Check out the car's repair record, maintenance costs, and safety and mileage ratings in consumer magazines (such as Consumer Reports) or online. Be prepared to use this information to negotiate the price.
Use Provident's Online Auto Shopping to shop for used cars, compare prices, and buy cars delivered to your door.
Buying from a dealer? Look for and read the Buyers Guide posted in the vehicle. It's required by a federal regulation called the Used Car Rule.
Make sure all oral promises are written into the Buyers Guide.
You have the right to see a copy of the dealer's warranty before you buy.
Warranties are included in the price of the product; service contracts cost extra and are sold separately. Consider MBI (Mechanical Breakdown Insurance) in lieu of a service contract with the seller.
The Used Car Rule generally doesn't apply to private sales. For more information about used car warranties and the Buyer's Guide, be sure to read the FTC's extensive "Buying a Used Car" document, available online.
Ask for the car's maintenance record from the owner, dealer, or repair shop.
Test drive the car on hills, highways, and in stop-and-go traffic.
Have the car inspected by a mechanic you hire.
Check out the dealer with local consumer protection officials.
If you buy a car "as is," you'll have to pay for anything that goes wrong after the sale.