Avoid the No-Test Mindset
Of course, there are a few types of buyers who fall prey to the no-test mindset, a complete unwillingness to think very hard about the vehicle that they want to buy. See if these descriptions remind you of yourself — or a car shopper near and dear to you.
The impulse buyer will rush to the dealership on a whim and purchase a vehicle with little or no research. Impulse buyers might or might not test-drive the car. And if they do, it would most likely be the model they are already intent on buying.
The jalopy owner typically rejects test-drives because he's had it with his old car. Anything new is going to feel better than what he's currently driving.
The loyalist typically purchases the most current model of the one he already has, without giving any other car a second look.
Know the Competition
The impulse buyer and the jalopy owner are skipping a basic car-buying step. The loyalist, on the other hand, could be cut some slack: There's nothing inherently wrong with adhering to a brand that's proved its worth. But as a car naturally evolves from its introduction as an all-new model until its replacement several years later, what was once the best car on the market might no longer be as competitive in its segment. The best way to eliminate the possibility of buyer's remorse is to research and test-drive your target car's competition.
If you're not sure what that competition is, Edmunds has a number of resources. Start out with the New Car Buying Guides. These guides are updated annually, list all vehicle types and offer a number of recommendations in each category.
For example: A person who sets out to buy a Toyota Camry might be surprised to see that it didn't make our recommended sedan list for 2012. Instead, our editors recommend the Kia Optima, Ford Fusion or Volkswagen Passat. The Camry might be the sales leader in its segment, but in recent years, its competitors have offered more standard features for less money. For instance, the Kia Optima LX offers a more powerful engine, better fuel economy, a longer bumper-to-bumper warranty, standard Bluetooth and satellite radio. This example isn't intended to pick on the Camry, but as one of the most popular midsize sedans, it has become the safe bet for many people who aren't willing to try out other vehicles.
If you're interested in a used vehicle, take a look at the Edmunds' used car Best Bets. Pay close attention to the prices and compare the must-have features. Some brands might offer those features standard, while others may bundle them in expensive packages. This is one way to narrow your search.