An inspection by a mechanic or body shop, and a vehicle history report, can help you find the right used car and avoid costly hidden problems.

Getting a used car can be a great way to save-if you know what to look for:

• The mileage. Low mileage can be a good value-or a sign of odometer tampering. Make sure the wear and tear on the inside and outside of the car matches what the mileage reading says.

• Signs of accidents or other damage. More than half of the cars damaged by floods get cleaned up and returned to the road.

• Good maintenance. Get documentation on how often it was serviced.

• Curbstoners. Illegal dealers pose as private sellers to unload cars with hidden problems. Shop at reputable dealers.

• Open recalls. Nearly one in three recalled cars doesn’t get fixed. You can check for recalls at Franchise dealers will fix open recalls at no cost.

• Certified pre-owned. Certified pre-owned cars are the closest thing to new cars at used-car prices. Most manufacturer programs include a free Carfax Vehicle History Report, a trusted source of information for millions of used-car buyers. (NAPSI) ■