Consumer Reports: Tips for buying a used car

If you're thinking about a new set of wheels, you might consider a vehicle that's "new to you."

Some people are skeptical about buying a used car, fearing they may be taking on someone else's headache. But auto experts at Consumer Reports say there are plenty of reasons to buy used, while being smart about it and you can often get a great deal in the process!

Clint Walker spent a lot of time looking at used cars before taking the plunge on this Kia Soul.

"Affordability and reliability were very important," Walker said. "I was looking through a ton of cars and it was excruciating."

Consumer Reports Auto Expert Jake Fisher says used cars can be a great choice, particularly late model used cars, and can save you a bundle!

"The real sweet spot is a 3-year-old used car," Fisher said. "You could typically get one for about half what you'd pay for a new car. And many 2016 models have all the latest advanced safety gear."

The four most important advanced safety features to look for are: forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection and blind spot warning.

For reliability, Toyotas have consistently been standouts. If you want a little more luxury, consider a Lexus.

But as Walker discovered, every used car has its own, unique history. Being thorough helped him avoid surprises.

"Doing the homework was very beneficial. It pays off in the end," Walker said.

"If you want a little more peace of mind, look at a certified pre-owned car," Fisher said. "You'll pay a little more, but you'll get a warranty that's very similar to the one you'd find in a new car."

And it's always a good idea to get an independent mechanic you trust for a bumper-to-bumper inspection.

Expect to pay at least $100 for this service, but it could be money well spent if a costly problem is spotted before you buy.

You can also check a vehicle's history report with services such as Carfax. But no matter where you buy, Consumer Reports says to be sure you check on any open recalls at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration site at nhtsa.gov/recalls so you can have any necessary work completed.

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