More people are buying used cars these days because they can represent good value. But buying a used car is never a deal if you end up with someone else's problem.

"People are looking for value now. And used cars, especially late-model used cars, are better values than new cars," Rik Paul of Consumer Reports' said.

But Consumer Reports says you have to shop carefully. First, narrow down your choices to a reliable make and model. That translates into less time and money spent at the repair shop.

"The reliability information that Consumer Reports gathers shows that some models are generally more reliable than others. It's hard to go wrong with a Honda, for instance. The Accord, the Civic, the CR-V, and the Pilot are all very reliable," Paul said.

Next, you want to find a car that's been well maintained. Ask for records so you can see if the recommended maintenance was done as well as any repairs.

"You should also look over a used car very carefully. Telltale signs of damage are rust, corrosion or a door that doesn't close properly," Paul said.

Also check the engine and under the car for any oil or coolant leaks. If you find any, steer clear. But most importantly, have an independent mechanic check out a used vehicle before buying it.

"If someone won't allow a car to be inspected, consider that a red flag and move on," he said.

And is it better to get a certified used vehicle? They can cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars more.

"If you focus on getting a reliable car that's well-maintained, and you have it inspected by an independent mechanic, you can skip going the certified-car route," Paul said.

Don't buy a used vehicle without a half hour long test drive on highways and local roads to ensure the vehicle performs smoothly. Listen for any unusual noises.

Also, look at several examples of the same model. That way you'll become a bit of an expert and you are more likely to find a good one and weed out the bad.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Chris Olsen