With the recent 8.5 million Toyota recall it makes you wonder just what you’re getting yourself into when purchasing an auto of any kind. When you’re in the market for a vehicle there are a number of places to find information, used or new. Great sources for safety and crash test information are the National Traffic Safety Administration, nhtsa.gov, and the Center for Auto Safety, www.autosafety.org, where consumers can find information about recalls, defects, and consumer complaints.

It is also helpful to do a general internet search and read up on different forums about a vehicle that you may be considering. By reading through postings and owners comments you may find additional complaints and suggestions that may either tell you to fix or avoid certain models of a particular vehicle. When reading these forums it’s also important to try and recognize a trend in complaints.

When you think you’ve found a vehicle you would like to take for a spin, be sure and run a vehicle history report. These will include the number of drivers, accidents, and some additional information as well. A great source for a vehicle history report is CarFax.com. To run a report here you will need the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and will need to pay for the report, much like a background report.

Additional sites for auto information about a specific year and model include edmunds.com and kellybluebook.com. These sites give great information on what you should expect to pay for a vehicle or get for a trade in at a dealership according to the condition of the vehicle and mileage. They also provide recent consumer reviews as well as safety information. The more educated you are about the vehicle you are about to test drive the better off you are.

If the deal’s too good to be true, it very well may be. Before purchasing a used vehicle be sure to read up on the vehicle history, run a background report with the VIN number, test drive the vehicle, and lastly have it inspected by an independent garage or a trusted mechanic. Although Massachusetts thankfully has lemon laws, if you can identify a large problem before purchasing you will not have to go through the trouble of returning the vehicle or investing in something that will need to be in an auto shop for a significant amount of time. Avoid a lemon by researching each vehicle you are seriously considering, it will make you a better consumer and give you greater knowledge to leverage a deal with.