CENTREVILLE, VA – The recovering U.S. economy is prompting millions of consumers to consider buying a car this year. Summer 2010 is expected to be the busiest used car shopping season in years. Consumer confidence is rising and buyers are hitting the streets and web looking for deals on used cars. In fact, roughly half of this year's total used car purchases will be made within the next four months.

Consumers are buying with more caution and spending wiser because of the recent economic turbulence. Sensible shoppers are searching for the best value instead of just the best price. While great used cars are for sale at reputable dealerships everywhere, Carfax reminds consumers to be ever-vigilant when out shopping. The company suggests a few things to look — and look out — for this summer.

Look for:

  1. Pricing. Demand for used cars slowed a bit recently, helping to lower used car prices. Visit third-party pricing sites to get retail book values and use the new Carfax History Impact to adjust those values based on the reported history.

  2. Certified Pre-Owned (CPO). The best value for many used car shoppers, Certified cars are the closest thing to new cars at used car prices. Most manufacturer programs, such as Honda, GM and Toyota include a Carfax Vehicle History Report and rigorous mechanical inspection with every CPO vehicle.

  3. Cars sold online. Sites like AutoTrader.com and Cars.com let you expand your search area and compare vehicles to find the best deal. Use discretion when buying from online classifieds and auction sites.

  4. Paperwork. Have the seller provide as much documentation as possible, like registration and title documents, service receipts and proof of insurance.

Look out for:

  1. Open recalls. Estimates are that 30% of all recalled cars go unfixed. Check for open recalls at www.carfax.com/recall and get more details about a specific recall at www.safercar.gov. Franchise dealers will fix open recalls for free.

  2. Odometer rollbacks. Digital odometers can be easier to tamper with and harder to detect. Make sure the wear and tear on the inside and outside of the car matches what the mileage reading says.

  3. Flood damage. Experts predict this year's hurricane season could rival 2005, when Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma hit the U.S. More than half of the cars damaged by floods, including the most recent flooding in Tennessee, get cleaned up and returned to the road.

  4. Curbstoners. Illegal dealers posing as private sellers sell lots of cars either on the side of the road or through classified ads. Many of the cars have hidden problems and the seller typically disappears after the sale.