I recently bought a '98 used Camry.
I found, in the state of Texas, there are a LOT of "wholesalers", people
who buy the used cars from dealers and individuals and then re-sell
them. I've been told there are a lot of these dudes in California too.
Most of these guys are dishonest and just want to dump the car, they
know nothing about the history of the car or how it was maintained.
However, they put deceptive posts in the classifieds such as "1 owner,
great condition, well maintained, records available" (when they actually
have NO records). You can usually spot them because their asking price
for the car will be lower than Blue Book by $500-1000 at least.
Anyway, after A LOT of searching, I finally found an individual who was
the first owner, who maintained the drive train and engine reasonably
I had the car's engine checked out by a Toyota mechanic who pulled the
valve cover and checked for sludge (he found none, said it was in good
condition). I suggest, whatever car you buy, you have the same done.
Also, have him smell the transmission fluid to see if it smells burnt
(means it wasn't changed when it should have been).
Even though the engine and the transmission were OK, the previous owner
did not really take care of other things like tires, the body (it didn't
look like it had been washed in years!), and alignment.
If you're buying a used car, make sure the engine is in good shape and
that the transmission fluid has been changed every 30k mi. Also, drive
the car and see if it shifts smoothly, pulls (alignment or tire
problem), if there is any shake in the wheel at *highways speeds*
(balancing or tire problem), and make sure the body paint is in good
shape and the interior is acceptable.
Also, sometimes you can tell if a car has been in accident (and the
owner might be lying about it) if the doors don't shut properly or the
gap between the doors/body frame isn't even all the way down.
I know that you asked about Camry vs. Accord, but hopefully this
information will save you some hassle whatever used car you buy.
Finally, you can check classifieds for free by looking at:
www.cars.com and www.abratcat.com (Classifieds, your city, cars, etc).