Is CarMax Growing or Dying?

When CarMax reports this Friday we'll know if it's growing, and fending off competitors like AutoNation.

Jun 16, 2014 at 4:27PM

Auto sales giant CarMax (NYSE:KMX) reports first quarter earnings this Friday. Do you need to know if the quarter is a no-haggle success, or a sour deal? You've come to the right place. 

Here's a preview for this Friday's results.  


Source: Ildar Sagdejev via Wikimedia Commons.

Tune out the noise
If you own shares of CarMax you've experienced some pain in recent quarters, because the stock sold off following its two most recent quarters and is still stuck in neutral. The business has performed far better than the stock price, however. It's very important to remember the difference between those two things. 

Last quarter, for instance, sales were up 9% year over year, and full-year sales were up 15%. Further, the company reported full-year net income growth of 13%. So why did the stock sell off following these results?

The short answer, is that the stock market can be pretty short-sighted. The company sold off because it missed analysts near-term expectations. For whatever reason, investors continue to place a lot of value in whether a company hits analysts guesses, despite their spotty track record. 

Analysts are expecting CarMax to report earnings of $0.67 on Friday (vs. $0.64 last year). It would be nice if the company hit that figure, because we want earnings growth, but the company could still be doing well even if it misses this (somewhat) arbitrary target. 

Comparison shopping
According to research firm Polk, the average age of all U.S. autos is 11.4 years, and it's expected to grow 20% by 2018. This figure, mixed with a thriftier consumer, bodes well for used car sales. CarMax's "no haggle" sales approach should help it win market share over more "seedy" competitors, but what about AutoNation (NYSE:AN)?  AutoNation has a large number of super stores, and promises a "hassle free" experience as well, so what makes CarMax so special?

That's the question investors need to ask. AutoNation just reported its best May sales results ever, a 15% gain, and its earnings rose 16% in its last quarter. In short, its doing very well. While it is likely that both businesses will continue doing well, investors should look at these results and wonder if there's a better deal offered at the (very similar) AutoNation. 

As it turns out AutoNation is slightly cheaper on a price-to-sales, and price-to-earnings basis.

AN PE Ratio (TTM) Chart

AN P/E Ratio (TTM) data by YCharts

CarMax is a good business and, I believe, its brand is more synonymous with the "no haggle" experience than any competitors. It also has a smaller base of stores, so it may have more room to grow. With that said, you should track its performance against its competitors, and not in a vacuum. 

In its last quarter CarMax had a 7% jump in comparable sales, here's hoping we get a similar figure. CarMax is in growth mode at the moment, but its Super Stores are large and incredibly capital intensive. The only way it can continue its growth is if same-store sales stay positive.

When a business is growing fast, and has big expectations, it cannot "muddle along." If it's not growing, then it can't justify its valuation. With that said, we shouldn't mistake the last two quarterly "misses" as an example of CarMax dying. Keep focusing on the underlying business, if it keeps growing like the past two quarter's that is more than enough. 

Warren Buffett's worst auto-nightmare (Hint: It's not Tesla)
A major technological shift is happening in the automotive industry. Most people are skeptical about its impact. Warren Buffett isn't one of them. He recently called it a "real threat" to one of his favorite businesses. An executive at Ford called the technology "fantastic." The beauty for investors is that there is an easy way to invest in this megatrend. Click here to access our exclusive report on this stock.

Adem Tahiri has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends CarMax. The Motley Fool owns shares of CarMax. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Money to your ears - A great FREE investing resource for you

The best way to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as “binge-worthy finance.”

Feb 1, 2016 at 5:03PM

Whether we're in the midst of earnings season or riding out the market's lulls, you want to know the best strategies for your money.

And you'll want to go beyond the hype of screaming TV personalities, fear-mongering ads, and "analysis" from people who might have your email address ... but no track record of success.

In short, you want a voice of reason you can count on.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich," rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

And one of the easiest, most enjoyable, most valuable ways to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as "binge-worthy finance."

Whether you make it part of your daily commute or you save up and listen to a handful of episodes for your 50-mile bike rides or long soaks in a bubble bath (or both!), the podcasts make sense of your money.

And unlike so many who want to make the subjects of personal finance and investing complicated and scary, our podcasts are clear, insightful, and (yes, it's true) fun.

Our free suite of podcasts

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. The show is also heard weekly on dozens of radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers are timeless, so it's worth going back to and listening from the very start; the other three are focused more on today's events, so listen to the most recent first.

All are available for free at

If you're looking for a friendly voice ... with great advice on how to make the most of your money ... from a business with a lengthy track record of success ... in clear, compelling language ... I encourage you to give a listen to our free podcasts.

Head to, give them a spin, and you can subscribe there (at iTunes, Stitcher, or our other partners) if you want to receive them regularly.

It's money to your ears.


Compare Brokers