10 Common Car-Buying Mistakes
Many shoppers blunder through the car-purchasing process and regret it later. Here are 10 common missteps and how to avoid them.
Walking onto a car lot can feel like a train wreck in slow motion: At every turn you get a little more derailed, until finally you're off the tracks entirely and the dealership has what it wants: your entire bank account.
Part of the problem is the sheer number of variables involved in negotiating the sale: the price, the options, the financing, the monthly payment, maybe a trade-in. You should methodically research and consider every conceivable scenario before setting foot on a dealer's lot. Otherwise, dealers will do everything they can to tilt the transaction in their favor.
"They're looking at making money off you in stages," says Jeff Bartlett, deputy online editor for autos at Consumer Reports, "so it's important for customers to keep the stages separate and not lose track of what's going on."
To help you do that, we talked with several experts about the most common mistakes that car buyers make and what you can do to avoid them.
The goal is not to pull one over on dealers — they're hard-working folks trying to earn a living, too. It's about arming yourself with as much information as possible to make the best decision on what is for many people the second-largest purchase of their lives.
Buying Unnecessary Add-Ons
Some dealers might try to sell features they add on themselves, such as rust-proofing, VIN etching or fabric protector. Avoid them; they're unnecessary, Bartlett says. If the vehicle you want already has them, negotiate their cost down as much as possible. Research features you do want online and print out the information before heading to the dealer. Bartlett recommends pricing several different variations in case the dealer doesn't have the exact model you want. This can help avoid being up-sold to pricier models or to ones with features you don't need or want.
Not Enough Cross-Shopping
Many car shoppers focus on a few popular brands or models, to their detriment. "On average, people only shop about three vehicles," says Steve Witten, executive director of U.S. automotive research at J.D. Power and Associates. "If someone's shopping a midsize car, there are probably at least 10 different vehicles that would meet their exact specifications and needs," he says. In terms of safety, reliability and features, there are very few lemons for sale anymore. So don't get stuck on one brand and put blinders on about others because of old perceptions. Cast a wide net when comparing models online. Otherwise, you might miss a good value or overlook your ideal car.
Settling for What Is on the Lot
American car buyers are impatient. Only 5 percent special-order a vehicle through a dealer and wait for it to be delivered, according to J.D. Power. The other 95 percent either find exactly what they want on the lot, or settle for something that's not quite what they wanted. There's no reason to do that when making such a large purchase. If you're set on a specific model or feature that you don't see in stock, dealers can search nationwide inventories and have vehicles shipped from several states away, Witten says. They can also custom-order exactly what you want from the factory.
Skipping the Test Drive
Consumer Reports' Bartlett hears family and friends complain about uncomfortable seats, poor visibility or a stiff suspension in vehicles they have just bought. It's because they did not perform a thorough test drive — if they did one at all. He recommends spending 30 minutes driving the car, entering and exiting the highway, taking it on roads like those you drive every day. Be sure to take competing models for a spin, too. "It will reaffirm that you made the best decision ever, or you might find that you like one of the other ones better," Bartlett says.
Focusing on the Monthly Payment
One of the first questions salespeople ask is, "So, how much were you looking to spend per month?" It's to your benefit not to focus on that number, because doing so can make the final price of the car a moving target. Adding "only $50 a month" to get leather and more power might sound tempting, but it will add thousands to the bottom line. Part of this goes back to knowing what you truly need or want. The other part involves negotiating the total price of the vehicle, not the monthly payment. Breaking up the buying process can help: Part one is choosing the car; part two is settling on a price; part three is financing. Be clear with the salesperson what you want to focus on for each step so you don't get sidetracked.
Must-See on MSN
I wonder if anyone of these so called experts have ever tried to sell cars. Probably not many, the funiest thing I hear is "I used to be in the business", well you probably were not very good at it or you would still be doing it. Most professional sales people in the auto business have a passion for their work and enjoy dealing with and helping people. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it MSN.
P.S dont ask me for any adverstisig dollars, Its clear to me you don't want dealers to succeed, which is what a true advertising "partner" wants.
I ahve been a Sales Manager and General Sales Manager for over 20 years. Most of the information in these articles will only make the process harder. Most new cars sell for around 300 to 500 over true cost. The profit is made in the service department. Ever negotiate a brake job? Didn't think so. Most new car purchases are as transparent as can be due to the advent of the internet and competitive pricing. People do not realize that when the dealer recieves the vehicle from the factory it is sold as far as the manufacturer is concerned. The worst thing you can do is be rude to your salesperson, the salesperson only gets paid if they make a sale so they are working the managers harder than the customers in most cases. As far as the statement that dealers can have a vehicle shipped in from several states away that is true but it costs the dealer to transport the vehicle. They did not mention that in the article I noticed. It can cost as much as 800.00 to transport a vehicle. I buy used cars from auctions 200 miles away and it costs me an average of 300.00 per unit to ship them and that is if I can fill up a transport truck. If it is one unit it can cost me upto 800.00 to truck it in or a plane ticket, gas and drivers fee to have it driven. That also doesnt mention that when trading another dealer for a vehicle they might not want make a trade because they do not want a vehicle with 300 or more miles in their inventory because customers expect a bigger discount. There is a reason taht most dealers do not allow sales people to drive demonstartor units anymore, the manufacturers dont subsidize those programs like they did in the past and customers do not want to purchase a new vehicle with 5000 mile on it or they expect a significant discount to offset the miles. Let your dealer make a little money or when you do need a warranty repair they might not there anymore. Anybody notice the number of empty dealership locations they pass by every day? Next time look and pay attention and maybe you wont have a problem lettig a dealer make a 1000.00 dolar profit on a 60.000.00 dollar vehicle.
As somebody that works at one of the Largest Nissan Dealers in the U.S. articles like this while I like the fact for a change MSN said we work hard and need to make a living. However when you read and follow these games that websites like MSN Auto's, KBB.com, Cars.com, Edmunds, and other sites tell you, as a consumer you can't blame the dealer for why you spend all day haggleing at a dealership. If you want to fight everystep of the way then listen to these idiots. However if you want to cut your time at the dealership down, and not regret your choice do the following...
1. Be respectful
2. Be realistic with your trade, the price of the new car, your monthly budget, and down payment
3. Be up front if your trading tell us, if your paying cash tell us, etc...
4. Remember the people that regret or feel like they got a bad deal are the ones who nit pick over price, price, price, the ones that love their cars are the ones that saw value and yes paid full price. Sorry MSN but it's true.
I am a current salesman... 20 years old and have been doing this for a year... Every one of my customers pays AT THE MOST $250 over invoice... I don't play games, I sell 30 cars per month because I don't **** people and try and sneak around like the salemen of yester-year... I will only TELL people about our 'add-on' warranties... Like a LIFETIME rustproofing warranty, which more than half of my customers buy... I don't include them in my price, only if asked to... When you as a consumer come in to buy a car, don't try and jerk the saleman around... One of the biggest things I can not stand is when 'Mr. Yahoo Autos' comes in and tries to do what these articles tell them to... The NUMBER ONE biggest mistake to make as a consumer, which should be added to this list, is to be a jerk to your salesman... He's the link between you and the 'Big guys'... If you are good to him, he'll treat you like you should be treated... When you pull the crap like this guy is telling you, he may not be a willing to work with you... And apart from the 'Cash buyer' it typically DOES come down to monthly payment... No matter how much you can knock-off of the price, if you're trying to be at $300/ month on a $32,000 car, it'd be nice to know AHEAD of time, you're only budgeting for $300... And to be even MORE honest, It doesn't matter if you pay cash, finance or lease... The salesperson makes, on average, between 0-8 dollars from finance anyways... As long as you take something home one way or another, I don't care....
Thanks for reading!