Your first step should always be to reflect on what you'll want on your checklist. Make a list of all the things you want from a vehicle, as well as all the things it needs to do. A soccer mom may need extra seating for carpooling and lots of room for sports equipment, while a bachelor or bachelorette might enjoy a smaller sportscar for zipping around town and easily parking in tight spaces.

Additionally, consider gas mileage. If you have a long work commute, a gas-guzzling SUV may not be the best choice for you. You'll also want to think about how long you'll keep your new ride, because that will determine if its resale value is a concern. As you discover your needs, be sure to write them down.

Second, consider money; what is your price range? A typical rule-of-thumb is to set your highest budgeted amount at 20 % of your take-home pay. For example, someone making $50,000 should designate $10,000 as their maximum purchase price. When making this decision, you must take into account the cost of owning the car, paying for gas, and your other associated bills. You may adjust your budget accordingly.

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While your budget is important, so is your credit. If you plan on taking out a loan when you start visiting used car dealers, your credit score will play a role in what you can afford. If your credit is good, the bank may be willing to work with you to lower your interest rate. If your credit is bad, the APR may be higher. Many of the larger used car dealers work hand-in-hand with banks to ensure they can assist people, regardless of their credit score, in obtaining the best possible loan rate and payment plan. Of course, you may independently obtain your own financing before making an offer on a car. The choice is yours.

Now that you have considered your needs and the potential costs, try searching online to learn more about the options available at used car dealers. Most larger dealerships have websites with their inventory and search tools designed to help you search for your desired features and prices. Get a feel for what's out there and contact the dealer before going to the lot to confirm the details.

Virtually every modern engine in cars and light commercial vehicles features an electronic control unit (or ECU for short), alternatively known as an engine management computer. This specialised and complex unit contains a number of computer chips and basically governs the running of the engine. It is connected to various sensors that detect basic factors such as temperature (both in the engine and externally), speed and exhaust gas composition. In more sophisticated units, that are becoming increasingly common, many other conditions are taken into consideration. The ECU then controls various engine functions, primarily fuel injection, ignition timing and boost pressure if a turbocharger is fitted. The aim is obviously to ensure smooth running, optimal fuel consumption and performance, and minimal exhaust gas emissions.