Rookie Mistakes Consumers Make While Shopping for Used or Pre-Owned Cars

Here at Car Talk, we know first hand how overwhelming and frustrating it can be to shop for a vehicle here in the US. Not only have we suffered through the process many times ourselves, but we have zillions of readers and listeners alike who tell us all about their own hilarious and unique experiences. Shopping for a used or pre-owned car can be a confusing, baffling process, as there are so many options out there to choose from. But there is hope and clarity, if you have patience and do enough research.

Below are a few of the common mistakes that consumers make while shopping around in the used or pre-owned car industry. Read through these and keep them in mind before you head out searching for that perfect, gently used vehicle to grace your driveway. And make sure to write in to our Car Talk Community or our Facebook page, if you have any interesting experiences to share with us.

Rookie Mistakes

  1. Rushing into any purchase without doing the research. This is a common problem for all verticals in the automotive space. Cars, tires, warranties, accessories, shipping…

    Before arriving at the dealership, consumers should be religiously surfing the Internet for reviews, safety ratings, recalls, prices, mileage, features and locations of the cars they are interested in. This means coming to the dealership or seller with screenshots and saved pages on your phone of the cars you like, and the price quotes. Having a good idea of what you want, and learning the options of what is out there is a very good step towards finding the pre-owned car that is right for you.

  2. Making a purchase solely based on looks. This is an issue with relationships, as well as purchasing a used or pre-owned car. Something sparkly on the outside, but rusted out underneath will look pretty sweet stuck on the side of the highway, but will cost you more in the end. The look of a car is only as important as how it looks under the hood. This leads us to #3.

  3. Not getting the car checked out by a third party or trusted mechanic before purchasing it. This one is huge. Like, bigger than huge, actually. Unless the consumer is truly a mechanic themselves, they need an expert to check out this potential enormous purchase. A mechanic will know what to look for, and be able to give the consumer a very good picture of the actual health and worth of the car. We have a huge listing of good options to choose from in our Mechanics Files. Don’t be shy. Go ahead and give it a look.

  4. Not giving the insurance company a call, to see how much the rates will change, now that you have a newer, sparkly car. This ends up being an added cost which hits a lot of people square in the face unexpectedly. You finally have that red, late model pre-owned Mustang you have always wanted, and your insurance has now spiked 30-40% higher than your original rates in order to cover it. Your bank account is super angry with you, and so is your significant other. Yikes.

  5. Not checking the age and wear of the tires. If your pre-owned car is shiny, but the tires are completely bald and about to expire, then your pre-owned car is going to cost more than the sticker price. Try to negotiate a new set of tires with the sale of the car, if possible.

  6. Not getting a detailed vehicle history. This should be covered under #1, Research. But we mention it here because it is super important. If the sparkly car you are about to buy has been in three accidents, or had 5 owners in the last 2 years, there is a reason for that. A vehicle history will shine some light on the non-sparkly past of your potential pre-owned car.

  7. Not taking a day or two to think it over before making a big purchase like this. A big expenditure like buying a car should come with a long detailed thought process to decide if this is actually the right vehicle for you. A pre-owned car can be a very big investment, in your safety and your financial wellbeing.

    Regardless of what the salesperson may tell you, there is no rush. Ridesharing apps have taken the urgency out of car buying. Yes, you want a car of your own, right now. But the right car is worth the research, the detail and the effort. It could mean the difference between a jazzy shiny car that costs a lot and lasts you 5 months and the solid, awesome work-horse vehicle that runs smoothly for 180K miles and is reasonably priced.

    So don't let any pushy sales tactics lead you into a big purchase for a vehicle that might not be a good investment in the long run. Take your time.

  8. Many make the mistake of thinking in terms of just their monthly payment, and whether or not they can afford that cost. This is a huge mistake, to not consider the actual cost, from start to finish, of their purchase. This means everything from the MSRP, the gas, the maintenance, and the final amount paid after a long auto loan.

    The actual costs of buying a car, new or used, should always be considered before any purchase is made. This includes insurance, your auto loan, the cost of the car and taxes and registration fees. Our friends at Driva compiled this complete guide of how much to spend on a car, to aid consumers in the research process.

    Make certain to do as much research as you can, not only on what type of car works for your lifestyle, but also what you can truly afford.

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