So I thought I'd share some wisdom with you about buying a car. I am no expert but I've gotten quite a bit of wisdom from others and I thought I'd pass it on.
First, like all decisions, pray. Ask the God to punch you in the gut if the deal is not for you. AND DON'T GO AGAINST THIS! God knows what's best for you!
One owner cars are best! If someone has the mind set that they are keeping a car for a long time, they are most likely to have taken care of it.
Low Mileage. On average, you can figure out what a car mileage should be if it falls between 12-15,000 per year, but remember, there are people out there that don't drive much, so watch for those.
Check for stains in the car. I'll just tell you this... If someone did not take care of the inside of the car, MOST likely, they didn't take care of the things on the outside where they can't see.
Get in touch with your bank. I have my bank practically on speed dial, even though I do finance my cars. I usually put a HUGE down payment on my car, I finance $2-3000 pay it for one year. But your bank can tell you if you are getting a good value. Remember, they know money, and they would not finance something if they could possibly take a loss. And sometimes even just $1-2000 over what you have in cash can get you a better car, that's less than $1-200/month paying off in a year. Might be worth it. That is up to you and your budget and your family needs.
Check your car insurance. I literally called on 8 cars and how much the monthly insurance was going to be (I didn't care if I was annoying, it is more important to make a correct decision than worry if you are being annoying). Remember, small cars like the Focus - they make a lot of them, they have higher theft ratings, they smoosh easier (higher payouts), less safety items (higher chance of injury) so you might get a 'better' deal on a car but pay much more in car insurance. It might be better to pay more for a Fusion or a G6 than a Focus or an Aveo or Cobalt.
Clean title. Make sure that the title is clean. A Salvaged title means that the car was totaled, someone bought it, and cleaned it up. Cars are NEVER the same after an accident. Stuff gets bumped, things like leaks can show up because of misalignment. Unless you're getting a car for a steal, clean titles are best. But remember, you get what you pay for.
This is not an emotional decision. THIS ONE is hard for me to remember. I am all about the emotion. But when buying a car, details and facts are important. I've really had to step away sometimes. I use excel to figure out payments, how much of a deal I am getting. It's about value not emotion. (this coming from someone who names her cars)
Check out KBB.com, they help determine how much you should pay for a car and how much the value is. I'd also advise that you google issues with a certain car. There are MANY websites that tell you what certain things are wrong with cars. For instance, certain minivans in certain years have transmission problems. SO YOU THINK you can tow with it, but you could end up really hurting your vehicle, causing you lots of money.
Take someone with you. This helps because you have someone on your side. Even if they don't say a word. And if you're a female, I suggest you take a male. A mean looking one. Not someone who looks friendly. Someone who is intimidating. I happen to take my dad, who is not intimidating looking, however, he's my dad, so even though I make the decisions, I do the bargaining, just having him there, gives me confidence. I would also recommend taking me. HA! I'm intimidating. I speak with data, and I don't waiver, even if I act like I am :) Plus, I'm a mom, mom's a intimidating. No one messes with the momma bear.