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2006: A look back - A look ahead  
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Top 10 car-buying mistakes

Craving a Crossfire? Longing for a Lincoln? Yearning for a Yaris?

Getting a new set of wheels is a surefire source of high-octane excitement. But don't get so revved up you lose sight of the financial consideration. The countless decisions regarding buying a new car are ones you want to make with a clear head.

"Car buying is, or should be, a calculated decision,"says John Mondin, an auto travel counselor with AAA. "It's a major purchase."

Car-buying mistakes
Before you go cuckoo for that coupe or raving for that roadster, consider these top 10 mistakes car buyers make.
Top 10 car-buying mistakes
1. Ignoring your needs.
2. Showing your hand.
3. Bad research and no research.
4. Picking the most conveniently located dealership.
5. Going by payment rather than price.
6. Prematurely talking trade-in.
7. Not shopping interest rates.
8. One-stop shopping at the dealership.
9. Going it alone when you can use a helping hand.
10. Thinking it's over before it's over.

1. Ignoring your needs.
To paraphrase the immortal words of Mick Jagger, you can't always get what you want, but at least in the realm of cars, you're much better off with what you need. Sure, sport utility vehicles are all the rage, but do you need one to drive the mile and a half to bingo every Sunday? Is that racy red sports car really the best choice for your family of five kids that is still growing?

"Don't let a midlife crisis guide your decision," says Mondin.

"Getting a spiffy new sports or status car may give the buyer an immediate lift," says Miriam Biddelman, a private-practice psychotherapist. "But while the lift may not last, the bills surely do. This is not a good path to go down."

2. Showing your hand.
"This is a business transaction," says Paul Calisi, president of the AAA of New York's Auto Buying Program. "If you fall in love with a car, be sure not to overreact and get too anxious. Give yourself some time to sit back and make sure it's the car for you." In short, don't let your heart rule your head -- it can lead to aching in both body parts. Also, keep a grasp on reality. If you can afford $20,000 and the object of your affection lists for $30,000, you might be able to negotiate it down to, say, $27,000. But there's no way you're going to be able to buy it for $20,000 unless there's a $7,000 rebate.

3. Bad research and no research.
Buying a car is not rocket science, but you could compare it to a high school term paper. To do it right, you've got some homework ahead of you. The good news is that with the advent of the Internet, a world of information -- never available to our parents and grandparents -- is just a click away. And usually for free. Resources such as Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds.com and Autobytel.com provide tons of information on pricing, rebates, holdback incentives, options, packages, interest rates, negotiating techniques, reviews, forums and much more. Walking onto a dealer's lot with no information is like walking into the lion's den. And relying on a dealer for information is just slightly better.

-- Posted: Nov. 1, 2006
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