10 Biggest Car-Buying Mistakes
1. Not utilizing your best credit score out of your 3 scores. Each dealer chooses what credit bureau they look at, so you will have different scores and reports you go to depending on the dealer. CALL the dealer before you go, and ask which credit bureau they look at AND make sure that is your highest score or go to another dealership that uses that particular bureau and score.
2. Saying too much. Three things to never say on the lot: “I need this car now”; “I love this car”; and “This is how much I can afford to pay per month”. Talk about the absolute price of a car, not the monthly payment.
3. Not knowing your trade in value. Going into a dealership open to any ideas the salesperson has is a bad idea — it makes you vulnerable to impulsively buying something you don’t need, can’t afford or ultimately won’t want. Determining the market value of your car will help you know where to begin negotiations on the starting price of the vehicle. Use Kelley Blue Book.
4. Overspending. Before you hit the showroom floor, take a hard look at the kind of driving you do. Don’t assume you need a brand-new car, and consider keeping a driving journal for a week, or even a month, to chart exactly when, where and how far you drive each day. Then buy a vehicle according to those needs — not aspirations.
5. Leasing a car because you can’t afford the down payment. Lease payments, especially for luxury cars, don’t require a down payment and are often cheaper per month than what it costs to buy the car outright. But they don’t always pay off. You’ve got to determine if having a new car every two or three years and with no down payment — but no ownership and no stake in the residual value — is more important than long-term cost savings and ownership of a vehicle you will eventually pay off.
6. Assuming long term financing. Choose the shortest-term car loan you can; long-term loans coax people into buying cars they can’t really afford by stretching out the payments over such a long period.
7. Buying at the beginning of the month. Dealers don’t offer their best deals or incentives until the end of the month, so if you can, wait it out.
8. Buying at the beginning of the year. Dealers have less incentive to give you a great deal at the start of the year, when their inventory is brand-new and they have 12 months to hit annual sales targets. But in December, they’ll have to clear out old stock in time for the new model-year cars to hit the showroom. That’s when you should buy.
9. Discussing the trade-in. Be honest at the beginning that you may want to trade in your old vehicle — but keep the new-car purchase discussion and the trade-in value discussion separate. If the purchase and the trade become one big transaction, it’s easier for the dealer to fudge on how much you actually pay for the new car.
10. Assuming a hybrid is “better”. Hybrids use less fuel than gasoline-powered cars of the same model, but they don’t always offer huge gains.
11. Visiting only one dealer. Don’t hesitate to walk off the lot if a dealer can’t meet your terms or expectations. The more you know about the options one dealer is offering, the stronger your negotiating position with another.