Buying a used car can be a minefield, so it's crucial to be well prepared before making any important decisions. The best approach is to narrow your search, decide on exactly what you're looking for and check the car out thoroughly. In order to get the best deal, you'll also need to be prudent and negotiate effectively with the seller. Here are find handy tips to help you find the best used car for you.

Research
You're bound to find hundreds of potential cars, so having a clear picture of what you want should help you sift through the less desirable options more easily. Read reviews, consumer reports and any other material you can get your hands on to help you consider your options. It's also wise to consider less obvious factors such as maintenance costs and upkeep. Determine how readily available replacements are.

Search online
Once upon a time, the best way to buy a used car was to scan the classified ads in the local newspaper. Nowadays, the used car trade is based almost exclusively on the web. Huge online databases allow you to peruse thousands of used vehicles without the pressurized environment associated with dealerships. Used car website aggregators, such as AutoTrader.com and AutoTempest.com are great places to begin your hunt, and the research you've already performed should help you refine your search more effectively.

Check the history
When searching for a car, never buy based solely on what you've been told by the seller, for it may not be the whole truth. Some sellers have been known to roll back the odometer or omit important details about previous repairs, so checking the car out yourself before making any final decisions will ensure that you avoid any nasty surprises after you've paid for it. In order to perform a background check, you'll need the vehicle's “VIT number,” which can be found under the right-right hand corner of the windscreen. In exchange for a fee, a vehicle history report company can check the car's history for any missing details.

For a more immediate indication of the car's condition, try looking at the vehicle's interior — the shabbier it is, the more likely that more likely that the car is in disrepair. Beware of worn seats and upholstery, broken switches and knobs. They are all signs that the car may be very old or mistreated.

Negotiate a fair price
Once you're confident that the car is worth buying, it's time to negotiate a price. It's important to remember that the cheapest car isn't always the best car, and it's often worth paying extra for a more reliable vehicle. Always try to negotiate the seller down from the very beginning. During your first contact you should ask about cutting the price to determine how open they are about it. Don't be afraid to make a low offer - if sellers feel that you're truly interested in it, they will usually negotiate - and always be ready to walk away if they prove unyielding.