Very OT: Car Buying in the USA

I have had some excellent feedback from this group in the past, this is a long shot but I hope that someone may be able to provide some insight. I
also realise that this group has an international audience.
If you can point me at another more appropriate group then please do.
I may be moving to the USA for about 1-2 years, California specifically. I need to two family vehicles. In the UK I was very impressed with www.HonestJohn.co.uk for second-hand car information.
Does anyone know of any other good sites pertaining to the USA that could accelerate my understanding of how the second-hand market works in the USA.
Bought my last UK car at auction and it has been an excellent buy.
I have heard that www.carfax.com is good for checking the background of a vehicle.
My main goals will be to get good reliable vehicles, that have lost most of their depreciation already. However, I am not sure what the local pitfalls are.
Any advice gratefully received.
Stuart
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Can't specifically help (except for a "good luck!"), but the chaps (and chapesses) at my company in Dallas have been a mine of information about such things - and that's just from chatting, rather that me planning to move over there.
So... ask co-workers, if possible.
I've probably been amazingly lucky, but - IMV - the first time I find a nastily unhelpful American, then (s)he's either trying to rob me or employed as a politician (delete option if applicable ;o)
--

Hairy One Kenobi

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http://www.edmunds.com/ is one place to start. They have a lot of info on used cars especially prices. For more independent information, Consumer Reports does a lot of car testing and maintains a large database of reliability information going back several years. http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/home.htm Some of their website is only available to subscribers. Their monthly magazine devotes an entire issue (April) every year to automobiles both new and used. A summary of their testing is available in an annual Buyers' Guide published in December.
As far as the used car market itself, the best cars will most easily be found at a new car dealer but at the highest price. Many cars now come with 3-4 year warranties so you may still get one under the manufacturer's warranty even if it's a couple of years old. If you buy from an individual you can often get a good deal but you really have to know what a car is worth and be alert to and understand possible mechanical problems - caveat emptor! There are aftermarket warranties available but they will typically exclude many items. It is easy to find independent mechanics to work on American and Japanese models; there are typically fewer available to work on European cars. Since you'll be registering your car in California, it's important to buy one that meets California smog regulations to avoid a lot of hassle. That's no problem if you buy in California but can be one if you buy out of state. Good luck!
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Some excellent points to consider. Stuart
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