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Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Car

How to ensure you buy a great car

Searching for “car lots near me”? It’s one of the most enjoyable things you can do when you buy a new vehicle. Whether you’re checking buy here pay here dealerships for the best bargains, scouring the private market to try to find that diamond in the rough, or buying used cars from auctions or even new, it’s an exciting time with a lot to consider.

Because cars are one of the most expensive single-ticket items that most people buy in their lives, it pays to make sure you do it right. When you make the wrong choice in the supermarket, it might only cost you a few dollars and cents. The wrong car purchase decisions can cost you thousands.

So, we’ve put together this list of five mistakes that car buyers often make so you can avoid them.

1–Being dazzled by low monthly payments

It’s common for car dealerships to advertise low monthly payment details, as it’s a compelling sales tactic. New and used cars alike are marketed for how little you can get them. “Just $99 down!”, “From $89 per month!”, and similar marketing ploys are enticing to buyers as it makes the purchase of a vehicle sound super cheap.

But it's easy for a lender to lower your monthly payment. It simply requires extending the term of the loan or the lease over a longer time. What this actually means is you’ll be paying more interest in the long run, as the interest compounds.

When weighing up the price of several vehicles, always calculate how much they will each cost you over the entire time you own the car. This includes the down payment and the total of all monthly payments you’ll make, including interest. Compare how much you’ll spend on taxes, fuel, maintenance, and insurance, too, as no two cars are the same in these regards.


2–Skimping on the test drive

While reputable buy here pay here dealerships will have performed their own tests on a vehicle, it still makes sense to perform your own extensive test drive. If you’re buying on the private market, this goes double. You are much more likely to be sold a vehicle with existing mechanical problems if you buy privately.

If the owner or dealership representative insists on coming with you, that’s fine, just let them know you plan to perform an extensive test. Don’t let them intimidate you into performing a short test or follow only their route.

You need to put the car through its paces. Driving in town helps you discern visibility, and driving on the highway lets you test the noise and vibration and top speeds. If you’re not happy with anything (even just how the vehicle feels to you), it’s best not to buy it. There are lots of great vehicles for sale out there, so there’s no need for you to settle for something you don’t like.


3–Failing to research prices and vehicles

Researching current market prices arms you with important knowledge. You’ll know whether the car being sold is a bargain, overpriced, or alarmingly cheap. You’ll know what’s a fair price to haggle to and when the seller huffs and puffs you can point them to other cars for sale that are in the same range.

Besides prices, research the types of vehicles that will work for you. Though a huge SUV might look great at first, you have to consider other factors like how easy it will be to park and how much the gas will cost.


4–Narrowing down to a specific model too early

It’s good to know all the options you have and the specific models you might want to buy. But a seller may pick up that you are particularly interested in a model, they may become less flexible on price.

Going into a dealership with a strong vision of what you want is good. But it’s possible to come out with a better deal if you’re open to all the offers that are on the table.


5–Watch out for pointless extras

Sometimes, when people agree to purchase a car, they let their guard down. They’re relieved the transaction is over and they can get onto enjoying their new vehicle. But this is when dealerships can attempt to offer extras you don’t need. Rustproofing, windshield coatings, etc. are all well and good, but now is not the time to buy them. Politely decline and wait a few days. Even if you do want these extras, shopping around will almost certainly get you a better deal.