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BUYER’S GUIDE: Car-Buying Mistakes to Avoid

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There’s a lot to consider when you’re buying a new car. It’s an expensive purchase and it’s easy to lose sight of details that could end up costing you big. It’s also a purchase you’re going to have to live with for a number of years, so you want to avoid making mistakes and buying the wrong car.

Make sure you don’t fall prey to these common car-buying mistakes.

Chevrolet pickup trucks and SUVs are seen at a dealership in Silver Spring, Maryland

Not Researching Your Current Car’s Value

Don’t get so focused on how much you’re paying for your new car that you forget about the value of the old one. Your trade-in is a big part of the deal, so it makes sense to know how much it’s worth before you walk into the dealership.

Do the research ahead of time and be ready to stick to your price when it comes time to negotiate the trade-in value. They’re going to want to give you as little as possible for your car, so be ready to argue up its value if you feel like you’re not getting a fair trade.

It might turn out to be a better idea to sell your car yourself. You will likely get more money this way, but it’s less convenient. It requires time, patience, and possibly cash to fix any repairs that your buyer might want done to seal the deal.

Knowing how much your car is worth lets you walk into the dealership with a solid grasp of how much they should offer. If it’s too little, then consider walking away and selling it all on your own.

Buying Unnecessary Extras

Do you need rust-proofing and paint protection? Probably not, but they may try and convince you these are must-have extras. A good dealer will ask about any services before they appear on the bill of sale. If they appear without your consent, then don’t pay.

There are lots of extras that dealers want to sell you, but there’s no reason you have to buy a single one. Make sure you’re not paying for anything you didn’t agree to and don’t let yourself get pressured into buying extras you do not want or need.

Pay close attention to any optional packages that are included in the model they’re trying to sell. Dealers always want to move what’s sitting on their lot so they’ll steer you toward the models and trims they most want to sell.

These packages can add thousands of dollars to the final price of your car. That’s a lot of money for things you might not use. Take a good look at any packages listed and make sure they include features you want on your car. Also, take a look at any available packages.

Many features come in several different packages, so there might be a less expensive option that still bundles in those heated seats you desperately want for the winter. Don’t assume there’s only one package that will get you those seats.

Not Considering Modern Safety Features

If you think all that new-fangled safety tech is a waste of time, you’re making a mistake. Studies have shown that new safety features like autonomous emergency braking really do reduce accidents and injuries.

The challenge is the vast number of new safety features that are being built into today’s cars. Some are gradually being mandated by the government. Rearview cameras will be on every vehicle sold in the US by 2018, but right now they cost extra.

Consider these features carefully. A rearview camera is worth the cost, especially if you have young children who can easily walk behind a vehicle completely unseen. Forward collision warning is great for those who often find themselves in congested traffic. Adaptive cruise control is both a convenience and a safety benefit when traffic becomes unpredictable.

Research the latest safety features so you know what they do and ask questions about what is available on your new car before you decide what to buy. Whenever possible, get a demonstration of how things work.

You can’t pretend to hit a car to see how emergency braking works, but you can test out that rearview camera and see if you like the way it works. Same goes for adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning, and lane keeping assist. The more you understand these features, the more you’ll use them and the happier you’ll be you paid the extra costs.

Focusing on the Monthly Payment

How much you want your monthly payment to be is often the first question the salesperson asks, but don’t answer. This can lead to you paying more than you otherwise would for your new car. They’ll make the numbers work for that monthly payment, even if they could have gone lower.

Instead, focus on the overall cost of the car, the value of your trade-in, and your financing terms. It’s a multi-part package that gets you the best overall deal. Know how much your trade-in is worth before you walk through the door and know how much you want to spend on your new car.

Also, know where your personal credit stands and what kind of financing you’re hoping to receive. Better credit means better rates. If you have great credit but are somehow getting a higher than average interest rate, then you need to take a close look and make sure you’re getting the best terms possible.

Looking at the individual pieces of the deal rather than lumping them all together and focusing on the monthly payment will get you a better overall price and keep more of your cash in your pocket.

Skipping the Test Drive

You did all the research and you know which car you want, so you skip the test drive. This is a huge mistake. Cars that look good on paper aren’t always what you expect when you get behind the wheel.

Uncomfortable seating, confusing infotainment controls, and poor handling will rear their ugly heads during a test drive. Make sure you’re comfortable and that you can adjust the seat to a good driving position that offers a clear view of the road.

Check out the passenger seat and spend a little time riding in the back seat, especially if you have a family that’s going to use all that space. Make sure car seats fit for little ones and make sure rear seat adults have plenty of headroom and legroom.

Cars that offer three rows deserve special attention. Try reconfiguring the seats for cargo or passengers and make sure it’s a process you can easily perform. Some seats are heavy and theie mechanisms are awkward. Also, make sure access to the third row fits your needs. If adults will be back there, then make sure they don’t need to be acrobats to manage the feat.

Take your potential new car out for a spin or two and make sure it really is the car of your dreams.

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Nicole Wakelin

Nicole Wakelin