Check out this article from  According to Kelly Blue Book, the fifth step to used car buying is to get both a history and a safety report on the car.  

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Step 5: Get Both a History and a Safety Report on the Car

Vehicle titles are one of the most important forms of consumer protection against being cheated in a used-car deal. Knowing something about titles and vehicle fraud can help you avoid falling victim to a scam artist, so checking it out is well worth your while. 

The VIN is located at the base of the dash and/or inside the driver's-side door pillar.

You should always be concerned about buying someone else's problems. Before making any deals, write down the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) which is a 17-digit code usually located on the top of the instrument panel, at the base of the windshield. It will also be on a sticker on the driver's-side door pillar, and in several other places around the vehicle. Make certain that all the VINs on the vehicle match! If the one on the door pillar is different than the one on the dashboard, or title, or somewhere else, then something is not correct. Leave and find another car.

The VIN will allow you to check the title and get a detailed AutoCheck Vehicle History Report. An AutoCheck report can identify major problems with the vehicle, including past accidents, flood damage and odometer discrepancies. Also, request copies of the service records from the person selling the vehicle and have the vehicle inspected by a trusted mechanic before you give the seller any money. 

We also advise that you research the car's recall history by visiting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) website. There you can search an extensive database for safety defects and recalls regarding motor vehicles, tires and motor vehicle equipment, as well as learn about current and past defect investigations. Whether buying from a dealer or private party, it would be wise to utilize both resources. If the car's history does not match what the seller has told you, don't buy it.