1. Research your prospective used car.
The used-car market is like a huge haystack, and while it may seem tough to find that needle, a bit of online research cuts the legwork and speeds the process considerably. First, go to Edmunds' used car section. From here, you can either input the car you want, or scroll to the "Select a Make" section and click on an automaker you are interested in. You'll then get a list of cars to choose from, sorted by model year. Click on any given year and you will see a model review (if there is one available). Read the reviews from different model years to understand any significant changes that have occurred.
The next thing to do is get an idea of maintenance costs on any car you're considering. Proper maintenance is especially important on a used car, since it may not have a warranty to protect it if anything breaks down. People buy used cars as a way to save money, but often overlook the cost of maintenance, which might end up pushing them beyond the limits of their budget.