The pressure of buying a car can turn even the most composed individual into a pool of sweat. I can verify that, because I'm in the middle of the process right now, shopping for a car for my wife. Even though I'm a car reviewer and I spend my days writing about the auto business, I find myself a little bit overwhelmed by choice, and a tad intimidated by the process. My biggest fear is that I might make a common car-buying mistake, one that I'll have to live with for as long as we own the car. I don't want to wind up overpaying for a car, or even worse -- paying too much for the wrong car. So, I've come up with this list of 11 common car-buying mistakes to help guide myself, and other car buyers, toward a less stressful, more successful car-buying experience.
Three experts helped me come identify some common miscues: Brian Moody, Site Editor at AutoTrader.com; Jack Nerad, Executive Market Analyst for Kelley Blue Book's www.kbb.com; and Jesse Toprak, Vice President of Market Intelligence at TrueCar.com.
The biggest mistake a car buyer can make, especially in the age of the Internet, is to buy a car without doing research first. Some buyers are so eager to get through the car-buying process that they don't take the time to find out everything they can about vehicle reliability, pricing and financing. ConsumerReports.com, JDPower.com and other sites host reliability studies; Kelley Blue Book, NADA Guides, TrueCar.com, AutoTrader.com and other sites provide details about pricing for new and used vehicles; and any local bank or credit union can supply information about current financing opportunities.
Brian Moody of AutoTrader.com made an interesting point that struck very close to home for me. He believes that the most common car-buying mistake is that "many people base their buying decision on emotion rather than facts." I realized that I was rejecting many cars from consideration because of how I would feel behind the wheel, rather than because of how well the vehicle fit our needs or our budget. Pride of ownership is important, but it may lead to mistakes when it comes to buying a car.
All three of our experts agreed that I've avoided one key mistake by getting my financing pre-approved at a credit union before visiting any dealerships. KBB.com's Nerad is curt on the subject. "Failure to pre-shop for financing" is one of the top mistakes new car buyers make. There's nothing wrong with investigating the financing that a dealer can offer. "Dealers have a wholesale relationship with banks, and may be able to do better than a consumer can do on their own," according to TrueCar.com's Toprak. "But you still have to know what your credit worthiness can get you elsewhere before you accept what a dealer has to offer."
I've still got plenty of shopping, test-driving and researching to do before I'm ready to buy a car. I will certainly consult this list of 11 Common Car-Buying Mistakes before I finally accept a new set of keys.