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When you visit your used car dealer (which may well be the local new car dealer as well), how do you know you're getting a truly reliable car? Aside from giving a car the obligatory kick in the tires, you should plan to take the car for a meaningful test drive under the same conditions you will most often be driving in. The following things are signs of trouble:
• Jiggling or rattling sounds
• Squealing brakes
• Warning lights lit on the instrument panel
• Pinging noises coming from the engine
• Clicking noises when making hard turns
Even if the car seems perfect, your best bet is to get a Carfax vehicle history report using the car's vehicle identification number (VIN) from Carfax.com. You should also have your own mechanic check the car from bumper to bumper.