Never, ever walk into a dealership "just to see what they've got." Salesmen see that aimless stare on your face and they're like starving cartoon wolves -- they don't even see a person; all they see is a giant walking turkey leg. Most small and midsize dealerships will have online inventories. Check those out in advance and start looking up the models you're interested in, then read up on each one: Comb through car sites like Edmunds, click on forum posts by owners, get the specs and find out about users' experience with reliability -- hell, go to Wikipedia and bone up on the entire history of the model and the powertrain you're considering. Back in school, you'd do the same amount of research for a book report on Huck Finn just because an older lady in a paneled skirt threatened you with the alphabet -- you can do the same legwork for a multi-thousand-dollar purchase you're going to entrust your life to every time you leave the house to get a burrito. Whatever you do, the point is to come in with a mental list: Do not let them steer you outside of that list to a car that you're not familiar with. Adventure is wondrous and grand, but the used car lot is not the place to listen to strange old men in tattered clothes whisper of magical chariots.
"It's dangerous to go alone. Take this Daihatsu!"