15 Car Buying Mistakes To Avoid & (50+ TIPs To Save You Real $$$)

While buying a car there are a number of things to be considered as it is not an inexpensive item. Though it is not possible to get everything perfect in a car still people make a number of mistakes while buying it. Most of these mistakes can be avoided if they take a few careful steps. Some of the car buying mistakes that can be avoided are briefly described here under for your consideration.

You will Learn & get:

  • How to research and search for the best car
  • Use a car affordability calculator before you shop for financing
  • How to shop around and get the best financing deal.
  • Never finance over 48 months if possible
  • Get a vehicle history report and maintenance history report
  • Have the car inspected by a mechanic
  • Car inspection checklist

Pro Tip: Buy a car that is 3 years old. That way you will minimize the depreciation value of your car. If you bought a brand new car it would immediately depreciate and you would lose out on thousands the minute you drove it off the lot!

1. Not researching enough:

Many people do not spend enough time researching to get the best car for them as per their requirements. In this situation, they buy a car that can either be bigger or smaller than required by their family. This mistake can be avoided just by spending some time on the internet to research in this regard and going through the reviews of their previous buyers.

Recommended research sites:

2. Buying out of the 1st dealership. Hint, it should be after you have been to 3!

This is another mistake done while buying a car. Instead of visiting several dealerships for finding the best car as per their requirements they usually adjust with the cars available in the lot. Later on, you WILL have regret your hasty decisions since you didn’t shop around.

Carmax – a lot of buyers have had great experiences with carmax. Chances are they are in your area or nearby city.

3. Shop at private party and dealerships, not just dealerships. They are not “more honest.”

When you want to buy a car within your budget then you must shop around at different dealers to buy it at the best price. You will have to spend more money to buy the car as well as its accessories if you do not shop around. This mistake can be avoided by visiting at least 3 different dealerships to find cars with similar configurations at the best price.

4. Not considering private party buyers:

Most of the first time car buyers do not consider private car buyers who want to sell their cars due to any reason as they want to buy a brand new car from the dealership only. They should consider private buyers selling their cars especially when their budget is limited and the car can fulfill their requirements.

Online Tools:

5. Test drive it…twice

Many people focus more on the year, make and model of the car even after shopping a lot and finding a few cars to choose from. They usually do not test drive them to know their pros and cons as two similar cars cannot be similar in performance, ride quality, noise in the cabin and other options. You can choose some other car if you find something that you do not like while test driving it.

Bring a mechanic or friend who is really good with cars along for the buying the car – if you are not a car guy or girl yourself.

Come back a second time to do another test drive. This will give you more negotiating power with the seller and give you a second time to find out if there is anything wrong with the car.

6. Horrible financing: Stay under 48 months.

As you can get various options in cars similarly you can get various options for financing it. If you focus only on the monthly installment of the loan then you may get a wrong loan. Most of the financiers lure new car buyers with terms like low installments and zero down payment etc. There can be several other hidden costs which can affect your monthly installment. So, you should shop for financing your car to avoid such a mistake.

7. Never use the dealership financing: They go up to 84 months and have hidden charges that raise your total amount financed.

Most of the first time buyers rely on the financing options offered by the dealership as they think since they don’t know any better and the dealers are really good at selling cars. for These deals are only good for the dealership and are designed to get you to pay for options you don’t need. So they should also consider non dealership financing options while financing their car.

Car financing tipsLesson learnedYou must…
Car affordability
Know what you
can afford before
you even leave the house
to shop for a vehicle
Do this to
know what your
price range is.
Don’t guess.
Credit scoreGet your free credit
score at
Know your
Poor credit: try fiana.com
they work with poor, fair
and good credit
Shop around.
Apply for at least 3
different types
of loans to get
the best deal.
Also try
Get pre approvedDon’t give up if you get
rejected 1-2 times.
Continue to shop.
Local credit unionJoin a credit union and
meet with a loan
You should get
a approved
even if you have poor-fair
Your interest rate may
be higher but they
should work with you.
Loan termDon’t get a loan for more
than 48 months. Your interest
rate will be higher and you
will pay much more over the course of
the loan.
Gap Insurance

8. Wrapping previous debt into new payment

If you already have a pending car loan then while financing the next car people usually club the previous loan with the new loan so that both the loans can be repaid gradually in a single installment every time. But they usually forget that it can increase the cost of their previous loan. They should avoid clubbing the new loan with the old one.

Why not?

Chances are that your loan time frame will need to be stretched to 5-7 years in order to make the numbers work. If you stretch your loan out you could be paying thousands of dollars extra over the course of the loan if you have a medium to high interest rate.

9. Not getting a vehicle history & maintenance history report

While shopping for a car it is necessary to have its history report from platforms like Carfax etc, especially when you are buying a used car. This report will include the number of its previous owners, evidence of maintenance and accidents, etc. By avoiding such reports you cannot know the actual condition of the car you are going to buy.

Carfax.com for your vehicle history report.

Alternatives to carfax:

Maintenance history: ask your seller for a history of the oil changes, vehicle service. Get the actual receipts to see if they followed the recommended intervals.

10. Incorrect appraisal of your own car

Many people appraise the car they want to sell or trade in incorrectly since they don’t take the time to accurately classify it. Such emotion-based decisions can be harmful to you in the long term.

  • Kelly blue book KBB.com
    • KBB will give you a great overview of your vehicle and a great range is that pretty accurate. This will give you a better idea of your true value which will help in selling or trading in your vehicle.
  • NADA.com

11. Not getting the car inspected by your mechanic

It is one of the biggest mistakes committed by people while buying a used car. Your mechanic you tell you a clear position about the performance and maintenance of the car. You can negotiate the price according to its condition.


Set up an appointment or take the car to a mechanic near the car. Many mechanics offer an inspection service for $100 or so. It will take about an hour. This is well worth it.

If your timing belt is bad and breaks it could ruin your engine – cost thousands of dollars to repair. A detailed prepurchase inspection could save you $2000-3000 on fixing the damage from a timing belt breaking. This is just 1 of many major problems an inspection could solve. Don’t skip this step.

12. Not knowing the new insurance cost

While buying a new car, people usually ignore the cost of its insurance. Insurance of a car, new or old, is mandatory. So instead of avoiding it, you should talk to the insurance agents to know about different car insurance plans so that you can get one with the best facilities and competitive rates.

You can save a lot of you know what expensive cars to stay away from and which cars have higher rates.

13. Not knowing the maintenance & part replacements

While buying a used car people usually do not know where they can get its replacement parts and where to get it maintained in the future. When you are buying a car then you must know such basic things as you may need them at any time.

Example: BMWs – they are great German cars…but their parts are very exprensive in the US to buy.

Use rockauto.com or similar site to get inexpensive parts online instead of the dealership.

You can often save 50-70% off of a dealership or “auto parts store”. Both of which rip you off with their huge markups.

Lesson learned. My 2009 MDXs xenon headlight bulbs needed to be replaced. The dealer wanted $250/ bulb. That’s insane! AutoZone wanted $150/ bulb. Still a rip-off. I found a better quality bulb on rockauto for $75/ bulb. Shop online and save big.

Top Ten repairs according to IMR Automotive Research

  • Oil & filter change. Just the other day I was quoted $125 for a mobile 1 oil change at my local oil change shop. Nope! I did it myself with my new oil extractor.
  • Wiper blades replacement
  • Replace air filter
  • Scheduled maintenance
  • New tires
  • Battery replacement
  • Brake work
  • Antifreeze added
  • Engine tune-up
  • Wheels aligned/balanced

14. Not knowing if it has recalls on it. This mistake could kill you.

Sometimes certain models are recalled by their manufacturers due to some manufacturing defect in them. If there are any recalls on the car you are going to buy then you must know it as you may not be able to claim any damages from the company.

Airbag recalls are a huge problem! Make sure it is not an issue with your car.

“Roughly 41.6 million vehicles equipped with 56 million defective Takata air bags are under recall because these air bags can explode when deployed, causing serious injury or even death.” 

-National Highway Transportation Safety Administration

15. Buy from pushy salesman

Some of the salesmen pressurize the car buyers, especially first-timers, to buy a car of a certain model or make. You should use your wisdom or consult your family and friends using cars for long to make this decision. It is not wise to rely on a salesperson who is not known to you or who is not reliable and reputable.

Don’t jump into a new car loan without being sure that it is the car for you. Also, don’t buy a specific model of car just because you are in love with it – while it has other mechanical issues or the loan is too much for you to afford.

You can always walk away from buying a car and shop another day. Most people get in trouble when they rush to get in the car when they are not 100% ready.

Thus, while buying a car, used or new, you should avoid the car buying mistakes discussed in this write-up to buy the best car for you within your budget.

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D. Hahn

DIY guru, dad, husband, blogger. When I'm not creating life hacks I'm teaching my kids how to fix stuff after their dad breaks it.

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