Five Biggest Mistakes When Buying a Car

Used Car Buying Mistakes

Buying a car is not like buying a toaster at Walmart. It’s much more complicated with lots of opportunities to make mistakes, not to mention that a large amount of money at stake.

Five Mistakes Made Buying a Used Car

1. Not Doing Enough Research

To many people, buying a car is nothing more than an emotional decision based on color, styling, image, or initial impressions — much like buying a pair of shoes.

However, this can be a mistake when buying a car. Doing proper pre-purchase research is essential. Use Consumer Reports magazine/website to review reliability, safety, and performance ratings.  Get a vehicle history report from Carfax on the car you are interested in. Visit online car forums to get owner opinions and experiences.  Talk to service shop personnel for opinions.

2. Not Test-Driving the Car

A good long test drive is essential to discovering critical problems and issues with a car — and avoiding a big mistake. This should be more than simply driving around the block. It should involve low speed and stop-and-go on city streets, and higher speed on highways.

This is also the chance to check to see that all equipment works — A/C, heater, sound system, lights, and to check for tire wear, body damage, and low fluid levels. Look underneath for signs of leaks.

3. Not Having the Car Inspected by a Mechanic

Never take the word of a used car seller or dealer that his car “runs great” or “has no problems.”  He could be less than honest, or he might simply not be aware of hidden problems.

A professional mechanic’s detailed inspection and problem report can cost $75-$150 but is the only way you can know the real condition of a car you are considering to buy. It could prevent you from making a huge mistake.

4. Paying Too Much

Used car sellers and dealers always set an “asking” price that is higher than the price they are willing to sell for. If you don’t negotiate a lower price, you will probably pay more than the car is worth.  Generally, a 10% discount is reasonable.

However, even with a discount, you could still be making a mistake by paying too much. Use vehicle value guides such as those from Kelley Blue Book and NADA Guides to get a ball-park estimate of the value of the car you want to buy.

5. Ignoring the Car’s Title

Many buyers make the mistake of not examining a seller’s car title before buying.  If it’s an individual seller, the name on the title should be the same as the seller’s name. The VIN on the title should match the VIN of the car. There should be no indication of a lien or salvage/rebuilt status.

If buying from a used car dealer, he might not have the title if he recently bought the car at auction. He’ll send you the title later, and the name on it will be the previous owner, not the dealer’s name — which is not a problem.

Summary

Don’t make common mistakes when buying a car. Investing a little time and effort in the process will reward you with a successful purchase.