First of all, my main piece of advise when it comes to buying a used car is that you need to be willing to walk away. It is important to take your time when buying a car because its a big investment and you’ll be using it daily for a long time.
If you need a car immediately for commuting then consider renting one while you shop around – a few extra weeks of car rental are better than a buying a car that you need to bring to the shop every few months because you didn’t take the time to figure out if it was a good deal.
Before you start looking for a used car decide how much money you realistically want to spend and what are the most important features you want in a car (features may include fuel economy, audio system, 4 wheel drive capability, etc.). After you do this, then start looking for used cars through local newspaper listings, online listings, and used car dealerships. Once you have located several cars that are within your budget and meet all your most important requirements in a car then its time to do some research.
You need to find out what the Kelley blue book value is for each car that you’re interested in. This will give you an indication of whether you have a good deal or not. If the car you’re interested in below blue book value then congratulations!
And if its way below blue book value – be wary! It could be the seller is selling because he needs cash fast or because he had it on the market for a while and needs to move it, but it could also be that the car has some problems that he is not being completely honest about.
As part of the research stage, make sure you ask as many questions as possible – what’s the mileage, has the car been in any accidents, ask for a copies of all maintenance done on the car, etc. Make sure you’re blue in the face from asking questions before you stop. If you’re satisfied with the results of your research stage (i.e. you’ve found a car you like within your budget and you’ve gotten answers to all of your critical questions) then there is one last thing to do.
You need to take the car to a mechanic that you, yourself trust (definitely do not take it to the mechanic the seller recommends), so that he can give you a professional opinion of the state of the car. Once you get the blessing of your trusted mechanic, then you can go ahead an purchase your car!