Four Car Buying Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make

1327383_64930133You’ve done your homework and found a reliable used car.

In fact, you’ve even done the legwork to compare the vehicle’s market value against other similar cars, and you have shopped around for the lowest financing rates.

This means the hard part is over, right?

Getting a great deal on that used car should be as simple as signing your name at this point.

No problem, right?

Not so fast – Unfortunately, there are still a few mistakes you can make which may result in driving up the price tag.

Below is a list of four used car buying mistakes that could quickly turn your excitement into buyer’s remorse.

Used Car Buying Mistake #1: Letting the dealer payoff the remainder you owe on your trade-in.

Some dealers offer to pay off the remainder you owe on your trade-in. Unfortunately, this offer is not as great as it sounds. What happens is the remaining amount of what you owe is rolled into the new car loan. For example, a $25,000 sedan you bought could carry a loan balance of $28,000 to cover the $3,000 you still owe on your trade-in.

Used Car Buying Mistake #2: Financing a 6-year or 7-year loan.

Low interest rates are not the only part of the loan to consider. You also need to take a long hard look at the length of the loan. A 72-month or even 84-month loan will wind up costing you significantly more than a 60 or 36-month loan.

Used Car Buying Mistake #3: Not taking an extended test drive.

Remember: you’re spending thousands of dollars and that means you have leverage when it comes to things like test drives. You should always take the car for an extended test drive, even if it has been thoroughly inspected and has a high reliability rating. Short 30 minute test drives are simply not enough time to get an understanding of how the car drives under real-world driving conditions. By taking a test drive  that last a couple of hours, or even keeping the car overnight, you will be able to better tell if you will enjoy driving the vehicle.

Used Car Buying Mistake #4: Not considering the cost of insurance.

While the sticker price may be low, the car insurance may be more than you expect. Sports cars and vehicles that are common targets among thieves will often come with a higher insurance rate. To avoid this, be sure to call your insurance company before making any decisions.

Winter Driving Guide: Maintain Traction This Winter

For many of us, features like traction control, all-wheel drive and winter tires are given little if any consideration during the car buying process. While somewhere in the back our subconscious, we may recognize their importance, we are often more concerned about the vehicle’s flashier, more overt features – like fuel economy, performance, and interior comfort.

However, if you have ever lost traction on a snowy or icy road, you are probably aware of just how important those other features are.  Even in moderate climates, where temperatures seldom dip below freezing, road conditions can deteriorate quickly during the winter. And without one, two or all three of the following features, you may find yourself careening out of control:

Stability and Traction Control for Snowy and Icy Roads

While traction and stability control are not as effective as All-Wheel Drive (AWD) or Four-Wheel Drive (4WD), these features can help minimize wheel slippage and keep your car pointed in the right direction.

  • Traction Control: Traction control monitors the speeds of driven wheels, strategically applying the brakes of a slipping wheel, which in turn works to help the opposite wheel gain traction. Take note that traction controls main purpose is to help the vehicle maintain a little more grip in slippery conditions; it will not help in the event of a skid.
  • Stability Control: Stability control is designed to help the driver maintain control in the event of a slide or skid. In addition to including the benefits of traction control, this system will also apply brakes or control engine power to help keep the car moving straight when a slide is detected.

All-Wheel and Four-Wheel Drive

The vast majority of cars come equipped with two-wheel drive – meaning that the engine of the car applies power to only either the front or the rear tires. While this will offer enough stability during normal driving conditions, if traction becomes an issue and the powered wheels lose their grip, you might just find yourself losing control.

This is when the existence of all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive becomes important. And while some marketers may use these terms interchangeably, there is a distinct difference between the two.

  • Four-Wheel Drive: Four-wheel drive, which provides power to all four wheels, uses low range gearing for off road-conditions.
  • All-Wheel Drive (AWD): AWD also provides power to all four wheels, but lacks the low-gear option – meaning that while AWD cars are perfect for wet, icy and snowy road conditions, they are not suitable for off-road journeys

Winter Tires

The final piece of the winter driving puzzle is tied to snow tires.  Unfortunately, the common misconception is that these tires are strictly relegated to areas that experience heavy snowfall. In reality, however, nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, snow tires are designed to maintain their pliability when the weather turns colder. Unlike all-weather tires, which can harden and lose their grip during colder temperatures, this pliability allows snow tires to continue to keep their grip, even as road conditions deteriorate.

Four Recomended Used Sedans

Buying a used sedan should not mean you are settling for less than the best. In fact, the used car market is full of any number of reliable mid-size sedans – each offering an array of high-tech and luxury comfort features.

To help with your search for a premier car at an affordable price, has gone ahead a done a little research for you. Browse below to search through our listing of some of the best used sedans on the market:

2007– 2012 Nissan Altima

With an average used car price tag that ranges between $10,000 and $20,000, this fourth generation Nissan Altima is a virtual steal for any car buyer searching for a sedan that offers the compelling mix of finesse, power and driving comfort. With its 175-horsepower engine and sports tuned suspension, these used sedans are able to offer a rewarding ride, while still affording enough room and interior comfort for multiple passengers.

Test scores for the 2010 model year include:

  • Consumer Reports Overall Test Score: 91/100
  • NHTSA Average Crash Rating: 4.4/5
  • JD Power and Associates Predicted Reliability Score: 3/5

2008 – 2009 Chevy Malibu

cc_2009CHE011a_320_50UIf a reliable, roomy and fun to drive car with an affordable price tag is what you are after, then this generation of Chevrolet Malibu is almost certain to deliver. With its responsive design and roomy interior, this third generation Malibu offers high-end appeal at budget car pricing. Add in the mid-size sedan’s high safety rankings, and it becomes the perfect choice for the family minded car buyer.

Test scores for the 2009 model year include:

  • Consumer Reports Overall Test Score: 74/100
  • NHTSA Average Crash Rating: 4.8/5
  • JD Power and Associates Predicted Reliability Score: 3/5

2009 – 2012 Hyundai Genesis

What a used Hyundai Genesis offers is luxury car comfort at affordable car pricing. Many of these later model sedans can be found for under $20,000 – included with this low price is a number of standard comfort features, including dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated front seats, seven-speaker sound system, satellite radio and iPod compatibility. Add in the Hyundai Genesis’s strong record of continued reliability, and it easy to see why this sedan continues to rank among one of the most popular used cars on the market.

Test scores for the 2010 model year include:

  • Consumer Reports Overall Test Score: 87/100
  • NHTSA Average Crash Rating: 5/5
  • JD Power and Associates Predicted Reliability Score: 4/5

2010 – 2012 Ford Fusion

This second generation Ford Fusion offers that compelling mix of budget car pricing and high-end appeal. While this mid-size sedan was built for the everyman, it has a number of standard comfort features, including alloy wheels, full power accessories, auxiliary audio jack, blind-spot mirrors, and the Ford Sync System. Better yet, the Fusion has received continuous high praise in terms of reliability, making it a great choice on the used car market.

Test scores for the 2010 model year include:

  • Consumer Reports Overall Test Score: 76/100
  • NHTSA Average Crash Rating: 4.6/5
  • JD Power and Associates Predicted Reliability Score: 5/5

What To Look For In A Used Car Inspection

Photo by Rich Nacmias, Flickr.

Photo by Rich Nacmias, Flickr.

When buying a used car, most car buyers struggle with the details that the dealer will tend to focus their attention on, rather than looking at what’s important. They’re distracted by elements such as color, sports packaging, power windows, and heated seats and before they know it, they end up with a car that does’t fit their lifestyle, is overpriced and has a few too many miles.

Don’t let this happen to you. By knowing what to do during the initial used car inspection, you can save yourself a few potential headaches (and hopefully a little money).

Stay In Research Mode

While you have spent a good amount of time researching your next used car you’ll want to stay in that research mode while talking with the dealer in-person. Let the car sales representative know that you are just looking. You are not intending to buy. Instead, you are only there to review and potentially test the drive the car.

Used car dealers will at times deter from spending time you if they don’t feel you a serious buyer. So be sure to let them know that you are serious, but want to cover all your options before purchasing. In addition car sales representatives will often try to entice you to buy that same day – a tactic that can cloud the inspection process. Just be firm and know what you need to look over while you are there.

Inspect The Car’s Interior First

You spend most of your time in the interior of your car, so make this your priority. Questions to consider when inspecting the interior include:

  • Is the interior quiet? Is it comfortable?
  • Are the controls easy to operate and within reach?
  • Do the radio, heater, A/C, horn and windshield wipers operate as expected?
  • Are any of the dashboard warning lights illuminated?
  • Are the seats and upholstery worn, cracked or stained?
  • Does it smell and look clean?

Exterior Styling Doesn’t Really Matter

The exterior styling of the used car is designed to grab attention and evoke emotion. But even if a flashy design is a priority, don’t let this be your deciding factor. Instead, make sure to conduct a full 360-degree inspection of the exterior – keeping the following questions in mind:

  • Are the seams between body panels and doors even and well-spaced?
  • Is the paint an even color, and does it offer a smooth and glossy shine?
  • Are there minor (or major) dents, scratches or rust spots?
  • Do all exterior lights operate?
  • Are the tires worn or underinflated?
  • Is the windshield free of cracks?

Remember, this initial inspection is just the beginning. Even if the used car flies through your inspection, don’t break out the pen and start your paperwork right there and then. There still may be a major flaw you have overlooked. In addition, ask for a vehicle history report, and if the car has been checked by a certified mechanic.

How Much Car Can You Afford?

Photo by Andrew Magill, Flickr.

Photo by Andrew Magill, Flickr.

So you finally decided to buy your dream car. Maybe it’s that shiny red sports car – you know the one that looks like it is going 500 mph even when it’s standing still. Or maybe it’s that heavy-duty off-road behemoth of a pickup truck, capable of hauling a gazillion tons.

Whatever the case, everyone has a dream car. The trick is determining whether you can really afford it.

How Much Should You Pay Every Month For Your Car?

Too many car buyers overestimate how much they can afford each month. In reality, your car payment should not exceed 10% of your monthly take home pay – and ideally it really should not be more than 5%. Take note: this ideal number includes all your car payments – regardless of whether you are paying for one car or three.

At, we offer a car affordability calculator.  Simply enter in how much you would like to pay each month, along with a couple of other minor details (like interest rate and the amount of money you are putting down), and we can help approximate a price that matches your budget.

How Much Is Your New Car Really Costing You?

A monthly car payment is just the beginning. Buying or leasing a new or used car is also accompanied by a host of additional expenses, including:

  • Insurance. If you are taking out a loan on a new or used car, you will probably incur a higher car insurance rate.  Before you sign the final paperwork, call your car insurance company to determine the insurance rates for that specific vehicle.
  • Gas. Are you trading in a compact car for a larger family sedan? What you are paying at the pump might end up costing you more than you suspect. Visit FuelEconomy.Gov  to compare the fuel efficiency between vehicles.
  • Maintenance. For used cars, simple maintenance items, like new tires, tire rotations, oil changes and wiper blades, may require your attention sooner than you suspect. Even if you are buying new, your vehicle’s scheduled maintenance requirements will be a noteworthy monthly expense.

Remember: being approved for a new or used car loan  is not the same as being able to afford a new car. Before you agree to any monthly payments, take the time to ensure that this new expense won’t stretch your bank account.