We're only human and we all make those minor, everyday mistakes like walking into an overly clean glass door, spilling coffee all over new pants or texting that person you should have deleted from your phone a long time ago. None of these mistakes will cause long-lasting repercussions (we hope). One costly mistake that can haunt you for years, however, is messing up your car purchase.
Despite all the information readily available about car features, prices and financing, car shoppers make these $25,000+ mistakes all the time. Before you pull the trigger on your new or used car, find out what the common blunders are so you can avoid them like a closed glass door.
1. Getting Attached to One Model
This is one of the most common and expected mistakes shoppers make. Most car buyers have a vehicle in mind that they really want. There's nothing wrong with this if that "dream car" is based on extensive research, previous test drives and budget constraints. However, if there's one thing we know about human nature, it's that we're not rational creatures. Emotion often wins the battle against reason in our decision-making process.
Of course, you need to be happy with the car you choose, but going in blind without sizing up your dream car to competitors isn't the best way to go. You'll risk dropping a large sum of money on something that isn't right for your needs or your budget. Not only is your satisfaction with the car at risk, but also your ability to make payments on the vehicle. We recommend reading car reviews, buying guides and truly considering your everyday driving needs and budget before setting your heart on a specific make and model.
2. Only Visiting One Dealership
If you live in a sizeable metro area, you don't have any excuse to only visit one dealership for your car purchase. Most of the time, you'll find a few options situated within a close drive. Scoping out multiple dealerships offers several benefits. You can shop around for not only the vehicle but also a salesperson you trust. Popping into several places will also offer an opportunity to do more test drives. Maybe one dealership only allows you to take a car out with the salesperson alongside you while another will let you go out on your own and drive the route you want.
An additional benefit is that you can get quotes in writing from several dealerships and use them as leverage at the one you feel most comfortable buying from.
But what do you do if you don't live near many dealerships or simply don't have hours of free time to dedicate to the process? You can shop around virtually by getting online car quotes for the vehicles you're considering before making the long drive.
3. Cutting Your Test Drive Short
This is usually not the car shopper's fault. Many dealerships will have the salesperson hop in the car with you for the test drive and tell you exactly which route you should take. Typically, you'll have about 15-20 minutes to drive on local roads. As you can imagine, this won't give you a good sense of how the car will perform for your everyday needs.
We understand the salesperson's perspective. They want to get down to business, get you back into the dealership and have you sign the contracts instead of driving around for an hour. That's how they'll make the commision, after all, but this isn't a step you want to rush through.
Don't be shy about making a list of how you'll use the car such as highway driving or navigating winding country roads. Then ask the salesperson to allow you to try the car in your natural driving environment. If you feel you need a few more minutes in the driver's seat, just ask. You need to be fully satisfied with the vehicle before the salesperson can earn that commision.
4. Failing to Thoroughly Check Out a Used Car
Used car buyers enjoy many benefits like lower prices and less depreciation. These perks are a tradeoff for some uncertainty about the car's history and condition. Many used car shoppers will see a car in seemingly good condition and trust that what the seller tells them is true. This is a dangerous assumption. To mitigate your risk, you'll want to get a vehicle history report and get the car inspected by a mechanic.
A vehicle history report shows details about the car such as past ownership, liens, title history, accident history, odometer readings, rollback alerts, lemon determination, and more. You'll find a free and paid option for vehicle history reports are available. A free report gives you basic info and a paid version will have more extensive details, like the maintenance history.
While a vehicle history report provides valuable information, it won't replace a mechanic taking a look at the vehicle and checking for any issues that can quickly become costly. It's worth the small fee to have confidence in the vehicle you're about to spend your hard earned money on.
5. Not Shopping Around for a Car Loan
You will usually be able to get auto financing straight from the dealership where you purchase your car but accepting their terms without doing some research beforehand can mean overpaying by hundreds or thousands of dollars. Dealership interest rates can often be higher than what you'd get by shopping around for financing at a credit union, bank or online financing company. You can get pre-approved for a car loan and use those terms to negotiate your rates at the dealership.
6. Ignoring Post-Purchase Costs
It feels great to get a good deal on a car that you've been eyeing for a long time. Yet, it's important to remember that the total cost of your new car doesn't end with your purchase price or monthly payments. A common mistake car shoppers make is ignoring future costs like fuel, insurance, and vehicle maintenance.
That full-size truck's mpg can make your trips to the gas station a lot more painful and your new sports car may very well stick you with sky-high insurance rates. The used BMW you snagged seems like a steal but did you know that BMWs are the most expensive vehicles to maintain? Maintaining a BMW can cost you nearly $18,000 over the course of 10 years. Had you gone with a Toyota or Honda, that number could be closer to $5,000. If you want to avoid ending up with buyer's remorse, a little forward-thinking and research will go a long way.