Tips for a Positive Purchase
Since buying a car is a significant milestone for most drivers, and probably the second-most important purchase decision of a person’s life besides buying a home, the experience should be as efficient, effective and positive as possible, right? Unfortunately, due to the complexities of an auto acquisition, the experience can often leave consumers baffled, bewildered and downright downtrodden. What should be a satisfactory outcome becomes a source of frustration and regret. Click through for a dozen tips for avoiding some common car-buying mistakes and any associated remorse.
Don’t Buy on the First Dealer Visit
Resist the urge to commit to buying a vehicle during the first visit to a dealership. Salespeople want you to purchase at first visit since you are often buying based on emotion rather than solid research and reason, so they will exert subtle influences to keep you at the dealership for a long time in hopes of turning the tide into a final sale. Even if you think you’re ready to buy during that first visit, walk away and check your research. Unless the vehicle is an extremely hard-to-find model, it will still be there when you return.
Take Two Test Drives
Insist that you take test drives with — and then without — a sales associate. The former helps answer any questions that may come up about the car, the latter allows you the freedom to do you own private, independent evaluation about whether the vehicle meets your needs. You can also stop and pore over the car in detail, talk in private if you brought a co-pilot, as well as visit a mechanic or friend if you are buying a used car and you inform the dealership ahead of time. The private, extended test drive also gives you time to discuss affordability with other purchase influencers who may be present.
Make Sure the New Car Fits in Your Garage
Sure, it sounds like a no-brainer, but there are plenty of stories about consumers who drove home new vehicles only to discover that their new rides did not fit in their garages. And once the paperwork has been completed and a new vehicle gets driven off the lot, dealers are not very amenable to taking back a car they just sold, or even figuring out a way to get the chagrined consumer into a smaller vehicle.
Make Sure Your Family Fits
Although this one sounds like even more of a no-brainer than the previous tip, take heed. When purchasing a new vehicle, make sure ALL family members are in the vehicle at some point before signing final paperwork. If not during the test drive, then at least have any potential passengers sit in the seats they will likely occupy and make sure they are comfortable, their knees are not hitting their chins, and there are enough USB ports and cupholders within easy reach to keep the fracas to a dull roar on long road trips.
BYOT (Bring Your Own Tunes)
If you or your vehicle occupants have particular musical tastes, or particularly strong opinions about sound quality, then bring CDs or audio files to the dealership and listen to your music through the vehicle’s sound system. Often a differentiator between trim levels or part of a package upgrade, audio equipment can become a make or break issue for a vehicle purchase, sometimes requiring a step up or down in trim level, depending on the sound quality and price point.
Check Insurance Rates Before Purchase
Don’t make the mistake of purchasing a car, bringing it home, and then calling your insurance company to add the new vehicle to your policy, only to discover that the monthly premiums are too expensive. Nothing can deflate the fun balloon of a new vehicle purchase faster than discovering that incredibly high insurance premiums instantly put a pin in your monthly budget. Insurance rates can differ significantly based on vehicle size and type, engine size and type, vehicle age, safety ratings and likelihood of theft.
Read Online Reviews
Take time to read detailed online reviews — from both experts and everyday owners — about the car you are thinking of purchasing. If you see patterns regarding problems with specific model years, engines, trims or excessive recalls, the information might be worthy of consideration before purchase. Expert reviews might also highlight features or equipment packages you previously did not know about. Third-party apps such as RepairPal also have owner reviews that can pinpoint areas of concern.
Many people get caught up in the moment while car shopping and spend more money than originally planned, so be sure to do thorough research and stick to what you want. That said, be forewarned: Finding a car that best meets your needs will invariably involve some compromises, and perhaps moving up a trim level or two to get the options you want. All part of the process, but always keep your eyes on the bottom line so you don’t end up purchasing more vehicle than you need — or can afford.
Get All Questions Answered
Contrary to public perception about car salespeople and dealerships in general, they really want to help you be as informed as possible about your purchase. Bring a list of any questions to the dealership and ask them all before agreeing to the sale. Most salespeople are in the business not only to make money, but also to sell a product they believe in and can promote for future business since they know that an informed consumer is often a repeat customer. Don’t leave the lot with questions about your purchase unanswered.
Rent Before You Buy
If the car you’re considering happens to be in rental fleets, try it before you buy it. Rent it for a full week, and think of the time as another extended test drive. Fill it with your family. See if the car functions as you would expect on your daily commute, running errands, and even getting in and out of parking spaces. Check the gas mileage, acceleration from stoplights, how it passes at freeway speeds, and by all means make sure the dog’s crate fits.
Don’t Settle for a Color You Don’t Like
Just because you found a car that meets your research criteria, don’t settle on a color you don’t really like. You will be looking at your vehicle for a long time to come, so avoid the longterm disappointment of constantly wishing you’d waited for the red one, rather than settling for blue.
Make Sure You REALLY LIKE the Car
Although you might think this one falls in the It Goes Without Saying category, it really does need to be said. After all the research, test drives, compromises on options, and finally settling on the closest vehicle possible to the car of your dreams, make sure you really like the car you end up with. There is a reason you see one- and two-year-old cars on dealership lots — people simply bought the wrong cars for their needs, and they had to unload them (at significant loss) to get the vehicles they really wanted.