Consumer Reports has compiled a list of common car shopping mistakes from their Smart Buyer’s Guide to Buying or Leasing a Car, which, of course, you can find in bookstores.
Here’s a quick summary of the list:
- Falling in love with a model.
- Skipping the test drive.
A lot of vehicles look good on paper–especially in glossy brochure photos–but the test drive is your best chance to see how a vehicle measures up to expectations and how well it “fits” you and your family.
- Negotiating down from the sticker price.
“A salesperson may offer you a deal that’s, say, $500 below the sticker price, and many consumers will conclude, often mistakenly, that they’re getting a good deal. Unless the vehicle is in big demand and short supply, you can often get an even lower price by negotiating up from what the dealer paid for the vehicle.“
- Focusing only on the monthly payment when negotiating.
“Salespeople like to focus on a monthly-payment figure while negotiating a deal. Indeed, “How much were you thinking of paying each month?” might be one of the first questions to greet you when you meet a salesperson. Don’t take the bait. It’s the first step down a slippery slope of being manipulated with numbers and overpaying for your vehicle.”
- Buying the “deal” instead of the vehicle.
“…it’s important to remember that any deal is only as good as the car that’s attached to it. Just because you can get a good discount doesn’t mean you should buy the vehicle.”
- Waiting until you’re in the dealership to think about financing.
“…it’s critical to comparison shop for financing terms at different financial institutions and get prequalified for an auto loan before you go to the dealership to buy the vehicle. Check interest rates at banks, credit unions, or online financial sites to see which offers you the best rate.”
- Underestimating the value of modern safety features.
“Today’s vehicles offer an array of advanced safety features. But many buyers don’t know which are most important or what to look for when comparing vehicles. Antilock brake systems (ABS), electronic stability control (ESC), and head-protecting side air bags, for instance, are effective and well worth the money.”
- Buying unnecessary extras.
“Dealerships often try to sell you extras that boost their profit margin but are a waste of you money. They can include rustproofing, fabric protection, paint protectant, or VIN etching, in which the vehicle identification number is etched onto the windows to deter thieves. Don’t accept those unnecessary services and fees. If you see those items on the bill of sale and you haven’t agreed to them, simply cross them out and refuse to pay for them. “
- Not researching the value of your current car.
“Find out what both the used-car retail and wholesale prices are, so that you’ll know what you should be able to get if you trade it in or if you sell it yourself. Typically, you’ll get more money by selling it, as long as you’re willing to put in the additional effort.”
- Not having a used car checked by an independent mechanic.
“Before you buy a used vehicle, have it scrutinized by a repair shop that routinely does diagnostic work. A thorough diagnosis should cost around $100, but confirm the price in advance. ”
Becoming infatuated with a single model can blind you to alternative vehicles that may be better for your needs or make you skimp on thoroughly researching a vehicle’s ratings, reviews, reliability, or safety and pricing information.