The Worst Car Buying Mistakes You Can Make

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Most of us will buy somewhere around nine new cars over the course of our lifetimes according to CNBC. Assuming you buy your first one at 21 and you achieve the average life expectancy of just over 78 years, you’ll go into a new car dealership with the intention to buy every six years. 

How can you ever hope to get really good at doing something you do so infrequently? Fortunately, that’s why articles like this one exist — to help you avoid the worst car buying mistakes you can make. 

These include:

1. Bypassing Your Due Diligence

Before you ever visit a dealership, you should get a copy of your credit report to see what interest rate you could get. You should also review your budget to see what you can afford, then get prequalified for that amount from your bank, or an online lender, to buy a car. You should also figure out what you need the car to be capable of doing to suit your lifestyle. 

With those question answered, visit car buying sites like Edmunds, Autobytel and to see which cars in your price range would fit those parameters for you. While you’re visiting those sites, take a look at what your current car is worth, both as a trade-in and if you sell it yourself. 

In other words, too many people fail to conduct research before buying cars. 

2. Failing to Consider All Costs of Ownership

Once your list of prospects is narrowed down, look into the costs of insuring them. While they might all fall into the same category, some will be more expensive to insure than others — for a wide variety of reasons. 

You’ll also want to pay attention to their fuel economy and reputations for reliability. All of these factors will come into play during your ownership of the vehicle. 

3. Buying at the First Dealership You Visit

Every mainstream car dealer in your area is in competition with one another. That quote of $32,500 for the car of your dreams at dealership A might be $31,500 at dealership B and $30,000 at dealership C. 

Further, you want to work with people with whom you feel have your best interests in mind. After all, this is probably where you’ll have your car serviced too. Always visit at least three dealerships before you make a purchase decision. 

4. Buying Based Upon the Monthly Payment

Most seasoned car sales professionals will lead off the negotiating process with the question, “So what payment are you trying to get?” They’ll respond with another question when you answer. “Up to how much…?” Most people feel a need to add another $20 to $50 to impress the seller, effectively making the car more expensive. 

By the way, the correct answer to that question is, “I’d rather discuss the out-the-door price of the car. We can talk about financing once we settle that.” 

After all, you’ll already know what monthly payment you can afford, because you’ll be pre-qualified for your loan. You’ll also know about what the car is selling for in your area. 

It’s all too easy for a dealership to get you the payment you want and still charge far more than the car is worth. They’ll do so by extending the loan period as long as possible to diminish the monthly payment. Which, in turn, means you’ll pay a lot more in interest charges. 

5. Overlooking the Possibility of Buying Online

Spending a day going back and forth trying to get the most reasonable number possible isn’t most people’s idea of time well spent. 

Today, every dealership has an internet department with which you can work out your deal online. This can be far less stressful. Some people say it’s just as effective as negotiating in person. Either way, it mitigates the pressure tactics sales people can employ to try to get you to make a buying decision when you aren’t ready to do so. 

These are four of the worst car buying mistakes you can make. If you take your time, figure out what you can afford, what it will cost and choose the car that best fits your needs, you’ll be happier with your purchase over the long term.

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