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6 Car Buying Mistakes And How to Avoid Them

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Hundreds of cars with the new ’71 plate registration will be rolling off dealership forecourts this month. But Alex Kindred, car insurance expert at Confused.com, is warning drivers not to get carried away with the thought of driving away in a brand new ’71 plate motor and to ensure that drivers do their homework before signing on the dotted line.  

Buying a new or secondhand car should be a well-researched and calculated purchase. But, the process can be (and often is) fraught with mistakes if you don’t do your research before handing over the cash.

So, before you head onto the forecourt, Alex Kindred, car insurance expert at Confused.com, explains how you can avoid the excitement of your new wheels turning into buyer’s remorse. 

Mistake 1: Forgetting Your Budget

Budgeting for your car is probably the most important step of the lot. But with the prospect of a brand new shiny motor and the pressure of a salesperson, the budget can often go out of the window. 

The Budget – Think about exactly how much you can afford to spend on a car. Take into account all your expenses, such as your mortgage or rent, bills, and any other recurring costs.

Be Sensible Always allow more leftover than you think you’ll need. While you might be on top of your budget and you find it easy to stay within your means, there’s always a chance that you’ll face unexpected expenses.

Consider the Running Costs – How much will you be able to afford on top of insurance, fuel bills and servicing?

Could You Buy a Used Car? Although purchasing a shimmering car fresh from the production line can be tempting, you’re likely to save much money by going for a used car. The most significant depreciation in the value of a vehicle comes in the first year, so even buying a one-year-old model will save you a bundle. Plus, the car will still have some manufacturer warranty left.

Have an Old Car? Trade it in! – You can get a free car valuation, and you’ll immediately see roughly how much you can get for your old car. You can also use the tool to see if the seller is trying to rip you off when buying a used car.

Mistake 2: Failing To Choose a Car That Matches Your Lifestyle

With the money bits out of the way, you’ll want to think about what car best suits you at a price you can afford. Of course, as you were running through what you could afford, you no doubt had some ideas about the key features you’re looking for.

Find the Best Car for Your Lifestyle – With so many makes, models, trim levels, and types of vehicles, it’s hard to find the best one. We’ve explored what the best and worst of the lot are – it’s a good starting point before reading our in-depth reviews.

Read in-Depth Car Reviews – do your homework and do lots of research around the car you’re looking to purchase. Consider interior comfort and performance to running costs as well as common faults.

Crash-Test Ratings Check to see if your car has been through the European New Car Assessment Programme. If you’ve got a family, or if safety’s your thing, check out how your vehicle of choice did in a variety of different crash tests. 

Test-DrivingRemember, taking a test drive with a dealership doesn’t mean you’re tied into buying through them. Even if you’re planning to buy online, it’s well worth taking the car for a spin first.

This also applies to buying from a private seller. Don’t be afraid to ask to take it for a test drive (but make sure you have the right car insurance to drive another car before jumping behind the wheel), and equally, don’t worry about saying no and walking away.  

Mistake 3: Getting Pushed Into Buying the Car Before You’re Ready

Here’s where it begins to heat up. Visiting a dealership can be a pretty dizzying experience, mainly if it’s your first time buying a car. However, if you follow a few straightforward steps, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t come out feeling very pleased with your day’s work.

Stay Calm Remember that you don’t have to buy the car today. Ask any questions you have and listen to the advice. But don’t be talked into anything you don’t want or don’t feel comfortable with. If you’re worried, it might be a good idea to take a more clued-up friend or family member with you.

Keep In Mind What You Came in For – If you’ve done your research, you’ll likely have a good idea of what you’re looking for. Whatever a salesperson says, make sure you remember exactly what you’re aiming to use the car for and how much you’re prepared to pay.

Use Your Research – Showing that you know what you’re talking about can be a powerful tool when talking to the seller and could save you much money.

Extras and Add-Ons – The chances are you’ll be offered a glamorous array of extra features when you do choose your car. Don’t let yourself be swayed – think about your budget.

Haggle – Not everyone is comfortable negotiating a price, but sometimes it’s worth the extra effort. Be forceful, but don’t be aggressive, as this may backfire. Remember what you want, and remember you can leave at any time if you’re not getting it.

Mistake 4: Buying a Car Online Without Seeing It First

Some dealerships may deliver cars in your local area, and others may provide nationwide. Although it’s very convenient and saves you the hassle of driving hundreds of miles, it means you’ll be buying a car without seeing it. And this can be risky.

However, if you’re buying a new car, you’ll be the first owner – so there’s hardly any risk of things going wrong.

If You’re Getting Your Car Delivered, Ask These Questions Before Buying:
  1. Can I return the vehicle if it has already been shipped?
  2. Are there any costs involved in transportation?
  3. How long will it take for the car to arrive?

It’s worth ticking these boxes in case the cost of returning the car is far greater than if you’re buying from your local dealership.

Mistake 5: Being Afraid To Walk Away

You may feel as though you have to close the deal the day you enter the dealership. But the reality is that shoppers who keep their options open and visit multiple dealerships and get multiple offers are in a far, far better position when it comes to negotiating the price down. 

You’ll automatically feel more comfortable walking away if the deal isn’t right for you by shopping around. Equally, you can use your research from other dealerships to show your salesperson to strengthen your negotiation position. 

Ultimately, when researching and shopping around, try not to settle on just one option. Identify two or three cars that suit your needs and budget and be open to all of these options. 

Mistake 6: Forgetting That the “Price” Isn’t the Final Price

The first price you see isn’t the final price. It’s what is known as the MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price), and it’s something salespeople have to follow. 

Treat this price as a benchmark price for you to negotiate down to within the boundaries of your budget. The salesperson will be expecting you to haggle, so don’t be afraid to push for a price decrease and do as much as possible to get the price right for you. 

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