chryslerBuying a car is an exciting and overwhelming time. If you're a young first-time buyer or want to save money, a used car is an obviously convenient option. There is no shortage of used car options, considering nearly 40 million used cars are bought and sold each year. When you shop for a used car, be especially wary of making these choices -- they could be big mistakes that end in avoidable disappointment.

Not getting the best deal for your old car.

If you have a previous car that you are selling or trading in when you buy your next car, be sure that you shop around to get the best deal for it. Some dealerships will pay cash or give you special deals on trade-ins.

Buying from family or friends.

Great Aunt Kimmy may promise that her 1998 Chrysler Sebring is in top-notch condition, but unfortunately she could be mistaken, and suddenly you're stuck with unexpected repair bills and no warranty. If you're purchasing from someone who is not a dealer or an experienced mechanic, they simply might not know the condition their vehicle is actually in. Making large purchases from family or friends is not something to be taken lightly. If something were to go wrong, it could affect your relationship. Aunt Kimmy's 1998 Chrysler is probably not worth the risk.

Not using appraisal tools like Kelley Blue Book.

Appraisal tools like Kelley Blue Book allow you to see what the base value of a car should be. Reputable dealers often have KBB search functions directly on their website for your convenience. Have an idea of what the car you want is worth to make sure you're getting a good deal. This goes for tools such as Carfax, which again are often used by reputable dealers online and on-site. Be sure you know about accidents, owners, and repairs for maximum transparency and safety.

Buying based solely on looks.

If you like the look of a Jeep or a Chrysler or a Fiat, great. Look for a reliable model from a good dealer. Don't buy the junky lime-green car from the junky used car lot down the road just because it's a rockin' lime green color. It's tempting, but... don't do it.

Buying a cheap car for cash instead of financing.

Many auto dealers offer competitive financing for new and used cars. Say you have $4000 cash to spend. You could buy a $4000 or cheaper car, or you could calculate out what you could afford as a $4000 or cheaper down payment and monthly bill, and suddenly you can afford a much sturdier car in the long run. It may feel satisfying at first to buy a car in cash, but if you can afford some sort of monthly bill, definitely consider financing to expand your options.

It's so tempting to jump into a car purchase and make an impulsive mistake. When used car shopping, keep a level head and work with your trusted local dealer, and you can't go wrong. Good luck!
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