In my view it is an odd person who can look at a blank page and not desire to state their opinions. Here are mine.
Buying a Used Car should not be done in a hurry, or in the dark.
Think about what you need from a car. Buy a car that accommodates your life, is comfortable for you to drive, and is economically viable to your situation. Most cars are designed for a specific use/purpose. Examining reviews of vehicles can help you determine if the vehicle your interested in suits your needs. It can also alert you to potential problems inherent in it's design. All cars have flaws (design issue troubles), but some are more cost effective to repair than others. If for example, you knew that a 1999 Subaru Legacy had a high chance of blowing it's head gasket at 100,000 miles, and you are purchasing the car at 97,000 miles, wouldn't it be nice to know that you might need an additional $1500 - $2000 in a relatively short time?
Once you have found a car your interested in, check the Kelly Blue Book value. You will need the Year, Make, and Model of the car. The Kelly Blue Book can be found at your local bank, but it is much easier to check on line (www.kbb.com).
The seller of the car will start at the high end of the Blue Book value, you the buyer should set your price at the lower end of the Blue Book value, in a perfect world you would end up somewhere in the middle and both walk away feeling happy with the deal.
Don't hesitate to ask for copies of repair and maintenance records on the vehicle you are considering purchasing.
The Importance of the test drive.
Never buy a car you haven't driven. A test ride is not the same thing as a test drive.
When test driving a car you should put it through it's paces. [ Check to see if the stereo system works and then turn it off ].
Check the headlights/ taillight/ turn signal systems, wipers, AC/Heating, and all the other bells and whistles that come on the vehicle. Test those buttons. [ Now turn off all the unnecessary systems].
Drive the car in residential areas/ low speeds, on the highway/ high speeds, up and down hills, around corners, and over speed bumps/ railroad tracks, etc., and don't forget to see how it handles under parking conditions.
Did you hear any noises? Did you feel that the vehicle had enough power to increase your speed on the highway or climb a hill? Did the clutch/transmission shift properly? If you have questions or concerns, or even if you don't, get a second opinion from an independent shop. [ Check the Better Business Bureau or the local Chamber of Commerce online for reliable shops].
NEVER, and I mean NEVER, buy a car in a hurry. Never buy a car for it's look, or label ( status symbol ), unless your prepared to pay for that decision.
Cars cost Money
Sad, but true.
The purchase price, licensing fees, insurance, gas ( and the prices are going up), regular services like oil changes ( those prices go up in relation to gas prices), maintenance/repair costs, etc., ...let's face it, cars cost money.
When your looking to purchase a new vehicle or upgrade your ride, be aware that the more extra's there are on the car, the more likely it will be that repair costs maybe increased. For example, Air Conditioning (A/C), was at one time an additional system on most cars, now it is usually standard on most vehicles. This system requires it's own maintenance services, but it is also a whole lot of parts that maybe in the way of the repair of your car. Quite often in the world of car repair, removal of one system is needed in order to repair another. The simplest example of this that I can think of is; you can't change brakes without removing the tires.
ABS (Automatic Brake System), AWD (All Wheel Drive), electric windows, wipers that hesitate, passenger lights, heated seats, etc., are all very nice, and some of them are a safety feature as well as convenient, but all of them maybe a potential repair or replacement cost somewhere down the road, and to be honest, they're usually in the way, adding to the cost of repairs.
After you purchase your car - please read, or at least browse, the owner's manual - it contains the information you need to operate your vehicle safely and properly.
A good price on an oil change is important, but so is a quality service. Get to know your service provider and the people they employ. If you go to a fast lube/ spill and fill operation, you may never see a familiar face from visit to visit. It doesn't take a leap of logic to conclude that the service maybe as new as the face.