Check It Out!
Regardless of where you end up buying from, you may not be getting the whole story on the car in question. So it's essential that you do all you can to check out the car, including:
Get a vehicle history report.
This is a report run on the car's VIN (vehicle identification number). Reports typically cost around $25 and may show odometer discrepancies, accident history, how many owners the vehicle has had, and whether the car was salvaged, stolen, or flood damaged.
For a Vehicle History Report, go to: www.autocheck.com or www.carfax.com
Check safety recalls
Find out whether there have been any safety recalls on the model you're planning to buy. You can search for safety recalls on the National Highway Traffic Safety's website at www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov. If a safety recall has been issued on the year, make and model of the vehicle you are considering, contact the manufacturer to find out whether the defect was ever repaired. You will need to provide them with the VIN number of the vehicle in question. If the defect was not repaired, ask the manufacturer if the repair would still be covered at no cost. If not, you should factor the repair cost into your negotiations with the dealer and/or consider whether you are still interested in buying the car. And of course, if you do buy the car, make sure to get the defect repaired as soon as possible.
Consider a Certified Used Car
You can take even more of the "risk factor" out of the used car buying process by buying a Certified Used Car, which is a used car that usually goes through a prescribed inspection process and comes with an extended warranty from the manufacturer. To qualify as a certified used car, the vehicle generally must not be more than a few years old and have low mileage, however, each manufacturer's Certified Used Car program is different, so check their website to confirm the particulars.
Next Step: What To Ask The Seller