wrote the business contract with you. Your contract sounds one-sided—the fair thing would be for you to receive a portion of the termination fee to repay you for your subsidy. You're getting squeezed on both ends.
Why isn't there a way to sort the amount of devices on your website by their repairability score? Because we haven't gotten to it yet! But that's a great idea. Our tablet repairability page is our first stab at something like that.
I have used your website to repair a Macbook Pro. I redirect people to your site for a lot of their Apple (and console) problems. I love the idea of a centralized repository of all this knowledge. Is it possible to expand this to cover all devices? If unlocking under contract cell phones is legal. What incentive do mobile carriers have to incentivize high end cell phones? Yes, we're working hard to do it. The problem is that we can't take the manufacturer service manuals and post them on iFixit because of copyright law. If it was legal, we'd have service manuals for everything! So we have to write everything from scratch. You can help—take some photos the next time you fix something and post the seed of a new repair manual. Locking phones isn't required to keep you on a carrier. You already have a contract! The early termination fee should cover any costs to them from your subsidized handset.
What's in it for you? We want to fix the world. I'd like to live in a place where people cared about their things, and products were designed to stand the test of time.
I agree that this should never be an issue and shouldn't be something that we should have to fight for. Everything should be unlocked by default. But you guys are doing amazing things in this fight, so mad props to you. The problem is that software (intellectual property) is infecting hardware, and so the laws that have allowed us to modify and tinker our hardware for hundreds of years are woefully out of date. It won't be long before you can't buy any durable good that doesn't have some software involved.
, ifixit.com is an awesome idea and site and I recently used it to upgrade my aging macbook, saving hundreds of dollars by not buying a new one. Great idea! What do you. think. of. these. guides?
Have you ever considered expanding ifixit beyond apple products and game consoles? Or expansion beyond electronics.. say into DIY car repairs? IFixit is a wiki, and you can add repair manuals for anything you like! So get cracking.
Hi there as a small cellphone and computer shop in my town I like to thank you guys for your work and I support as much as I can when I can ( buying parts and tools. Even if can find it little cheaper somewhere Els. I to support your amazing website ). It helped me many times when I have a rare or unusual item in my shop. How did it all started ? Here's a short summary of how we started iFixit back in 2003: Link to www.ifixit.com
Are there any ways that manufacturers are making it easier to repair devices? I think Dell deserves more press than they've gotten for the XPS 10. It's clear that serviceability was a design priority throughout, and it's a great device. I have the trackpad + battery dock, and it's a great product.
They color coded the screws, used easy tabs to get into the case, and made the battery very easy to remove.
Did you guys sell your tool kit to Best Buy, I saw a similar kit in geek squad to what I have at home? Not yet, although we'd love to sell tools through them. You can buy them from Amazon online as well as direct from us. Radio Shack is selling our tools at a few stores—if you don't see them in your local store, ask them to stock them!
Hi guys, love your site 'cus I'm a fixer. _^ I've rebuilt many an engine for myself and friends. The best way for a friend to get me to fix their stuff is to say : "It's OK, don't worry. I'll just get a new one." LOL That pushes my buttons and I'll have it fixed pronto! I'm wondering about the (maybe few) positive outcomes of regulation. I'd love to hear your take on modifications to devices that then negatively effect other people. I know many guys who modify the emission control system on their cars in order to get better mileage or have better pick-up. This gives all of us a worse environment. Sometimes people misalign their headlights and/or put in super-bright halogens. These blind me when approaching at night. Also, what if someone modified their electronics in such a way that throws off a ton of RF noise, thus disrupting the electronics of others (phone, Bluetooth, WiFi). Mufflers on motorcycles that are just TOO loud are another example. These issues are more troublesome in cities where we live close to each other. This would probably require many more "spot checks" by authorities to be sure that your device/caboat/etc was in compliance. They do this now for people who mod their street-legal cars, but they will typically just target the low-riders or the Asian imports that are altered. I'd hate if this practice was extended to the whole population. We would creep closer toward a police state. So what is your stance on regulation (and its enforcement) for beneficial things? Where do we draw the line and how do we be sure people comply? This is a great question, and I'd like to have a conversation about this separately. Please ask our repair tech community over on meta.ifixit.com and see what they think. They might have a more nuanced perspective on this than I would.
What has been the most difficult project for you? Not standing up to the DMCA, or any kind of campaigning stuff - I'm asking about phones/consoles/etc. The hardest part for us is figuring out how to make servicing glued devices economical. The solution involves new tools, techniques, and instructions. We've thrown away entire repair manuals and started from scratch because we thought the procedure was too difficult for people to use. Our iOpener is a really cool new tool for opening glued tablets, and took about a year of tinkering to perfect.
Would you please give us a bitcoin address where we can PAY OUR SUPPORT ?? We should set something up for fixthedmca.org. We could be the first bitcoin-funded PAC! I'm sure that would ruffle some feathers.
Is the Surface Pro really that bad? Yes. But don't take my word for it—CNET / Techrepublic also took it apart, and came to the same conclusions that we did.
From their report: "[Microsoft] took one of worst tablet design elements (a glued on front panel) and married it with one of the worst laptop elements (an over abundance of screws) to create a device that’s more difficult to crack open than even the Apple iPad."
Just wanted to say Thanks for making such great tools. They guides are pretty awesome too, but the tools are sweet. Just got my Magnetic Project Mat and I love it. Any way you want to sponsor an IT guy and give me a bunch of tools? Keep up the great work! Shameless plug: I love my Pro Tech Toolkit, and the Magnetic Project Mat has changed how I fix things.
Unrelated, but would love the question answered. GF would love to move back to SLO. Any chance I could get a job? We do have a couple positions open in SLO.
Not really a question directed to you, but just on the topic in general. In the US, are you not allowed to unlock your phone? Here in Ireland we simply go to our network's shop, give them our phone and a day later, it's unlocked and ready to use on any network, free of charge. It's newly illegal as of January of this year. Thanks, Mr. Librarian of Congress!
In some countries—including Brazil—it's illegal to sell locked cell phones. I guess we're a little less secure in our capitalism than they are.
I can't thank your site enough! I use it to fix all of my electronics and customers computers. Before i even open a device, I take a look at your site and check to see what cables I have to be aware of, so I don't break any when taking apart the thing. Have you thought about opening a physical location and selling your merchandise and maybe offer computer servicing? We have thousands of technicians who contribute to iFixit and run local repair businesses. I'd never want to compete with them—they're a lot better at fixing things than I am!
Do you have the stats from that old satisfaction survey on peoples favorite star wars film? Yes, I've got that around somewhere. I'll have rummage around the dusty regions of my drive platters for them. I'm pretty sure Jar Jar lost.
You guys stole a friend of mine's photo of an Xserve without attribution (it was CC just requiring credit). He emailed you about it several times with no response. What fuck? I don't know anything about that! Have him send it again to support at ifixit and we'll get right on it. iFixit is community driven, so it could have been a contributor. But we're eager to fix it!
Hey Kyle, I know it's not the reason you're here, but are you going to do a teardown of the new 27" iMac? We've got a repair manual well underway. Stay tuned.
Love the website and love the prices, but when will you have more of these in stock? Probably not soon. Best to find a water damaged one somewhere and salvage the part.
An IMEI blacklist has now been released by checkesnfree, but no database to check purchase date of phones to confirm the 1/26/13 cutoff. As a repair shop how am I supposed to know when a customer bought a phone, or whether they are lying to illegally unlock a phone? Is it really fair for us to have them sign a waiver to pass the blame off to the customer in case of a lawsuit? Good question, and I have absolutely no idea.
> Is it really fair?
Nope. But then, who said the law was supposed to be fair?
What are your opinions on E-waste? We've written extensively about e-waste (see the Wired articles I linked to above, as well as iFixit.org). It's a huge problem, and the best solution is to make our products last as long as possible.
Locking phones limits their ability to be reused, and the practice is responsible for hundreds of millions of phones going out of use prematurely. Locking hurts resale prices, it hurts consumers, and it hurts the environment.
Well If I can buy a car and make mods to it or buy a computer and mod it. I see no reason why I shouldn't be able to mod a phone or anything else. Good Luck guys! Thanks. The issue is software infecting the hardware world. If they put an encrypted interface to your car, it would be illegal to unencrypt it and modify it, thanks to section 1201 of the DMCA. That's gotta change.
The post-'96, pre-late-2000s cars hit the sweet spot: they had OBD II ports, but were devoid of crazy electronic nannies and gremlins. My DD is a '98 Accord, and that's almost as good as it gets. +1.
My 68-year-old mother replaced the battery in her MacBook Air by herself a couple of days ago thanks to you guys. You rock! Awesome! Got any photos?
We collect repair stories over here.
MJ is the best host you have had on iFixit. Hands down. Thanks! Here's MJ's take on the cell phone unlocking situation.
Just last Friday I used your website to fix my Galaxy Nexus (grandfathered in to unlimited data) with nothing more than eye glasses screwdrivers and some guitar picks. Thank you for saving me from a 5fb download limit or having to pay $600 for an unlocked phone. You guys rock! Link to cdn.memegenerator.net
If youre asking, you already know the answer. Shhh.
Just wanted to say thanks for the wealth of information you provide. When I taught my ACMT course in Las Vegas I recommended your site over Apples GSX for out of warranty repairs. Used it myself frequently and will continue to even though I'm no longer a technician. Thanks! And please, help us get better. There's an edit button on every step and we need all the people with technical expertise we can get.
Hey, I did work for you guys through my college class (ENGL 149 at Cal Poly SLO) and because of my work I actually got a job! I just wanted to say thank you very much <3. Here's the page I worked on: Link to www.ifixit.com. I'm the hand model <3. Awesome! What job did you get?
Hey guys! its Caleb from hackaday. I just wanted to say you've come a LONG way over the years and I'm happy to use you as a resource when people ask me about gadget repairs. Keep going! Thanks, Caleb. The community deserves the credit—they're the ones who have expanded our manuals so dramatically. I'm constantly amazed at the cool repair how-tos I find on the site.
I just want to tell you that I love your website and that you have saved me hundreds of dollars in repair costs for my Apple products via ifixit.com. Thanks! I paid patalbwil to say that.
Just wanted to say 'thanks' for everything you guys have done and are continuing to do. I started a Mac repair business over three years ago and I couldn't have done it without all of the amazing guides on iFixit.com. Keep up the good work! Awesome, that's great to hear. We love helping people start businesses.
Pass it along—teach someone how to fix something over on iFixit.
Probably too late, just wanted to say thanks for ifixit. I've bought a few tools there, fixed my xbox controller, and I'm in the process of fixing my ps3 laser. You're very welcome! I'm not responsible for most of that—it's our global community that wrote those guides. It's incredible how much knowledgable people are willing to share.
I met iFixIt at Bay Area Maker Faire in 2011 and 2012 and want to thank you for who you are and for all you do to make a DIY-er's life easier. Let me know if you need a spare pair of booth hands for 2013. I don't think we'll be exhibiting this year so we can focus on our online work, but we're happy to support anyone who wants to represent repair at the faire. It's a great show.
As a fellow Calpoly CPE, how well would you say that Calpoly prepared you for the 'real world'? (Also, will you ever go beer tasting with Collin?) Our work is pretty broad—we're taking apart hardware one day, hacking code the next, and writing op-eds for Wired the next. So it was very useful, but we've had to teach ourselves a fair amount along the way.
So they can turn a profit, yo. All the products for those tear-downs don't come cheap. Plus you get a high quality screen + get great customer support. There's a pretty broad spectrum in quality between parts out there. We test every single screen we sell and stand behind our parts with long warranties.
Last updated: 2013-03-27 06:27 UTC
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