An unusual used-car shopping strategy
Of course, this recommendation depends on doing your homework first, knowing beforehand exactly what car you want, how equipped, how many miles, and just what you are prepared to pay for it. How do you determine this?
The most reliable source, imho, is Consumer Reports. I don't trust over-the-counter blue/yellow/black/whatever books, or their on-line avatars. Look at their advertisers, and ask yourself whose best interests these book producers are liable to serve?
The Consumer Reports used car service reports aren't free ($12), but are comprehensive and honestly derived. Armed with these figures, and adding in fair profit for dealer you approach, you should be able to give the dealer a realistic target price.
Makaruska advises, and I concur, that you steer clear of any salesman that demands a deposit or persists in attempting to steer you to a different car. The person you want as your agent is the one that will honor your desires and is upfront about costs, and preferably one that has a track record of filling such a role.
With the price target predetermined and your careful study of the Carfax report of any candidates the dealer locates, you should be well armed to avoid emotional buys. This will help assure you end up with the ride you want at a reasonable price.