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If you're looking to purchase a used car or truck, your first instinct may be to simply seek out the best used cars listed by Consumer Reports or some other worthy organization -- and you should . But first, you need to narrow down your specific needs by answering a few very important questions:
For what will the car be used? Will it be your main mode of transportation to and from work? A "beater" car just to get around for a summer? Find a class of vehicle that suits your needs.
Who will be driving the car? You? Your children? Elderly family members? These answers will determine safety and mileage needs.
What features (safety and otherwise) will you require? Is air conditioning important to you? Air bags? Child safety locks? Make a list and bring it with you to your dealer.
What is your budget? Consider the maximum amount you can afford to spend and be willing to negotiate. Also, be willing to sacrifice a few non-safety features in order to meet your budget. Dealers often offer very reasonable financing opportunities, so keep that in mind as well.