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What with the costs of gas, car insurance and upkeep, more prospective car buyers are shopping smart. They take the major initial cost of buying a car and cut it by more than a third — by buying a used car from a list of top makes best known for their reliability, safety, fuel efficiency and, affordability.

Used car sign

How to Buy a Used Car

• Read newspaper classifieds, search the Web, visit online forums and message boards, or ask friends about their used car experiences.

• Visit a used car dealership to test drive and inspect the car.

• Obtain a vehicle history report.

• Arrange "prepurchase inspection" of the car by a certified mechanic.

• Assess the car's actual market value.

• Negotiate a price.

• Get an extended warranty.


The best used cars

Judging by a Consumer Reports study that surveyed used car owners from 1998-2007, many popular new foreign makes and models also make for top-of-the-line used car experiences for consumers.

Specific models such as the Nissan Altima, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry (except for the '07 V6) made the list, along with glowing reports for more than a half dozen Acura and Lexus models.

Also making the list were European models such as the BMW M3 and Volvo S60, while American models such as the Buick LaCross, Pontiac Vibe, Lincoln Continental and Lincoln Town Car also made a strong showing.

Worst used cars

According to the same report, American makes and models were also some of the worst used cars on the market. Most had a long-standing reputation for being lemons that rarely went the distance with used car owners.

The worst (their very names alone make them sound like kids' toys) included the Chevrolet Astro, Chevrolet Blazer, Lincoln Aviator, Oldsmobile Silhouette, and the Saturn Relay. More musts-to-avoid, according to the report, included 4x4's and SUV makes such as the GMC Jimmy, GMC Safari, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Chevrolet S-10, and Chrysler Town & Country.

(Note: reported troubles with the engine and transmission, cooling and drive systems were taken into account more than all other problems.)

More about used cars around the Web:

Around the Web, get more insider how to's at top sites offering more information - including the latest reviews and news stories on the best and worst used cars on the market, tips on taking the risk out of buying a used car - plus active message board and forum posts with "kicking the tires" advice on choosing the best used car for the money ...

Kelly Blue Book - The used car Bible for free record checks, prices, used car listings, certified pre-owned models, car comparisons and helpful consumer tips.

Used Cars for Sale - Edmunds - Information on choosing the best used cars with top ten buying tips and reports on used car bargains, plus more on how to sell or trade-in your used car. Used Car Research - Search for used cars, or browse around for online classifieds, photos, videos, used car reviews, related blogs and forums.


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