AAA says buying a used car is an even better value in the money-squeezing madness of today's economy.
Here are our hints on how to get the best used car deal:
* 18 TO 36 MONTHS OLD. Limit your shopping to used cars that are 18 to 36 months old. AAA's John Nielsen says the car's depreciation slows down after that age.
* "CERTIFIED" PROGRAM. Consider buying the car from a dealer's "certified" used car program. That offers upgrades and warranties, often at no additional cost, that are normally not allowed with a used car. Eric Peters, an automotive columnist based in Washington, D.C, says check the window sticker to make sure that the program's certification is backed by the manufacturer. Peters recommends the certified used car programs of Honda, Acura, Toyota, Lexus, Volvo and Volkswagen.
* BLUE-BOOK VALUES ONLINE. Before you hit the lot, get the car's Blue Book value online, based on its age and condition. Come up with an average figure between the Kelley Blue Book value (www.kbb.com) and the National Auto Dealers Association value (http://www.nadaguides.com/).