Thinking about buying a used car down the road? Make sure you follow some good advice before handing over your hard earned money. This lesson again came to my mind as I prepare to purchase a used car. While this vehicle was top rated in leading consumer magazines, a costly issue developed that came to light in the past few years that hasn't yet trickled down to change the rating of this used car in manuals.

This highlights the importance of following up good reviews with your own research. My used car buying guide showed me cars to avoid, good buys, but left out a recent piece of costly news: the small SUV I was looking at has catastrophic transmission problems. The cost of the car was just south of $10,000, and the vehicle had 120,000 miles and equipped with an automatic transmission.

It's a 2002 Toyota Rav4 that has many positive views, is rated highly, gets good fuel economy, and seems like a great all around car. I was led to believe that this car was a great deal at $8300, but got suspicious when I learned how many times the price had been reduced, and set out researching on the internet to see if this deal was too good to be true.

After just minutes of perusing Google and other search engines, I learned that after Toyota's massive accelerator problem, media outlets began picking up on the Rav4's story. Apparently there is a large issue with the engine computer in the Rav4. When equipped with an automatic transmission, the engine computer, or ECU, tells the transmission when to shift or how to behave. Apparently the bug is that the ECU goes bad and starts sending improper signals to the transmission, resulting in undesirable shifting, hesitation, clunking, the works. I found that ignoring this issue can result in transmission failure. Fixing the ECU and transmission can cost upwards of $5,000.00!

I imagine that the vehicle in question has not had this issue addressed, and that the dealer is aware of it, but doesn't want to tell an unsuspecting shopper.

Can you imagine researching, believing you're about to purchase a great car, and finding out at the last moment that the car has known issues that could cost you thousands?

Have any of you been in the same boat, or even worse- purchased a car and then had huge repair expenses? It just goes to show that researching on multiple levels pays off!