When buying a used car, the advice above about paying your own mechanic a small fee to do a pre-purchase inspection first, before making any commitments w/the seller, that is probably the best path to a good car and a good deal. It will cost you about $100, but that’s $100 well spent. If you don’t have a regular mechanic you’ve used before, ask your friends, relatives, co-workers who they use. Then tell the mechanic you choose which of their customers recommended them to you.
As far as the title-changing process, that varies state to state. The best way to figure it out is to visit your local DMV office and ask. Do this beforehand, so you know what you need to do and look out for when it comes time to strike a bargain and cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s on the paperwork.
Buying a used car is a difficult task. If you cold find someone who’s done it before to help you, that would pay off in spades. What advice could I offer? …hmmm … well, I used to live in Colorado near Steamboat Springs and had no problem on snow covered roads, even going to ski resorts, with a front wheel drive VW Rabbit. Although it would be a convenience at times, you probably don’t actually need AWD. You’ll likely have fewer repair bills and less time with the car in the shop with FWD than AWD. There’s a reliability price tag for that function. For a first time used car buyer I’d recommend a FWD sedan, a widely sold econobox, such as a Corolla/Yaris, Civic/Fit, VW Golf, Mazda 3, something like that. I should add that as a teenager the first used car I was considering was a Fiat 124 Spyder 2 seater sports car … lol … so I can’t say I always practice what I preach. Whatever car you decide upon, get some help from somebody who’s done if before, and get a pre-purchase inspection. You should be good to go. Best of luck.
One other idea: Check over at Craigslist if they have somne advice on buying used cars there. There’s various scams folks use, and the people over at Craigslist have probably seen them all and know how to avoid most of them. Probably the most important: Never get into a car with somebody you don’t know.