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Why is car buying so difficult? While some shoppers know exactly what they want, find the vehicle in stock, work out a great deal with their friendly salesperson, and love their new car for years, that’s not always the case. Whether you’re choosing a reliable used car or finally buying your dream sports car, you can run into roadblocks.

More than half of American shoppers are confused and frustrated by the car-buying process

Person with medium length brown hair sitting at their computer. They're holding their head in frustration. Car-buying roadblocks can cause confusion.
Frustrated with car-buying roadblocks | Elisa Ventur via Unsplash

A poll by GOBankingRates (GBR) found that 63% of Americans surveyed said that “they find some part of the car-buying process to be confusing.”

That means that there’s a lot that the auto and finance industries could be doing to make the process smoother, easier, and more accessible. Read on for eight roadblocks that make buying or leasing a car difficult.

8. How to choose the right car for your needs, budget, and lifestyle

What are the three main things to consider when buying a car? GBR recommends prioritizing finances, safety, and inventory first. But for long-term satisfaction, it’s good to consider features, brand, and other important factors. Car-buying websites may be able to make this process easier.

GBR says that “consumers may find additional options through eCommerce retailers rather than solely relying on their zip code or state of residence for their vehicle needs. Now more than ever, consumers have options to identify and purchase the vehicle of their choice.”

7. Choosing whether to lease or buy a car can be a major roadblock

Are car prices going down? Unfortunately, no, and it’s uncertain how long new-car (and used-car) prices will be high. That means choosing between leasing and buying might be more complicated than ever before. First, lease buyouts may become a thing of the past as automakers start to clamp down on inventory. However, since cars are generally holding their value better, you may be able to lease a new car for significantly less than buying.

6. Locking down the best deals on a car

Finding the best deals on the car you want can be tricky. It’s always best to shop around at multiple dealerships and online to find the best price. Ask if the price listed on the website or your quote is the actual price you would pay. Hidden fees and shady car dealership deals can be a major car-buying roadblock.

5. Checking the VIN and vehicle history 

VIN and vehicle history information aren’t very important when shopping for a new car, but they’re imperative when looking for a reliable used truck, car, or SUV. If you’re buying directly from an owner, they will hopefully have complete records for the vehicle and can share them with you. Dealerships may have a more challenging time producing documents but can still provide a full report.

GBR recommends looking through multiple vehicle history reports, if possible. One of the top car-buying roadblocks is finding major problems with the car you’re interested in.

4. Navigating financing is one of the biggest car-buying roadblocks

This one thing may be the biggest thorn in your side when navigating car-buying roadblocks. 14% of respondents to GBR’s survey listed car loans and financing as the most confusing factor when buying a car. Deals and offers like 0% APR car financing, package add-ons, and longer loan terms can make it even harder to decide. It’s best to research financing options at different banks and dealerships before you decide.

3. Dealing with dealerships

Couple accepting a car key from a car salesman. Car-buying roadblocks can often start at the dealership
A couple accepting the key to their new car | Yavuz Arslan/ullstein bild via Getty Images

And speaking of gimmicks and deals… we have to acknowledge that dealing with dealerships can absolutely be a roadblock in the car-buying process. Car dealerships don’t have the best reputation for being trustworthy or easy to work with. And that’s not necessarily an unfair reputation. More shoppers are turning to e-commerce car-buying websites and private sales to avoid the stereotypical dealership experience.

2. Understanding the cost of car ownership

You may be thrilled about the used electric car you’ve chosen, but have you considered all the costs that will come with it? Ownership costs can be a big roadblock, especially for first-time buyers or anyone on a limited budget. These costs include fuel (or charging), service costs, repair costs, car insurance, and maintenance fees—and they can add up quickly.

1. The risk of buyer’s remorse

“This is a lesser discussed roadblock, but there are some situations in which a consumer may make a car purchase and regret some element about it. This can mean anything from feeling uncertain that the vehicle meets your needs, or that the salesperson talked you into making an immediate purchase.”


I would bet that most car buyers have some small amount of buyer’s remorse after they’ve made their purchase or signed their lease. Maybe you didn’t get that one feature you really wanted. Maybe you signed up for a useless tire protection plan that you’ll never use. Some car dealerships offer a return or exchange policy within the first few days or a few hundred miles. 

What car-buying roadblocks are holding you back? Weigh in on our Facebook page!


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