Buying a used car can be a stressful experience. Studies show that Americans do not relish the idea of heading to the dealership and negotiating a price on a used vehicle, and it’s not hard to see why. But buying a used car doesn’t have to be so unpleasant. Read on to learn about three mistakes to avoid when buying a used car. Avoid them, and you’ll have a much more pleasant car shopping experience.

Mistake #1: setting the wrong budget (or not setting one at all)

When it comes to buying a used car, there is perhaps no single thing that is as important as setting your budget. Unfortunately, this one all-important point is something that a lot of people get wrong.

If you can afford to buy a car you’re happy with in cash, that’s great. But if you’re considering a car loan, you need to know some personal finance basics. One good rule of thumb to stick to is that your car expenses shouldn’t be more than 10 percent of your take-home income. Keep in mind this refers to your take-home income — your pay after taxes, not your salary before. Strict interpretations of this rule include insurance and other car-related essentials in that total.

You need a budget, true, but even more crucial is to stick to that budget. This number is useless if you let a shiny object entice you to forget about it. Keep your finances in mind and stand firm, no matter what you see and what salespeople throw at you. Buying a used car should be a way to save money, so don’t mess it up by making a bad budget decision.

Mistake #2: shopping in the wrong places

Believe it or not, pushy salespeople are no longer a mandatory part of the car-buying process. Dealerships and salespeople are strictly optional, as the traditional means to purchase used vehicles have changed drastically. These days, it’s easier to buy a car online.

Of course, when taking the online route, shoppers need to be cautious. Some websites will connect you to individuals who are selling their vehicles privately. Buying a car directly from its owner can be a risky thing, so weigh that option carefully and avoid it if you can. Even with vehicle history reports, it’s usually best to shop in places with established reputations.

Look at online used car and online auction sites like Auto Auction Mall which combines the convenience of the internet (and its powerful wide reach) with the reliability of major dealers.

Mistake #3: not having enough information

Nothing is more stressful than trying to buy a used car without the proper information. Fortunately, the information you need is at your fingertips. Resale values, depreciation rates, and vehicle history reports are readily available online. If you’re shopping online, you won’t find yourself cornered by a pushy salesperson while you scramble to get the information you need. Just open another browsing tab or two and start doing your research! Taking the time to acquire background information will pay off big-time. When you finally make an offer or place a bid on a car you like, you won’t be anxious about it. After all, you’ll know everything from the vehicle’s specific history to the worth and depreciation rates of that make, model, and year of car.

Buying a used car may not be something that you do every day, but you go through the process with confidence and knowledge, you’ll be sure to avoid some major pitfalls.