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The market has never been better for devotees of used cars. Dealer incentives on new cars have brought buyers into the market sooner than they may have otherwise entered it (that means a glut of high-quality used cars to pick from). The overstock at used car dealerships, low interest rates, and easy credit spell a great deal for savvy used car buyers. Thanks to market dynamics and the overall economy, used cars sold by new car dealers are actually selling for less than the levels reached in 2001.
If you are in the market, choose the car type you want (SUV, wagon, compact, hybrid, etc.), then focus on reliability and safety and crash test performance. You can find a list of top-recommended cars—as well used cars to avoid—in Consumer Reports' Used Car Buying Guide.