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Deciding on how and where to buy a used car these days can be very confusing - there's so much choice and so much uncertainty about prices, there are dishonest traders to be avoided, and how can anyone who is not a mechanic tell the difference between a good car and a "lemon"?

Here is our comprehensive buyers' guide. The information contained within this section will help you make the right choices every step of the way. And, where possible, we'll also show you how to save money. Browse our on line guide to arm yourself with all the information you need to facilitate the successful purchase of your dream car.

Flick through your newspaper or take a drive down the road and it can feel as if there are as many people and places selling cars as there are cars on the roads. Newspapers, television, the Internet, auctions, franchised dealers, specialist dealers, "supersites" - it seems everyone's at it.

The upshot is that venturing out to buy a car can feel a little like wandering into an Arab souk: everyone claims to be doing the best deal. If the seller is a dealer he may be offering you a mechanical warranty, cheap finance, or favourable part-exchange terms. If he's a private seller he may be offering you the lowest price possible but no guarantees. If you visit a supersite stocking hundreds of nearly new cars, it may boast low prices but offer you equally little money for your old car. And those are just the good guys...

As in all walks of life, the world of car selling attracts its fair share of rotten apples - crooks such as "clockers" (fraudsters who wind back odometers so they show a lower, more attractive mileage) and ringers (thieves who give stolen cars a false identity). And then there are the people who fabricate service histories, make one car from two halves or resell cars that are still on finance.

Small wonder people believe buying a car is as stressful as moving house. Which is why, to help them - and you - we've compiled a guide to the most popular sources of new and used cars. We will cut through the sales pitch to tell you precisely what each can offer, as well as summarising its unique advantages and disadvantages. As they say, knowledge is power and when it comes to buying a car, you can't have too much of either.

Contrary to popular belief, you don't simply strike it lucky when looking for a good used car. It takes patience, effort and a degree of knowledge on the part of the buyer to net a sound car, and at the right price.

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