The largest used-car retailer in the country is rolling into Long Island for the first time.
CarMax has 220 dealerships across the country, including three Upstate, and the retailer is planning to enter the downstate market with two new dealerships on Long Island – in East Meadow and Smithtown – that will serve the New York City area, the Richmond, Virginia-based company said.
CarMax Inc. will build its East Meadow dealership on the former site of a Home Depot, at 2000 Hempstead Tpke., and a Smithtown dealership on the former site of the Smithtown Concrete Products plant, at 441 Middle Country Rd. in St. James.
CarMax will announce opening dates a year in advance, spokeswoman Nicole Rappaport said.
"We are determining the timeline and unable to share a construction start date at this time," said Rappaport, who said the East Meadow dealership will open first.
CarMax has a "long-term" ground lease for about half of the 10-acre East Meadow site, which is owned by Salisbury Partners LLC, said Kenneth Breslin, founder and a principal of Sabre Real Estate Group, the Garden City-based firm representing the property owner.
The Home Depot on the property closed in 2017. Salisbury, which is based in Lake Success, is demolishing the 136,000-square-foot Home Depot building and will give access to CarMax this month to start construction, Breslin said.
CarMax will build its dealership on the eastern portion of the area where Home Depot was, he said. Breslin expects the construction to take nine months to a year, he said.
The project has received all the requested building approvals from the Town of Hempstead, said Louis Carnovale, chief plan examiner for the town, who said that the construction will include a 10,000-square-foot main building and a 1,000-square-foot car wash.
CarMax’s proposed Smithtown dealership received site plan approval for a 60,000-square-foot vehicle showroom on its 18-acre property in November 2018, said Peter Hans, Smithtown’s planning director.
The auto seller likely will receive its building permits soon, so that it can begin demolishing the existing structures on the property, he said.
That dealership will be located on "Car Row," the nickname for an area with a host of auto dealerships on Route 25 east of downtown Smithtown.
Founded in 1993 under the ownership of Circuit City Stores Inc., CarMax was spun off as a separate, publicly traded company in 2002. It is now the largest used-car retailer by volume.
CarMax, known for its fixed-price, "no-haggle" car sales, offers contactless curbside pickup and home delivery of purchased cars, in addition to the traditional process of on-site vehicle buying.
The auto seller is doing well financially, in part because it has its own financing arm, allowing it to put more cash back into the company, said David Whiston, equity strategist in U.S. auto coverage for Morningstar Research Services in Chicago.
CarMax has been expanding for years with new dealerships throughout the nation, but waited to get into the New York City area, he said.
"They intentionally put it off for last because they wanted to get bigger, get more scale and perfect their playbook before entering such a large and important market," he said.
The current state of the used-car market bodes well for CarMax.
Because of consumers’ economic uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic, "there has been a lot of demand on used-car sales as people look to be a bit more financially conscious," said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights at Edmunds.com, the Santa Monica, California-based auto information provider.
Also, as sales of SUVs and trucks have risen, manufacturers are producing fewer cars, she said. Fewer new cars available pushes their prices up, spurring more demand for cheaper, used vehicles.