In 2018, over 17.27 million vehicles (passenger cars, SUVs and light trucks) were sold in the United States.
Although this is a slight drop from 2017, cars are still one of the top-selling big-ticket items in the country, and for good reason. A personal car is safer, convenient and saves you time on your daily commute. And, admit it, driving is an enjoyable experience.
However, the car buying process is not always straightforward. If you don’t know what to look for in an ideal car and how to find the best deals, you could end up making a terrible purchase.
To help you find your perfect car, we’re sharing common mistakes to avoid.
1. Failing to Zero in On Your Specific Car Needs
For most would be first-time owners, the prospect of buying a car is exciting. Perhaps you’ve been saving money for a couple of years or you just struck some sizeable windfall and you can’t wait to get behind the wheel.
Amid all the excitement, it’s easy to forgo a crucial step: identifying your specific car needs.
Before stepping into the market, you must have a good handle on how the car you want to buy will suit your lifestyle. If you have a family of 7, for instance, you should be looking at a minivan instead of a sedan.
Other factors to consider include:
- Type of primary driving surface: Off-road? Highway?
- The safety features you need i.e. lane departure warning, automatic emergency breaking etc.
- Cargo capacity
- Available garage parking space
- Will you be towing?
Once that’s done, use the internet to gather information about the various car makes and models that suit your needs. Draw up a list of about 5 cars and indicate their price ranges.
2. Shopping Without a Fixed Price Range
Yet, some car buyers make the mistake of entering the car market without a fixed price range. If you do this, you risk buying a car you cannot quite afford or paying more than you should.
Here is an example that illustrates how easy it’s to make a financial mistake when you’re not working with a budget.
Let’s say you walk into Team Lincoln, a Lincoln dealership near Henderson, NV. A $40,000 SUV captures your eye and it ticks all the boxes. After a bit of negotiating, you settle on $38,000. However, because you’re not buying in cash, you agree to a 5-year plan with $750 monthly installments.
You can pay the installments comfortably, so you take the deal. In total, you’ll pay $45K, a lot more than the car’s cash price!
However, had you gone in with a set budget of $38K, there’s a good chance you would’ve snapped up the car with an even better deal.
3. Not Considering Other Costs of Car Ownership
It’s one thing to buy a car, and it’s another to keep it running and well-maintained.
As such, don’t just look at the purchase price when shopping for a car. Factor in the amount of money it will require you to fuel the car, service it and take care of any car emergencies that might arise.
Another important cost is auto insurance. In addition to the minimum car insurance coverage requirements in your states, there are other add-ons that can drive up your premiums. For example, you might want to add roadside assistance and personal injury protection to your policy.
Keep in mind, your driving record will also impact your insurance premiums. If you’re a first-time/inexperienced driver or you have an accident or a speeding violation on your record, expect higher car insurance rates.
4. Buying On Your First Dealership Visit
Buying a car is pretty much like buying a house. You want to view several properties in your desired location before making a decision, right? Even if the first property you find looks a lot like your dream home, you still have the urge to look around – maybe there’s an even better house down the road.
Similarly, never buy a car on your first dealership visit.
Look, we’re not saying it’s impossible to find your perfect car on an initial visit. You can, but visiting multiple dealerships enhances your chances of landing a better deal. And even if you don’t, you can always go back to the initial dealership.
If you’re not sure how many dealerships are in your area, this locator will come in handy.
5. Shopping Alone
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lone wolf. Don’t make the mistake of visiting a dealership alone. Find yourself a friend who knows a thing or two about dealing with car dealers, and here is why.
When you walk into a dealership, the salesperson knows very well their shop is one of the many you’re visiting. This is why they will use every trick in their drawer to hook you into making a purchase.
If you’re alone, and especially if you’ve never dealt with car dealers before, you could easily make a snap decision and buy a car that wasn’t even on your list. But when you’ve got company, it’s easy to spot their tricks and keep your feet on the ground.
6. Skimping on a Test Drive
55 percent of prospective car buyers only test drive one car – the same car they end up purchasing. Don’t be like this people.
There’s a reason that test driving is standard practice in the auto industry. As a prospective buyer, you need to assess the roadworthiness, drivability and general operating state of the car you want to buy.
Don’t just take the car around the block. Take it your primary driving surface and feel how it handles. If you’re looking to buy a car for off-road use, for instance, take it off-road.
Also, be sure to test drive all the cars on your list. This is the best way to pick out the best car from the lot.
Cruise Through a Mistake-Free Car Buying Process
Buying a car is a beautiful and exciting experience. If you’re not careful, however, you can make costly mistakes that’ll put a damper on your experience.
To ensure your car buying process goes smoothly, know what you need in a car, establish a budget that takes ownership costs into account, shop widely and, importantly, don’t skip or skimp on a test drive.
All the best and stay tuned to our blog for more automotive and money-saving insights.