Walking onto a car lot can feel like a train wreck in slow motion: At every turn you get a little more derailed, until finally you’re off the tracks entirely and the dealership has what it wants: your entire bank account.
Part of the problem is the sheer number of variables involved in negotiating the sale: the price, the options, the financing, the monthly payment, maybe a trade-in. You should methodically research and consider every conceivable scenario before setting foot on a dealer’s lot. Otherwise, dealers will do everything they can to tilt the transaction in their favor.
“They’re looking at making money off you in stages,” says Jeff Bartlett, deputy online editor for autos at Consumer Reports, “so it’s important for customers to keep the stages separate and not lose track of what’s going on.”
To help you do that, we talked with several experts about the most common mistakes that car buyers make and what you can do to avoid them.
The goal is not to pull one over on dealers — they’re hard-working folks trying to earn a living, too. It’s about arming yourself with as much information as possible to make the best decision on what is for many people the second-largest purchase of their lives.