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Before you even set foot on a used car lot, you need to determine how much money you can comfortably afford to spend on a used vehicle.
Monthly Payment: Assuming you'll need to take out a loan, look at your monthly expenses and determine how much you can spend extra each month toward your used vehicle.
Down Payment: Ideally you've saved a little money for your used car. The more cash you put down up front, the more your monthly payments will be reduced. How much can you pay on the day you buy the car?
Once you've determined how much you can spend now and over the course of your loan, you can narrow down the range of used car purchase prices. Your numbers can mean the difference between a used Nissan Maxima and a used Ford Escort, but at least you won't be feeling the painful pangs of debt later on.