When looking for a car, or truck, the first thing you need to ask yourself is "am I feeling lucky?" Well are you? Of course you don't, but to be honest, when can you say you've been really lucky with a used car? Luck has nothing to do with it, but a little planning and even some risk management can help you avoid a jam, and get you though when you do get jammed.
First of all, most of us are going to have car payments of some sort, but the vehicles I've had the best "luck" with and have had the longest life for the least amount of money are the one's I've paid cash for. My Rendezvous has already outlived my Intrepid miles wise and I've had it almost three years. Even though I've had to replace an air conditioner compressor, a steering rack and struts and have had to pay for them, this is still less than a loan on a newer vehicle. I've also avoided a lot of extra expense by being able to fix minor repairs myself. A little creativity and research has saved me thousands of dollars over what a dealership would charge. This is what I mean by risk management. Before you even consider buying a used car, research what you want. Consider yourself driving, paying for the gas and fixing it. If you can't visualize yourself doing all three, then you need to reconsider buying the car. If you can't visualize yourself driving this off a cliff without hardship, then you need to reconsider buying the car.
Go to any local auto parts store website and find out how much parts are to replace. Then compare them to your current vehicle. The prices alone may be enough to make you consider another model. Ask a few local independent mechanics what they think of repairing it. More often than not, they'll gladly offer their opinions on same. If you have time, watch a few videos on You Tube or other video sharing site on what it takes to fix the car you want. Notice this is before you set foot in a dealership, not after. You will save yourself hours of frustration and hundreds of dollars by rejecting a vehicle before you darken their doorstep. Maranatha!