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Are you looking into buying a used car in the future? Is this your first time? Are you worried you’re going to make a mistake and pay more than you should? Are you concerned that an opportunistic dealer will trick you into buying a low-quality vehicle? These are important questions to ask when buying a used car. Buying a used car is difficult when you don’t know what you’re doing. Thankfully, your concerns are about to end. Relax and read more about some of the biggest classic car buying mistakes, and, in the process, learn the steps to buying a used car.

Letting Emotion Guide Your Decisions

When buying a used car, looks are not the only thing to consider, but they do matter. After all, if this is your first ride, you want a car that looks cool and fits your personality.  You don’t have to create an entire used car buying checklist, but knowing what you like and what you can live with before you hit the lot can help.

Relying On A Car’s Good Looks Rather Than Your Needs

While there is nothing wrong with wanting a good-looking car, make sure you know your needs. Ask yourself why you need the vehicle. If you’re only trying to commute to work or school, do you don’t likely need all the bells and whistles of a flashy newer model. If you know work and home are far away, make sure to get car that has good gas mileage.

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Stay focused on what you will use your vehicle for, so you’re not stuck paying for features you won’t be using.

Stretching Your Budget

Monthly payments make car purchases easier, but it’s still important to choose a car that’s in your budget. If you find the car of your dreams and it’s out of your price range, talk to the salesman about what you like about that car. Often, there’s a cheaper version that has the same options. Consider the following questions when buying a used car:

  • Can I afford the down payment?
  • What is my credit score like?
  • How much would a monthly payment be?
  • How long would monthly payments last?

Ignoring Your Gut Feeling

While you shouldn’t let your emotions control everything, it’s okay to trust your gut when shopping around for a car. Give yourself some time if you feel uncomfortable with the process.

Even if you feel like your salesperson is trustworthy, but he or she is pressuring you into making a deal, then stop. Never make an important decision under pressure. Take some time to think about the offer or search for other options.

Not Negotiating Offsite

If you worry about pressure from car salesmen, you aren’t alone. In fact, 59% of American car buyers dislike car dealerships, or specifically, having to haggle with sales people. You can avoid this by skipping as many in-person meetings as possible.

If you are negotiating a used car’s price with a specific dealership, research their phone or online alternatives. This is an increasingly common way to find a car, with 60% of car buyers doing most of their car shopping online. Have your price comparison information ready before you start negotiating.

Making initial negotiations off site gives you a few advantages, such as:

  • Less pressure and stress
  • Less temptation to purchase a car on impulse
  • Easier to walk away from a deal
  • Avoiding unscrupulous onsite tactics, such as straw purchases

Relying Solely On One Dealership

Looking for a used car can get exhausting. It is easy to get overwhelmed with the vehicle choices, requirements, financial options, and other factors. The temptation of just sticking with one or two local dealerships to streamline the process may present itself.

While that sounds convenient, you can miss great financing options and overall better deals by not shopping around. If you limit yourself to a single dealership’s financing terms, you will stay vulnerable to rates and expenses higher than you should pay.

Failing To Get Loan Pre-Approval

Before you consider purchasing a car, it’s a good idea to see how much of a loan you can get before you hit the lot. Not only will it give you an idea about budget, it means the sales people will take you more seriously.

While you don’t have to do this step, it can make car purchases easier.

Now, does financing a car help your credit? It can subtract some points from your credit score through the inquiry. Make your payments in full and on time to mitigate this loss, since the benefits of pre-approval far outweigh a temporary setback.

Forgetting To Check Other Options

When you are buying a used car, expand your horizons beyond just the local dealerships. Search for dealerships around nearby towns or within the county and explore the different financing options. Strike a balance between getting out of your comfort zone and traveling across the state.

You can also consider purchasing a vehicle from a private seller. While you avoid some of the dealership hassles, you need to ask the same questions you would with a dealership salesperson. There are also additional measures you need to take when arranging a private sale, such as:

  • Asking for phone number, address, and ID
  • Meeting with the seller a few times
  • Arranging final sale meeting at a neutral location

Neglecting The Car’s Functions

During the used car purchasing process, you can get so involved on the financial aspects of the process that it is possible to neglect the actual functions of the car. It is important to verify that the vehicle is running smoothly and can fulfill your needs.

The Importance Of The Test Drive

The test drive is the most direct method of checking for a used vehicle’s mechanical functions. It is also the best way to check if it’s just “right” for you. Shockingly, at least 20% of used car buyers neglect to test drive used vehicles, but will test-drive an average of seven new cars.

This tendency might have to do with how the car dealership experience affects the test-driving process. In a different study, around 81% of buyers were generally satisfied with their test drive. Spending time with dealership paperwork and negotiations reduced that satisfaction to 56%.

Remember that test-driving allows you to consider how the vehicle fits your life. You can directly feel how the car handles your neighborhood, your driving style, and the daily tasks in your life. You can prevent yourself from a bad case of buyer’s remorse by test-driving before purchase.

During test-driving, you can also check for several mechanical issues, such as:

  • Acceleration issues
  • Braking issues
  • Swaying and involuntary movement
  • Alignment issues
  • Other signs, like vibrations, smoking, and noises

Consult A Mechanic

In addition to performing a test drive, you must also consider having a mechanic check the used car for additional problems. Specifically, look for a qualified mechanic who does automotive diagnostic work to inspect the car. Buyers forget this step more than the test drive.

Ignore any pleas from the dealership that they have inspected the car on your behalf. It is always important to have an independent party check for any potential or existing issues before making the final purchase.

Most of the time, you will have to take on the expense yourself, but it pays off in avoiding a damaged vehicle. Some dealerships also offer to pay for the inspection, so make sure to ask. Private sellers usually don’t offer, so prepare to shoulder that cost in that case. Prices range between $100-500.

Neglecting To Do The Homework

When choosing and purchasing a used vehicle, you must take the time and investigate every aspect of the sale, from the history of the vehicle to the value, and other aspects such as the insurance. Having a wealth of information ensures you get the best vehicle at a reasonable price.

Learn The Vehicle’s True Value

If you want to get a used car at the cheapest price possible, you will need to determine the true value. Dealers will try to bait you by offering you something lower than the sticker price. However, if you do your research, you can negotiate for something even lower.

In order to negotiate a better price, you need to estimate the car’s true value. You must try researching resources such as Kelly Blue Book, Edmunds, and NADA Guides. These resources provide you with the average price of a used car in your area, as well as factors such as make and model.

By researching and using a more accurate range of the car’s value, you can subtract tacked-on costs like dealer holdbacks and rebates. You will negotiate a lower deal than the salesperson’s proposed deal below the sticker price.

Vehicle History Report

Don’t forget to ask for a vehicle history report when speaking with the dealer. A vehicle’s history report will inform you about previous issues with the car, the former owners, any prior accidents, and more.

While history reports are a third-party service, most dealers pay for it on your behalf. If you are dealing with a private seller, this isn’t a guarantee. Once again, prepare to pay for the service yourself.

Talk To Your Insurance Agent

Another consequence of letting the dealership handle everything is forgetting to consult your insurance agent. Usually, your agent thinks of several factors about car insurance that you might neglect, such as needing gap insurance, asking for a vehicle history report, or rising costs of comprehensive insurance.

Also, remember that if you get a car loan for your used car, you will probably contend with higher coverage limits and lower deductibles to protect the lender.

It never hurts to ask more people for help, so consult with your insurance agent before deciding on the right insurance plan for your car.

Worrying About Monthly Payments Only

When negotiating a used car price, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to base your decisions around how you will make monthly payments. While that is a legitimate concern to have when considering your financial options, you might overlook other payment factors.

Additional Fees

If a car deal sale tactics make you wary, ask about hidden fees.  Some dealers get too much power from promising cheap monthly payments and add new vehicle prices, trade-in values, and other fees. Also, consider factors like compound interest.

Instead, you must insist on negotiating one step at a time. In fact, focus the vehicle’s total price first before discussing factors like leases, trade-in, or financing. That is what a significant amount of car buyers are doing anyway, with a study showing 47% believing that total price is more important.

Taking The Next Steps

Now that you have some knowledge about most of the mistakes you can make when buying a car, it is time to put it into practice. Information and knowledge are important when making important decisions like buying a used vehicle.

Make a used-car-buying checklist that features not just some of the errors that novice buyers commit, but also the solutions for those mistakes. After all, focusing on the power you have over the situation leads to positive thinking, which aids confidence when buying a vehicle.


Author Bio:

Chris Weatherall works as a content writer for Red Mountain Funding in Mesa, AZ. When he isn’t writing blog posts, Chris is probably spending time with his adorable kids or watching very cool anime. A true car and motorcycle enthusiast, Chris currently drives a 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat and a 2017 Yamaha R1.


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