honda civic. Drive the car. If it seems to drive well and has no obvious defects, pay a mechanic to evaluate it. It's the best $100 you can spend at that point. Find a mechanic first, work out how much lead time you need in order for them to evaluate the car. If the seller won't work with you on having it evaluated, walk away. Never be afraid to walk away from the car ANY time you don't feel comfortable. I assume you're in CA. The seller is responsible for the car passing smog. Who pays for the smog test is negotiable, but BE SURE it gets smogged BEFORE you buy it. No exceptions. I will try to get the seller to smog it and pay for it, but if the price we agree upon is good, I'll agree to pay for it AFTER it passes, e.g. I agree to buy it for $4060 ($4000 for the car, $60 for the test), but HE pays for the test up front, I see the paperwork that says it has passed. If it passes, I pay him the $4060, if it fails, he's out the $60. Seller balks at this? Walk away. He probably knows something's wrong. Paperwork. You need to see all of the following: title, current registration, seller's driver's license. Check the following: Name on title, reg, and DL are the same. Address may be different, as the seller could have moved. VIN on car (usually seen on or near where the driver's side front roof pillar hits the dashboard) matchs VIN on title and reg. If the registration is expired, expect AT LEAST $250 to get it up to date, unless the car has been non-oped (aka PNO'ed), so if it's not up do date (check both registration and license plate sticker), call dmv with the VIN to find out how much it's going to cost. That amount comes off the top of what I'm willing to pay. Seller balks? Walk away. CL has a bunch of cars for sale, but you have to sort the wheat from the chaff. Try to buy one from someone selling it because their needs have changed, e.g. they had kids and needed a minivan. Don't buy one that's been modified. Unfortunately, civic hatchbacks are very popular cars to mod. Reject out of hand anything that's not bone stock. Deposits. Put everything in writing, specifically under what conditions it will be refundable. Assume a depost will not be refundable unless otherwise specified IN WRITING.