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This Is Why Walking Away From a Car Purchase May Be the Best Thing You Could Do

Buying a used car may be a thrifty decision, but it can be a financial pitfall. In some situations, the decision may be linked to the kind of car you intend to purchase, the technical state of a particular vehicle, or a combination of both.
Man walking away from car in parking lot 31 photos
Rusted TruckRusted MercedesWashing a BMWResearch online to find out how much your car is worthThe Autoglym team at a Concours d'EleganceVolkswagen Beetle in parking lotBMW 5 SeriesBMW 5 SeriesBMW 5 SeriesLincoln Town CarLincoln Town CarHonda Civic SedanHonda Civic SedanHonda Civic SedanAcura TSXAcura TSXAcura TSXToyota CamryToyota CamryToyota CamryLincoln Town Car1989 Mazda MX-5 Miata1994 Audi RS21994 BMW 3 Series CompactWrite down or make a spreadsheet with the cars you are interested to buy. Write down phone numbers, just in case the ads expire. A screen-grab also worksInspect every inch of a used vehicle. Ask for more photos if the ad has images like thisTriple-check the papers before signing them, and do not pay money in advanceIt's okay to walk away from some "deals."BMW E36 Sedan cheap for driftMazda Miata with a roll-cage
There are many other possible scenarios possible. We prepared a different purchase guide for a used vehicle that works even for new cars, as well as motorcycles.

Instead of going through all the things you should check before buying a second-hand automobile, which we have covered here, we are going to walk you through the final process. We are referring to the moment where you have to decide if you want to buy, or you politely decline the deal.

Here's another pro-tip: you should not decide on either right after seeing the vehicle. There is one exception to this rule, which comes in when the vehicle is not as advertised.

The situation is as follows: you are considering the purchase of a used vehicle, you have enough money for the desired model, and you find one that you like. You even check its service book and find it to be genuine. That is great, right? It may be so, but it still does not mean you should jump ahead and purchase the car.

Yes, you read that right. Just because everything seems in order with the vehicle does not mean you should jump ahead and buy it. Think it through once again. Does it tick all the boxes on your list?

If you have not made a list of what the new (to you) vehicle must have and what it must not have, you should do it now, even before you start searching for it online. It is okay to update the list as you go but set a few boundaries and do your best to stick to them.

Why? Because it should help you cut impulse purchases, such as getting a track-tuned Miata if you have a long commute to work that involves potholes and driving on the highway.

Sure, it may be the best fun for the money you paid for it when it is on track or twisty roads. However, you might hate yourself for getting it while listening to the aftermarket exhaust on a long highway commute. The same applies if you have to seek treatment for back pains caused by its cool-looking bucket seats that are not that cool on your lower back.

Be sure to see if you can insure the vehicle before getting it, as well as have a quote of how much it will cost you to do it. This quote is not meant to be a negotiation tool, as the price of insurance is not the seller's fault, or the vehicle's, for that matter.

Keep in mind that it may have an impact on you if you intend to buy it and find that your insurance company is not fond of JDM cars with shorter VINs. The same applies to some modified cars or vehicles with a massive V8 under their hood that will raise your insurance premium sky-high.

If you have not managed to find the model you were looking for near the place you live, and you need to travel a couple of hours to see it, be prepared to return without it.

This may sound fool-proof, but I guarantee you that people have decided on getting a vehicle they did not like that much once they traveled for hours for the meet-up with the seller.

The described situation is a cognitive bias that often works against us, humans. Instead of allowing us to use our best judgment, the brain tricks us into doing what we started because we started it.

Do you see where this is going? Do not go and buy a car just because you took a train, a bus, or asked a friend to drive you hundreds of miles away from home just to "make your trip worthwhile."

The idea above leads to the expansion of the point I made a few paragraphs above. Be prepared to return without that vehicle.

If you are not traveling alone, which is something that we do not recommend in the first place in a situation like this – as you are also carrying cash, be aware that it makes you more vulnerable to being mugged.

Another thing to consider is the situation where the city you are going to see the vehicle is hours away, and you reach it around noon to check out the vehicle after leaving home in the morning. In that case, be sure to leave a few hours to spare for the return trip, where you will be more tired than you were on the way there.

Avoid risking it all just to save the money you would pay for a night's stay in a cheap hotel on the way. Falling asleep behind the wheel of your new vehicle is a genuine risk, and some people have done this.

Instead, plan a route back home with the same means of transportation that you selected to get there in the first place. Make the route with the new purchase its alternative, rather than the other way around.

It sounds counterintuitive, but it means that you are mentally ready to step away from the vehicle, as well as the purchase itself, if you have doubts.

Some doubts are normal, but when you feel that someone may be trying to trick you into a purchase, or if something was not as advertised, or if you just do not like the vehicle you selected to see, do not buy it. As long as the money is in your hands, you can say no and walk away. Remember that before every purchase decision.

If you are unsure, respectfully propose a break from the viewing and get coffee. Or just buy water or juice if you find yourself in the middle of a hot day.

Once you finish your selected beverage, you should have made up your mind. If you continue to have doubts, call your best friend or any trusted person who could not be there with you that day and ask for an honest opinion.

If you continue to have doubts, it may not be the vehicle for you. While you have spent a bit of money and returned home without a new vehicle, your budget is still going strong, and you do not have a vehicle you do not like in your driveway. Sounds like a win, even if it does not feel that way.

Go against your urge to have a new (to you) vehicle right now, and take a step back to make the best decision possible in the given situation. It is harder than it looks, but it is worth it in the long run.

If you have no problem switching vehicles every couple of weeks or months, despite losing money on each purchase, this may not be for you, or it might be the thing to change your life.

Editor's note: This article was not supported or sponsored by a third party.
For illustration purposes, the photo gallery shows various images of second hand vehicles.


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