Avoiding Car Buyer’s Remorse

Key Takeaways

  • 31.1% of car owners experienced buyer’s remorse.
  • The most common mistake made by remorseful car buyers was falling in love with a model (42.6%).
  • 51.8% of car buyers that went over their budget experienced buyer’s remorse.
  • 31.3% of car buyers who purchased a warranty regretted it later on.

Regretting Vehicle Choices

There are very few high-dollar purchases that depreciate almost as soon as you buy them, are nonrefundable, and can cost you thousands of dollars in monthly interest. Still, when it comes to buying a car, you may not always have a ton of options. 

In 2020, the cost of new vehicles across the country reached near record-highs, with price tags averaging $38,000. At over $9,000 in annual buying and operating costs, many people are taking out longer loans with higher interest rates to cover their transportation needs. 

And once you’ve signed over the loan agreement and driven it off the lot, you may have no options for returning the vehicle if you decide it’s not the right car or truck for you. So how often do people regret their vehicle purchases? To find to, we surveyed over 1,000 people about their experiences with buyer’s remorse while car shopping. Read on as we explore the emotions people experience when shopping for a new vehicle; which methods of car buying are the most popular; which brands are most likely to lead to buyer’s remorse; and how often people spend over the budgets they set in advance.

An Invested Purchase

Buyer’s remorse is often described as a feeling of regret or anxiety experienced after making a purchase, particularly when that purchase is extremely expensive (such as a new home or car). Nearly a third of people (31%) said they experienced buyer’s remorse after purchasing or leasing a car. Not all car-buying experiences are negative, though. People were 8% less likely to experience buyer’s remorse when purchasing a used car compared to new vehicles, and people were less likely to experience buyer’s remorse when they were open to the idea of buying used. 

Car buyers experiencing remorse after making their purchases were slightly more likely to be excited about the car-buying experience (60%) but also far more likely to be anxious (50%), emotional (39%), and indifferent (24%) about the process. Expert tips for buying a new – or new-to-you – car include getting approved for a loan before you get to the lot, doing your own research before you talk to a salesman, and staying away from long-term (6 or 7 year) loans. 

Compared to leasing (51%), buying a new vehicle (29%) was less likely to lead to buyer’s remorse, and being open to either a new or used car (25%) was less likely to lead to remorse than being set on solely buying new (35%) or buying used (32%).

Car-Buying Venues

People often preferred to shop for a car by visiting a physical dealership directly (58%) versus online dealerships (25%) – the latter of which were also more likely to lead to buyer’s remorse. Compared to 26% of people buying from the dealership in person, 34% buying from an online dealership and 50% buying from an online marketplace said they walked away with buyer’s remorse. And while just 7% of people said they preferred buying from their friends or family, more than 28% of respondents said they experienced buyer’s remorse after doing so. 

Online car shopping might be the most likely to lead to buyer’s remorse, but it’s also the form of car shopping people reported enjoying the most. Compared to buying from their friends or family (76%) or physically going to the dealership (79%), 80% of respondents indicated being satisfied with online dealerships, and 81% felt the same way about online marketplaces. 

If you’re uncomfortable shopping for a new car alone, you might find there’s strength (and reinforcement) in numbers. Fifty-six percent of people said they brought their spouse with them when buying a car, followed by their parent(s) (42%), friends (25%), and siblings (19%). The most common preparation for car-buying negotiations included educating themselves on the car (67%), getting help online (47%), and asking for help from someone else (45%).

Remorse From Buying American Cars

Car Buyer's Remorse - Buying American Cars

People who had buyer’s remorse after bringing home a new car were more likely to prefer an American-made vehicle (45%) to a foreign model (22%). Respondents who weren’t remorseful about their most recent car purchase were more likely to be open to different brands of vehicles, regardless of origin (42%). 

Among those with buyer’s remorse, 16% said they most associated their negative experience with Ford vehicles, followed by Honda (10%), Chevrolet (10%), and Nissan (9%). And while 3 out of 5 most associated negative experiences with American-made vehicles, 45% of people said they still preferred American cars over foreign brands. 

So what mistakes did people with buyer’s remorse say they made? In addition to falling in love with a specific model (43%), they also listed focusing on monthly payments (35%), not getting a used-car checklist (32%), and using sticker price as a gauge (26%) as crucial car-buying mistakes.

Regretting Auto Loans

Regretting Car Loans

If you overpay for your car, there’s almost no opportunity for a price adjustment once you drive it off the lot. Among people who admitted to overpaying for their vehicles, 70% said they had buyer’s remorse. Roughly half of the people who overpaid also felt they were “good at negotiating with car salespeople.” 

Another 62% of people with buyer’s remorse also indicated they had a negative experience with the person who sold them the car. Just 15% of people who managed to stay under budget while car shopping said they had buyer’s remorse, compared to 52% of people who went over their budget. On average, those with car-buying regrets overshot their budgets by over $5,200. 

Seventy percent of people said they took out a loan to pay for their car – most commonly at a term of 60 months (31%). Fifty-two percent of people with 24-month auto loans had remorse over their financing decisions, followed by those with 36-month loans (34%) and 72-month loans (30%). 

Buying Extended Warranties

There’s no clear-cut guidance on whether an extended warranty for your car will be a valuable purchase. For some people, the simple peace of mind in knowing they have some coverage is worth the price tag alone. For others, you may not discover exactly what is (and isn’t) covered until you attempt to use the warranty. 

One in 2 car owners surveyed said they bought a warranty for their cars, and fewer than 1 in 3 who purchased a warranty regretted the decision. Nearly a quarter of car owners who didn’t buy a warranty with their cars had buyer’s remorse, compared to the 39% of those who did buy a warranty and still regretted their car-buying decisions. Remorseful car buyers were 15 percentage points more likely to say that a car warranty was very important to them in the car-buying process.

Making Smart Buying (and Selling) Decisions

Buying a new car can be an emotionally draining experience, but people who go into the process feeling excited or anxious about their purchase are more likely to report feeling buyer’s remorse when it’s all said and done. Opting to buy new without considering used cars as an option or going over the budget you’ve set can also lead to buyer’s remorse, which may go on for years depending on how long you’ve financed the purchase. 

At Junk Car Traders, we can help you sell your car for cash, no matter what condition it’s in! With great prices and free towing, we make selling your car quick and easy. With more than 10,000 car purchases every year, our experts are ready and waiting to make you an offer. Get a quote now by visiting us online at JunkCarTraders.com today! 

Methodology and Limitations

We collected responses from 1,025 car owners and leasers. Of the 1,025 respondents surveyed, 47.9% were female, 51.4% were male, and 0.7% identified as nonbinary. Additionally, the average age of respondents was 39.7 with a standard deviation of 12.4 years. The margin of error for this study based on the U.S. population is 3%, with a 95% confidence level.

The main limitation of this study is the reliance on self-report, which is faced with several issues, such as, but not limited to, attribution, exaggeration, regency bias, and telescoping. Data are solely representative of self-reported claims by car owners and leasers. This survey ran during January 2021.

Fair Use Statement

Want to help make sure your readers don’t get buyer’s remorse from buying an overpriced car with bad finance terms? Share the results of our study for any noncommercial use with the inclusion of a link back to this page in your story so readers have access to our full findings and methodology.

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