Buying a new car is an incredibly exciting process, but it can also be seriously stressful. Walking onto that car lot can sometimes feel like stepping into a boxing ring, but without the judges to tell you if you've won or lost after it's all over. The salesperson is there to make as much money as possible off of you, while you're hoping for a good deal on a car you will love to drive for however long you keep it. There are so many factors that go into the process, from negotiating the actual price of the vehicle, to all of the bells and whistles they suggest, to the financing options and the money they offer you for your trade in. How do you possibly navigate all of that and come out on top? Try to relax, and enter the process as prepared as possible to make sure you avoid some of these most common car buying mistakes.
The real key to avoiding missteps is to do a ton of research before you ever go out to a physical dealership. Most people when shopping for a vehicle only focus on the most popular brands and the ones they know the best. According to current research, the majority of buyers actually only look into three different cars before making a decision. That's a real mistake. Regardless of the type of vehicle you are looking for, there are probably ten different makes and models that could be a reasonable fit. Make a list of all of the most important aspects of your new vehicle, and conduct a significant amount of research both online and through personal recommendations. Cast the widest possible net, and don't rule anything out until you have all the details.
When you do go out to take a look at the cars on the lot, keep in mind that you don't have to settle for the physical stock in front of you. Patience is going to be the key to getting the best deal, but most people forget that. In fact, only around 5% of Americans will order the exact car they want from the dealer. The rest will buy what is already there, whether it is the perfect fit or not. For a purchase of this scale that's just nutty. Once you know what you want, do not settle for anything less just because one dealer has stock. Be willing to leave and look at other dealerships, or wait for your choice to be shipped out from the factory.
Another common car buying mistake that's completely unnecessary is bringing home a vehicle that you don't actually enjoy driving. The only reason that would happen is if you don't give the car a real test drive. At the very least you should spend half an hour behind the wheel, running it through the paces of your average day. Get on the highway, drive locally and basically try to put it in the type of situations you regularly face on the roads. Take similar models for road tests as well, so you can feel out the differences in suspension, visibility and comfort. Do your due diligence, so you don't end up with a car that looked good in the lot but isn't right for you and your needs.
Once you've locked in your choice and you're ready to haggle on pricing, avoid getting caught in the trap of focusing on a monthly payment as the key number. Most salespeople will try and put you in that trap by asking how much you want to spend on a car each month. But that monthly price will give them the ability to convince you to take on pricey options that sound inexpensive as monthly payments, but add thousands of dollars to the actual price of the car. Make sure you start by negotiating the total price of the car, so you know what you're agreeing to, and then turn your attention to figuring out the right monthly price. It's the same as if you were shopping for discount insurance quotes online. You might see a low number at first, but then find out the total insurance doesn't provide what you need. Get the full picture locked, and then zero in on the details.