The first time I sat in my friend Maan’s newly-purchased sedan, I held back all the comments I desperately wanted to spew out. How the seats in the back were uncomfortable. How the air conditioner seemed to be trippy. I was about to ask her if she found the console’s position weird, when she blurted out: “I hate this car.”
I asked her why she purchased it in the first place. She replied flatly: “My best friend kept raving about it, and I needed a new car for shuttling the kids, so I bought it.”
This exchange took place five years ago. Her best friend has since then sold her sedan, while Maan is stuck with hers since she can’t afford to buy a new one, even if she sold the aforementioned car.
We’d like to spare you the same situation. Read on for some of the most common mistakes people make when purchasing a new set of wheels.
1. Not doing enough research. The internet isn’t only for updating your status message: use it to read up on car reviews. While friends can be a reliable source, they’re not always gospel (take Maan’s so-called best friend’s short love affair with her sedan), so scope out online forums to see what other people think.
There’s also less pressure from a salesperson breathing down your neck when you look at car specs and features online. Find out the car’s resale value as well: many agree that Honda cars and Japanese-made ones have higher resale value than Ford and General Motors (basically, anything American-made). Use the ‘net to see which kind of financing works out for you as well—and remember, spending more money on a car doesn’t make it more durable!
2. Buying a car you don’t really need. Sure, you’ll look powerful and in control if people saw you step out of an SUV—but do you really need one? Take a good look at your lifestyle and financial standing before buying a car. Your mode of transportation should address your everyday needs, and not your pipe dream. Nothing sucks more than finding out a few months into your car payments that you’ve purchased an impractical one.
It’s a no brainer that if you have a family, getting a two-seater is obviously out of the question; and getting a gas-guzzling SUV when you’re single and don’t have enough money for gas is just plain irresponsible.
3. Buying a car now. Patience is a virtue, and when it comes to car-shopping, can keep you from purchasing a lemon. Around 95% of car buyers in the US tend to settle for whatever’s in stock at their dealership, not wanting to do any more legwork to look for the best deal or find the car make and model they really want.
You’re buying something that will stay with you for many years—unless you absolutely need to have a car by tomorrow, never settle for less. I had to wait to purchase my car because the dealership told me they were shipping in new models in three weeks. It was a long, agonizing wait, but one well worth it.
4. Not taking her for a ride. Do you buy clothes without trying them on? Didn’t think so. If only Maan took her sedan for a spin, she would have noticed how uncomfortable the seat was! Aim to spend about 30 minutes driving your potential car, and try to take it over roads you frequent. Comfort is key here: so get a feel of the wheel, and how smooth she drives.
5. Being clueless about financing. Shop around for different banks’ interest rates and pick one that’s in your favor. Find out what you credit score is and check with banks what kind of rates you can get on a car loan.