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Most Consumers Are Anxious About Purchasing a Car. Should They Be?

Jack Nerad
by Jack Nerad
June 10, 2020
6 min. Reading Time
Vehicles ・  Photo by Adobe Stock

Vehicles ・ Photo by Adobe Stock

A high percentage of consumers don’t like the process of buying a new car. The research is pretty plain about that. Consumers certainly like the idea of having a new car. The research on that is clear, too.

But many consumers are anxious about buying a car. After all, there is a lot of money at stake, and there is no doubt that the possibility of getting it wrong is ever-present. For one thing, the typical vehicle purchase involves a number of steps, and it is possible to mess up any of them. But the fact is that in today’s hotly competitive environment, the car-buyer is in a power position. Car dealerships are filled with too many cars seeking too few prospective owners. That is just a fact, so let’s unpack several of the reasons you might be anxious about buying a new car to reassure you that you can come out as a happy, satisfied new-car owner.

Not Knowing What to Buy

Of all the reasons to be anxious about buying a car, the fear engendered from not knowing what car to buy is among the most significant. There are so many choices out there. Something like 350 separate models are on sale in the U.S. market, and when you start figuring out the permutations of trim levels, engine choices, and equipment packages, the numbers climb astronomically.

This situation presents what some call “the tyranny of choice.” But the answer to that problem is information, and you’ve come to the right place. Our vehicle reviews and 10-best lists will be of exceptional help in choosing the vehicle that is right for you and your individual needs.

 Photo by Yakov - stock.adobe.com

Photo by Yakov - stock.adobe.com

Fear of Getting a Lemon

Yes, there are “lemons” — verifiably bad vehicles — out there. The fact is that even brands will stellar reputations for quality have to buy back some of their vehicles each year because they were found to be defective. But those are single lightning strikes in what is a vast landscape of high-quality, high-reliability vehicles as attested to by the prominent automotive market research firms.

Today’s typical cars are built better and last longer than any cars in history, and that is pretty much true across the board. Beyond that, third-party information from consumer research sites and, of course, our assessments can prevent you from dipping your toes into vehicles that tend to be a bit “iffier” on the quality side. Know, too, that comprehensive vehicle warranties and — if it comes to that — state “lemon laws” are on your side.

 Photo by kodt - stock.adobe.com

Photo by kodt - stock.adobe.com

Fear of the Car Dealer

Some car dealers of previous decades developed a dubious reputation for honesty and fair dealing, and that reputation continues to taint today’s dealers even though national surveys now indicate that most dealers do a good job of satisfying their customers.

Transparency in car retailing has never been higher. Today’s most progressive dealers embrace the fact that customers are well-armed with accurate information that makes them more astute buyers. With detailed price and quality information readily available online, customers now walk into dealerships more ready to buy than ever before. In an era when some new cars are seen as commodities, dealers know their reputations for service and integrity are closely intertwined with their success.

 Photo by Tupungato - stock.adobe.com

Photo by Tupungato - stock.adobe.com

Fear of Being Talked into Something you Don’t Want

Some consumers have very little “sales resistance.” Perhaps because they dislike confrontation or because they like to please others, they can be persuaded to buy things they really don’t want to buy.

If you are that kind of person, the car market offers you several solutions. You can decide on the vehicle, the equipment, and the ancillary products you want and purchase your car from a no-haggle online dealer. The good news for those seeking that option is there are more dealers who offer end-to-end online purchase processes than ever before. Autobytel offers a great tool to connect you to the ideal dealership for you in a few easy steps. Check it out here. Another method is to have someone else undertake the buying process for you. One option is a professional car broker who gets a fee for providing the service. Another is enlisting a more seasoned negotiator you trust — say your Uncle Fred or Aunt Millie — to do the deal for you. 

 Photo by sinenkiy.com.ua

Photo by sinenkiy.com.ua

Fear of Paying Too Much

Nobody likes to pay too much. Nobody likes to be taken advantage of. But you have all the power you need to avoid paying too much. As you consider your next purchase, you are well-advised to figure out what you are willing to pay for a new car both in overall terms and in terms of a monthly car payment that can fit into your overall monthly budget.

Once that is established, it is not difficult to use third-party sites like this one to determine what vehicles you can buy for that amount of money. At the same time, you can often determine what consumers just like you have recently paid for vehicles that are virtually identical to the one you seek to buy. Armed with all that information, it is much harder to “pay too much.”

 Photo by Monthira - stock.adobe.com

Photo by Monthira - stock.adobe.com

Not Knowing Whether to Buy or Lease

When people are faced with two choices of very similar value, it creates anxiety. Both psychiatrists and car salespeople will tell you that. So it is with the decision to buy or lease a car. One thing you need to understand about this choice is that leasing is just another form of financing, different than the traditional car loan but achieving the same end. Getting a good deal on a vehicle acquisition doesn’t depend on whether you buy or lease; it depends on how you negotiate your financed purchase or lease transaction.

Here’s a good rule of thumb — if you plan to put less than 12,000 miles a year on a car, if you want to get a new car on a regular basis, and if you are confident that you won’t want a new car before your lease term is up, you can consider leasing. If you say no to any of those three, leasing is not for you.


Fear of Negotiation

Many car-buyers fear the negotiation process, and for good reason. They typically don’t negotiate on the price of virtually anything else they purchase, and they don’t think they are particularly skilled at it. On that, they may be right.

But in spite of that, there is no real reason to fear a car purchase negotiation, because in that poker game, you have all the high cards. You are a willing buyer with the financial ability to purchase a new car. Every car dealer in the world wants to make deals with people just like you, but from the dealer’s point of view, there just aren’t enough of them. So when you are negotiating with them, you do it from a position of strength. And your biggest weapon in that negotiation is a single pair. This pair will beat the dealer’s four aces every time — because the pair we’re talking about is your feet. If you don’t like the way negotiations are going, use them to walk out. Having that power banishes anxiety.

 Photo by Seventyfour - stock.adobe.com

Photo by Seventyfour - stock.adobe.com

Fear of Not Getting the Right Value for your Trade-in

A subset of the car negotiation is the value the dealer offers you for your current car, your trade-in. You might fear that the value of your car will be lowballed by the dealer, knowing full well that the dealer wants to make as much money from the deal as possible. You would do that, too.

But that desire is easily counteracted by the fact that, as we just said, you have all the high cards. Further, it is incredibly easy to find out the value of your trade-in vehicle if you spend less than 10 minutes online. In addition, these days many new- and used-car dealers are ready and willing to give you an ironclad offer to buy your car at a set price. That can set the “floor” of any trade-in negotiation you do with the new car dealer. And you still have your feet.

 Photo by Suchada Toemkraisri-Adobe Stock

Photo by Suchada Toemkraisri-Adobe Stock

Fear of Auto Financing

Unless you purchase a car for cash — which, by the way, is a really good idea in most cases — you will buy financing. By that, we mean you will take out a car loan, and you might be anxious that you won’t get a good deal on it. Again, doing a little homework can allay that fear.

Perhaps the best way to do that is to “pre-qualify” for an auto loan before you ever start an in-person or online dialogue with a dealer. In the privacy and comfort of your own home, you can take your time to shop for a car loan online, research interest rates, and get approved. Then when you contact the dealer, you can either shop as if you were a “cash” customer or, perhaps even better, ask the dealer to give you a better financing deal than you were able to arrange when you pre-qualified. Either way, you have nothing to lose.

 Photo by turgaygundogdu - stock.adobe.com

Photo by turgaygundogdu - stock.adobe.com

Summing It Up

So what is the bottom line here? First, you should know that even though there are a number of ways you can end up with a less-than-perfect car purchase, you can’t go too terribly wrong. Most cars these days are well built and offer good reliability plus many creature comforts. Plus, any vehicle you buy will be covered by a warranty offering you additional peace of mind.

Beyond that, when it comes to putting the deal together, there are reasonable alternatives if you absolutely can’t bear to negotiate. And should you decide to haggle, you are in a position of strength, and you possess that pair that beats every other hand in the deck — your two feet. Approaching a car purchase knowing you can always walk away removes the anxiety and can make your purchase process — dare we say it — fun.

 Photo by Dusko - stock.adobe.com

Photo by Dusko - stock.adobe.com


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