Given our recent car buying exploits, I thought I’d point out an article outlining common car buying mistakes that I just ran across over on ConsumerReports.org. This information is abstracted from their new book, Smart Buyer’s Guide to Buying or Leasing a Car…
Without further ado, here are the top ten car buying mistakes, complete with a bit of additional commentary from yours truly.
1. Falling in love with a specific model. I must admit that we zeroed on the car that we wanted well before getting down to brass tacks, but we still managed to get a great deal.
2. Skipping the test drive. As far as I’m concerned, anyone stupid enough to buy a car without test driving it first deserves to be unhappy.
3. Negotiating down from sticker price. In my opinion, this is perhaps the biggest mistake that you can make. Instead, you should be working to get as close to the dealer’s cost as possible. Start at or below invoice. Better yet, ask them to bid for your business and then shop the bids around. The other day I outlined a strategy for getting a great price on your new car by soliciting bids.
4. Focusing only on the monthly payment when negotiating price. Fortunately for us this wasn’t a consideration, as we’ll be paying cash. However, at least one of the quotes that we received was broken out in terms of monthly payments over varying terms, and the actual price was pretty tough to find. Not coincidentally, this was the quote with the worst price (by far).
5. Buying the “deal” instead of the vehicle. With all the 0% financing, employee pricing, and manufacturer rebates that are being touted these days, it’s easy to lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t forget that you’re actually looking for a good, reliable car that fits your lifestyle. Just because you get a discount doesn’t make it the right car for you.
6. Waiting until you’re in the dealership to think about financing. Check interest rates at local banks, credit unions and online before you set foot in the dealership. If you don’t you’re at the mercy of the salesman and the dealer’s finance person, and you’ll likely end up getting a bum deal. Even if they match the terms of an offer you’ve gotten elsewhere, be sure to double check their math, as its not uncommon for the dealer to use a higher rate when their doing the calculations.
7. Underestimating the value of modern safety features. Make sure that the model you’re looking at includes all the safety features that you want — if not, find out how much it costs to get them. Similarly, be careful not to get pushed to a higher model in search of safety features that might already be available on the entry level model. One dealer in particular tried this when we were in the market for our minivan. I called them on it, and we ended up purchasing elsewhere.
8. Buying unnecessary extras. In general terms, you can safely bypass the rustproofing, fabric protection, paint protectant, and VIN etching. Similarly, think twice before you buy the extended warranty. On a related note, I’ve noticed that many dealers try to push a thrid-party warranty on you instead of the manufacturer’s extended warranty. Presumably this is more profitable for them. However, this is rarely a better deal for you.
9. Not researching the value of your current car. It’s surprisingly easy to get a great deal on your new car while losing out on your trade-in. I would recommend selling it yourself rather than trading it in. It’s not only easy, but you’ll make a LOT more money while you’re at it.
10. Not having a used car checked by an independent mechanic. To me, this is a lot like buying a car without test driving it first. If you don’t get your used car checked out, you’re just asking for trouble, and you’ll get no pity from me if you end up buying a lemon. I would also recommend getting a CarFax report. While CarFax isn’t foolproof, it’s well worth the few bucks that it costs to run a report.
[Source: Consumer Reports]