AutoTrader shines light on costly car-shopping mistakes

Believe it or not, this may be the most difficult time of year for car shoppers to make a buying decision, with end-of-the-year deals on 2013 model vehicles and showrooms full of brand-spanking-new 2014 models to consider.

“Between researching, test-driving and shopping for the best deal, buying a new car is difficult. It’s also expensive: A car is among the priciest items most shoppers will ever purchase,” says AutoTrader.

That’s why AutoTrader wants to help make sure consumers avoid costly car-shopping mistakes. (RoadLoans is preferred direct lender of AutoTrader.)

“Buying a car is something people usually only do at most every few years, so naturally the right way to go about it isn’t always top of mind,” said Brian Moody, AutoTrader site editor. “But a misstep during the shopping process could turn a great deal into a money pit in the long run.”

AutoTrader editors have identified seven of the most common mistakes people make when shopping for a car – and offered tips on how to avoid them:

  1. Negotiating price based on monthly payment“This is one of the most common and expensive mistakes people make,” Moody says in a recent press release. “It may seem more affordable to stretch out your payments over a longer term to give you that lower monthly payment, but in the end you’re paying much more. Negotiate total price first.” Check out our budget calculator to be confident in how much you can spend.
  2. Not getting a mechanical inspection“Just because a car sounds and runs fine during the test drive, doesn’t necessarily mean everything is in top working order,” Moody says.
  3. Buying things you don’t needThis relates to a key tenet in car shopping: make a list of wants and needs before setting foot in a dealership. Factory – and dealer – installed options add up quickly.
  4. Not running a vehicle history reportWhile not a replacement for an inspection, history reports are a quick, usually fairly low-cost way to get a sense of if a car is what a seller says it is.
  5. Not taking a thorough test driveAutoTrader experts say test drives should be at least 45 minutes on a variety of roads and driving conditions. Also shoppers should make sure to bring family members and bigger personal items (strollers, golf clubs, etc.) to make sure the car fits their lifestyle.
  6. Falling in love with the car before you buy it“It’s important to stay focused on the fact that this is a major purchase,” Moody says. “Play it cool until the deal is done.”
  7. Not shopping aroundTest driving as many of the competitive vehicles as possible, then narrow the selection and visit several different dealerships. “This will give you peace of mind that you’ve found the right car for you at the best possible price,” Moody said.

But AutoTrader isn’t the only source for advice on car-buying mistakes, and it probably is worthwhile for car shoppers to Google “car shopping mistakes” for more information. There you’ll find advice from sources such as,,, and more.

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