By: Sarah E. Sanuth, is an insider in the automotive industry  with many years of experience in the car dealership and repair business, is guest contributing an article sharing her insider’s perspective on top mistakes to avoid in buying a used car.

When it comes to purchasing a vehicle, there are lots of things that need to be looked at, considered and talked about. Whether you get flustered or completely excited during the process, there is always room to make mistakes.

After personally selling more than 3,000 used vehicles, I have seen many mistakes. But when you make your money selling vehicles, you aren’t too keen on killing the sale by telling the consumer they are making a mistake.

The following is a list of the common mistakes I have seen made by many consumers when purchasing a used vehicle. Adhere to these and you will help to ensure that your next used vehicle purchase is one that doesn’t bring you down the path to a bad decision.

Fixing your old vehicle:

The biggest mistake many consumers make when purchasing a vehicle, is purchasing one for no reason. A good number of people don’t want to deal with the issues that their current vehicle is having, so instead of fixing it, they replace it. Of course, if you have a vehicle in which you have already had the transmission replaced a few times, it’s time to get rid of it. But if you are dealing with issues such as brakes, exhaust, or a cracked windshield; it is in your best interest to have these issues fixed.

Needs versus Wants:

There are features of the car that you need and there are those that are nice to have. Dual heating zones, navigation, Bluetooth, or buying something because everyone else has it equal spending more money than necessary. Before heading out shopping for a vehicle, always make a list of needs and wants, keeping the two separate. That will help ensure that you make the most practical car purchase, without overspending.

SUV’s, sports cars and vehicle with a lot of electrical components cost more to maintain. Unless you need one of these types of vehicles, don’t buy one.

Trading in your old vehicle:

When you trade in your vehicle, you never get what the vehicle is worth. Car dealers want your old vehicle for nothing, and will only show you money on paper. Always try to sell your vehicle through a private party sale before offering it on trade. A private sale can yield you thousands more than trading it in.

Listening to what people say:

When someone knows you are searching for a vehicle, they might offer you some advice and tell you to stay away from a certain make or model. Listen, don’t ignore it. This doesn’t mean that you have to swear off this vehicle completely, but means you need to dig in further and make a proper assessment, especially if the advice is from a mechanic. It is true, certain vehicles have constant transmission or motor problems, and there is nothing that you can do about it. If you don’t listen you may end up with a huge repair bill, a vehicle that doesn’t run, and a car payment to top it all off.

Having an independent mechanic look over the vehicle:

No one purchases a vehicle without taking it for a test drive, why purchase it without having a mechanic who has no personal interest in making the sale look it over for you. For a small fee, most any mechanic should be able to let you know anything that might be wrong with it. This could end up saving you a lot of money and headaches.

Sleeping on it:

Just because you are out looking for a car today, doesn’t mean you have to buy it today. Waiting at least one day to think over a potential purchase could help you from making a mistake you might regret. Taking yourself out of the situation will help you make a clear and informed decision without all the hassle of what is going on at a dealership.

Showing emotions:

Never let the salesmen know that you “love” or “want” a certain vehicle. If you can help it, try looking over the dealerships inventory without a salesman at your side. Simply tell him or her that you will come find them when you find something you are interested in. When it comes time to talk with the salesman, never hint that you “love” this or that vehicle. The salesman will try to play on any emotions that you might be displaying to coerce you into making the purchase “now” and possibly for the wrong price.

Car shopping alone:

Two sets of eyes are better than one. Always try to bring at least one person with you. Try to give the impression that the vehicle you choose is a joint decision, regardless of whether it is or not. The person you bring with you doesn’t have to have any mechanical experience, just someone who is another set of eyes and ears, to see and hear what you might not.

Secure financing before looking for a vehicle:

Car dealerships don’t just make their money selling vehicles; they make money on financing, too. Take the time to secure your financing before you look for a vehicle. Whether it is through your bank, credit union or other facility, this will give you a clear answer as to what amount you can really afford, cut out all the bull when you decide on a vehicle, and give you a better interest rate.


With the wealth of information available on the internet today, there is no excuse for making an uninformed decision. Whether it is before or after you have started looking for a vehicles, always research every aspect of a potential vehicle purchase. For pricing information always check, or These sites will give you an idea of the book value for a specific vehicle.

But go a little further than that. Check out car classifieds sites to get an idea of what the vehicles are actually selling for. Doing a simple Google search on the make and model of a vehicle you are interested in can bring you to information about potential problems that the specific make and model might be known for.

Used car shopping can be a tricky and complicated process, but it doesn’t have to be. Before you sign on the dotted line, take the time to follow these simple steps; doing so will help ensure that you save money, headache and above all else, regrets.

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