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Car Shopping Top 35 Buying Mistakes to Avoid

Top 20 New Car Buying Mistakes
Table of Contents

When it comes to purchasing a car, the process can be both exciting and daunting. As an insurance agency committed to helping our clients make informed decisions, we’ve compiled a list of the top 35 car shopping mistakes to avoid. Steering clear of these pitfalls can save you time, money, nd stress, ensuring a smoother ride in your car shopping journey.

Mistake 1: Not Comparing Prices

This one seems obvious, but the fact is that many car buyers start and stop their shopping at just one dealership. Dealerships have the power to set their own prices, and as a result, these bottom lines vary from lot to lot.

If you find a car you like, take the time to shop around. Look at the bottom line prices at a variety of dealerships around you from the comfort of your phone’s screen. Check that you’re comparing apples to apples with model, trim, and extras.

When you find the best price, you can take that to the nearest dealership and use it as leverage. Either they can match the price, or you know where to go to get the deal.

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While this tip may cover sticker cost, down this list, you’ll see some other price tips to consider. There may be other ways to cut costs.

Mistake 2: Ignoring Your Trade-In Value

If you plan to trade your previous vehicle, you need to do your research. Too often, shoppers trust the dealership to determine the value of their trade-ins. Imagine if the grocery store lets you set the price of your food.

Take the time to research the value of your trade-in. Many guides can give you a good price estimate based on make, model, year, and condition without your having to leave your bed.

Keep in mind that when you trade your car in at the dealership, they can’t give you the full value of the car. They need to make money on the sale, after all. But the price should be reasonable.

The better option might be selling the car yourself. You are more likely to get the full value out of the car if you do. It does take time, energy, and know-how, though. For many, taking a small hit on the price for the convenience of the trade is worth it.

Mistake 3: Not Shopping for a Loan

Again, it is easy to let a dealership do this work for you. After you’ve picked out your car, they’ll send you to the finance office and give you the loan you need for the car. Done and easy, right?

Yes, but easy can cost you thousands of dollars in the end. If you want to save money on your car, take the time to find an auto loan that is right for you.

Each bank and lender offers its own loan packages and its own interest rates based on several factors. Take the time to talk to a few lenders and seek an interest rate that can save you money over the life of your loan.

Even a 1% difference can cost you more than $1,000. Some loans can come with penalties or fees that can end up costing you even more.

Mistake 4: Focusing on Monthly Payments

It is a common trick of the car dealership trade to get buyers focused on the monthly payment. When they do, dealerships can more easily add extended warranties or additional insurance packages you may not want.

When a several thousand dollar extended warranty only adds $22 to your monthly payment, it doesn’t seem so bad, and dealerships know this.

Often, these add-on products are bigger money-makers than the vehicles themselves for dealerships. So this type of tactic makes sense from their perspective. It may not make sense for you, though.

Consider your monthly payment, but always make sure you know the total cost of add-on products to assess whether or not they will work for you and your budget plan.

Mistake 5: Not Making a Budget

Understanding exactly how much you can afford is vital before starting your car buying journey. If you haven’t already done so, you should create a monthly household budget, including all of your income and outgo.

If you work under the principle that all of your monthly bills should amount to no more than 50% of your monthly income, you can see exactly what you can afford on your regular car payments.

Be sure to include loan interest, taxes, and title costs when you do your calculations. Use a loan calculator to see just what your payments will be at any given sticker price.

You will be ready to make a smart purchase when you know what you can afford and how the total price might break down each month.

Mistake 6: Rushing Through the Process

Purchasing a car should take time. If you rush yourself or let a dealership make you feel rushed, the chances you’ll make the best decision and get the best deal to decline quickly.

Mistake 7: Being Rude to a Salesperson

Salespeople are your friends during this process, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.

The salesperson can help you find the right model with the right trim package and add-ons. The salesperson can knock a thousand dollars off the sticker price or throw in the alloy wheels.

When you are rude to a salesperson or treat them like the enemy, you risk being treated that way in return.

Mistake 8: Ignoring the Resale Value

Some car brands hold their resale value better than others. Part of your research should be into just this data.

If you intend to trade up in the future, choosing a car that will retain an extra 10% of its value at the time of trade can net you thousands of dollars.

Mistake 9: Ignoring Hidden Costs

Add-ons like extended warranties or specialty insurance packages are added to the price of a car after you’ve decided to make the purchase. Be prepared for that in your budgeting if you plan to include them.

It would be best if you also considered things like maintenance fees and gas usage in the planning and budgeting phase of your shopper’s journey. If you don’t, you may end up with more car than you can afford.

Mistake 10: Paying For the Extras

The sticker on each new car lists the price of the car. But it also lists all of the features and extras included with each model.

If you know that you don’t need a sunroof, alloy wheels, or tinted windows, look for these things on that sticker. Tell your salesperson that you want a model without any of these little extras that add hundreds of dollars to the cost of the vehicle.

Finding the right combination of these extras can save you money, even if it takes a few extra days to get the car to your dealer’s lot.

Mistake 11: Buying the Wrong Car

Some people buy a car because it looks nice, gets great gas mileage, or can hold a small army. Before beginning the buying process, you need to ask yourself exactly what your needs are and will likely be in the future.

Do you drive a lot in the city? Do you love long road trips? Do you have or plan to have a big family? Do you live in a frigid climate with difficult road conditions?

Your unique life means you have unique needs for your vehicle. Spend the time to write out how you anticipate using your new vehicle to get a good idea of what style, size, and features may be the best fit for you.

The fact is, a convertible sports car just doesn’t fit everyone’s needs.

Mistake 12: Failing to Research the Car

Read reviews about the make and models you like. Take the car you are interested in for a meaningful test drive. Ask a mechanic how often they see your favorite model year and for what issues.

When you fail to research a car before buying it, you open yourself up to all manner of issues you could have seen coming.

Mistake 13: Ignoring Deals

Whether it is a model year-end sell-off or a special holiday offer, car dealerships run a lot of deals throughout the year. If you plan correctly, you can make sure you’re shopping at the right time to capitalize on these deals.

Sometimes emergencies come up, and you have no choice. But if you can help it, find out when your favorite dealership is planning their next big event and hold off until then. It could mean thousands of dollars in your pocket.

Mistake 14: Failing to Negotiate

It never hurts to ask. Ask with confidence if you want an added feature, a thousand dollars off the sticker price, or a trim package bump.

Dealerships benefit from sales. Sometimes, the sale itself is more important than their cut of the profit. If your request is within reason, there is an incentive to meet it.

You can even increase that incentive if you are willing to ask for the same thing at multiple dealerships.

Mistake 15: Considering a Lease

There are plenty of situations when leasing a car is a good idea. There are plenty more when it is not.

Whether you should buy or lease depends on your unique situation. Research the pros and cons of each before you head to the dealership. When you’ve found the right fit, make it a non-negotiable.

Don’t be swayed by the salesperson’s insistence that you can save on your monthly payments with a lease.

Mistake 16: Not Walking Away

When something doesn’t feel right or when you haven’t had time to research a loan, add-on, or aspect of the car you want to purchase, walk away.

This doesn’t mean you should abandon the deal altogether. But it does mean that you should be willing to leave the dealership without your new car, even when the salesperson pulls out all of the stops to keep you in the room.

Take a couple of days to do the extra research, to find a new lender, or to see how an unexpected price might affect your budget. Sometimes, you need a night or two to think about the deal.

This is a big purchase, and if something goes differently than you expect, be willing to walk away, at least for the time being. The right salesperson at the right dealership will understand and be gracious.

Mistake 17: Focusing on a Brand Name

Certain prestige brands can make you feel good about yourself. People often pay the extra money for luxury cars, not because they are the right fit or have better performance, but because those cars say something about their owners.

It may be better to focus on the technical aspects of a car, how well it holds up, and its fit for your needs when shopping. Sometimes, the “lesser” brands make more sense and save you money.

Mistake 18: Buying Under Pressure

When you allow yourself plenty of time to find and buy the right car, you’re more likely to make sound decisions based on research, budgeting, and rationality.

Salesmen may try to put car buyers under pressure, but when you do it to yourself by waiting until your car is no longer functional or trying to make a purchase at a given deadline, you’re hurting yourself.

Mistake 19: Not Planning for Insurance

Buying a new car can be fun and exciting, but many car shoppers forget this vital step. You may need special insurance packages to drive off with your car. You may need to budget for higher premiums with a car upgrade.

If you don’t take the time to plan for insurance changes, you might be surprised either on the day of the sale or the first time you get the new bill.

Mistake 20: Straying from the Plan

You’re almost there when you’ve gone through all the trouble to make a budget, research a car, find the right price, and choose the best loan for you. The last step is simply following through.

Too often, car buyers end up adding something shiny or veering from their budget once they get to the dealership. Do yourself a favor and shop with discipline. If you need to, bring a buddy to help keep you honest.

Mistake 21: Skipping the Test Drive

A car might look perfect on paper, but failing to take it for a test drive can lead to unexpected dissatisfaction. Always test drive to ensure the car feels right for you.

Mistake 22: Overlooking Pre-Purchase Inspections

For used cars, skipping a pre-purchase inspection by a qualified mechanic can lead to costly repairs down the line. Always get a thorough check-up before sealing the deal.

Mistake 23: Falling for the First Deal

Jumping on the first deal without shopping around can mean missing out on better offers. Take your time to compare deals from different dealerships and online platforms.

Mistake 24: Neglecting Financing Options

Rushing into dealership financing without exploring other loan options might result in higher interest rates. Check with banks, credit unions, and online lenders for competitive rates.

Mistake 25: Being Swayed by Upsells

Dealerships often push additional features, warranties, and insurance products. Stick to your budget and needs, and don’t be swayed by persuasive sales tactics.

Mistake 26: Not Considering Future Needs

Buying a car that suits your current situation but not your future needs can lead to early buyer’s remorse. Consider long-term factors like family expansion or lifestyle changes.

Mistake 27: Overlooking Fuel Efficiency

Disregarding a car’s fuel efficiency can result in higher running costs. Fuel-efficient vehicles can save you a significant amount over time, especially with fluctuating fuel prices.

Mistake 28: Not Checking the Vehicle History

For used cars, failing to review the vehicle history report can hide past accidents, service issues, or title problems. Always check the car’s history before buying.

Mistake 29: Buying Under Pressure

High-pressure sales environments can lead to hasty decisions. Don’t be afraid to walk away if you feel pressured or unsure.

Mistake 30: Ignoring Lease-End Costs

If you’re leasing, overlooking potential end-of-lease costs for mileage overages, wear and tear, and disposition fees can be a costly mistake.

Mistake 31: Not Reading the Fine Print

Skipping the details in your purchase or lease agreement can lead to unexpected obligations and costs. Always read and understand the fine print before signing.

Mistake 32: Impulse Buying

Falling in love with a car and buying on impulse without thorough consideration can lead to buyer’s remorse. Take your time to ensure it’s the right choice.

Mistake 33: Disregarding Resale Value

Some cars depreciate faster than others. Ignoring a vehicle’s potential resale value can affect your financial return when it’s time to sell or trade-in.

Mistake 34: Not Considering Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Vehicles

CPO vehicles can offer a balance between the reliability of a new car and the value of a used one, often with extended warranties. Overlooking this option can mean missing out on great deals.

Mistake 35: Forgetting About Personal Comfort and Ergonomics

A car might meet all your criteria but still not feel right. Pay attention to seat comfort, driving position, and ease of use of controls and features.

Car Shopping Done Right

By avoiding these common car shopping mistakes, you can make a more informed and confident decision. Remember, your car is not just a mode of transportation; it’s an investment in your daily comfort and safety. Take your time, do your homework, and don’t hesitate to reach out to us for any insurance-related queries or quotes to complement your new purchase.

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