A thorough vehicle inspection can shed light on potential problems or tell you whether the car has been in an accident. Don't hesitate to bring your mechanic to see the car or to request a mobile inspection. Take the car for a spin to listen for any unusual noises and to see if you like the way it drives. If you are an audiophile, now is also the time to test-drive the audio system.
There are a number of places to purchase a used auto. Here's a quick rundown: CarMax offers no-haggle pricing and cars that are in good condition, but its prices are a bit higher than you'll find elsewhere. Private-party sellers have lower prices and can be negotiated with more easily, but the burden is on the buyer to get the car inspected. Major dealerships sell certified pre-owned cars that are in excellent condition and backed by factory warranties. This option will appeal to buyers who want to minimize the risks of buying used and are willing to pay extra for it. Independent used-car lots are another alternative but can vary wildly on price and the condition level of their cars.
There's a big safety benefit to buying the newest car you can afford. When you buy a new car, you're ensuring you're getting a car that's up to the most recent safety standards in both crash testing and in safety technology. A new car compared to a used car from even five years ago can have big safety advantages with things like more airbags, a more rigid construction, and more advanced technology like a backup camera which is now mandatory on every new car sold in the U.S.